Suns Roll in Season-Opening Win Over Blazers
After seeing new teammates Eric Bledsoe and Miles Plumlee debut in spectacular fashion, Goran Dragic filled his usual role as the team’s closer in crunch time.
The result was a 104-91 victory for the Suns in their season opener at home. Phoenix overcame a combined 60 points from Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, countering with the anticipated Bledsoe/Dragic backcourt (48 points, 15 assists, 13 rebounds) and unanticipated Plumlee (18 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks).
Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek, however, was more pleased with the team’s collective effort than individual performances.
“You don’t look at the stats. You go ‘we won the game.’” Hornacek said. “Those guys played well, but everybody that stepped out there [did too]. LaMarcus Aldridge is a great player…but Marcus [Morris] kept battling, got a steal the one time. That’s what we need, guys who are just going to battle every play.”
The Suns lived up to their mantra of face-paced offense, jumping out to a 30-19 lead at the end of the first quarter. Plumlee grabbed the opening night crowd’s attention with 10 points and six rebounds in the period.
His one-handed, alley-oop slam off a Bledsoe pass brought a roar from the crowd, and the second-year center already had his double-double secured by half-time with 16 points and 10 boards.
“He’s athletic,” Hornacek said of Plumlee. “He’s doing the proper rolls and rules that we have. I think he is athletic enough, when he jumps up, I don’t think guys believe he can block the shot and get there. And he does.”
Bledsoe and Dragic took turns torching the Blazers defense, particularly on pick-and-rolls. Whenever a big man switched to guard them, they would isolate at the top of the key and step into a jumper. By the time they were done, the backcourt duo had hit 19 of 33 shot attempts combined.
“We always thought that was an advantage, having those two guys,” Hornacek said. “If one guy’s not going, we put the other guy in the pick-and-roll if they have the advantage. Obviously tonight, they both play great.”
Phoenix’s offense faltered in the second quarter, due to lack of ball movement and defensive stops. Lillard and Aldridge kept the Blazers close throughout, and a 5-0 run by Nicolas Batum cut the Suns’ lead to one shortly after halftime.
The Suns responded as a team. Channing Frye hit a three-pointer. Dragic followed with one of his own. Plumlee made a baseline jumper. P.J. Tucker (14 poitns) got to the foul line for two free throws and Bledsoe scored in transition.
That 10-0 run helped keep Portland at bay until late in the fourth, when a Lillard three and a Robin Lopez free throw brought the Blazers to within five.
That was when Dragic took over, having a hand in every part of the Suns’ 8-0 run to finish the game. He hit two jumpers, found Tucker for a fast break layup, and scored another basket to finish the game.
“I got a little worried there when it got down to five, especially with a young team, to see how they would react,” Hornacek said. “But they made a couple nice stops. That’s a key for us. When we get stops, we’re able to fast break.”
Phoenix hosts Utah on Friday at 7:00 p.m. local time. The Jazz lost their season-opener against Oklahoma City on Wednesday.