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Bledsoe saves Suns from late collapse vs. Pistons



AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Eric Bledsoe delivered more late-game magic to rescue the Phoenix Suns from an embarrassing collapse.

Bledsoe made the go-ahead layup and scored a team-high 18 points, and the Suns escaped with an 88-86 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night at The Palace.

Phoenix gave up nine unanswered points during the final 1:42 to squander an eight-point lead before shooting guard Bledsoe’s basket with 28.7 seconds left.

“I was just trying to make a play,” said Bledsoe, who added a free throw with 1.3 seconds remaining. “Fortunately, it was me getting a layup. I was just trying to make a play happen.”

Bledsoe made a pivotal steal and go-ahead layup with 29.5 seconds remaining against Boston in a 118-114 Suns win on Monday night. His decisive basket on Wednesday was drawn up during a timeout after three consecutive 3-pointers put Detroit on top 86-85.

He had the choice of going to the basket or kicking it out to one of three shooters positioned around the perimeter.

“We just set the screen and Eric was able to get through the lane,” Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. “They challenged it but Eric’s an explosive runner and he got it up there and got it off quick before it could get blocked. We wanted to take it to the hole. That was big for us, to get right back in the lead.”

Reserve forward P.J. Tucker had 16 points while guards Gerald Green and Goran Dragic added 12 apiece for the Suns (7-5), who are 2-1 on their six-game road trip.

Forward Greg Monroe notched his sixth double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Pistons (3-9), who lost for the sixth time in seven games. Point guard Brandon Jennings contributed a game-high 19 points, while shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope supplied 15.

“Anytime you lose, frustration builds, especially when it’s consecutive (losses),” Monroe said. “We just have to have some resiliency right now.”

Detroit center Andre Drummond was held to four points on 2-for-10 shooting, though he grabbed 13 rebounds.

Pistons reserve forward Caron Butler scored his 12,000th career point during the third quarter, and Detroit rookie guard Spencer Dinwiddie scored his first career point in the fourth.

Phoenix took a one-point lead into the fourth and gradually built on it. Bledsoe stole a Monroe pass and dunked on the break to give the Suns a 77-70 lead. Dragic scored in the lane with 1:52 remaining to make it 85-77.

Caldwell-Pope and Jennings responded with 3-pointers to close the gap to two. Following a Phoenix turnover, Detroit forward Jonas Jerebko grabbed an offensive rebound and fired the ball to Caldwell-Pope, who made another three with 34.4 seconds remaining to give the Pistons an 86-85 lead.

Bledsoe then answered with his layup.

“It’s not just my coach, it’s my teammates,” Bledsoe said of his late-game heroics. “They let me get the ball and make plays in the fourth quarter and that’s what I do.”

It was precisely what Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy didn’t want to see.

“We made some big shots and missed some tough ones. It was too bad they got an easy one to win it,” he said. “I thought we did a decent job of at least stopping layups on pick-and-rolls and on the last one he got right by us. That was disappointing.”

Jennings had a runner blocked by forward Markieff Morris, and Caldwell-Pope missed a 3 on Detroit’s next possession. Bledsoe made one of two free throws, and Jennings’ desperation heave at the buzzer was well short.

On the 10-year anniversary of the infamous Malice at The Palace brawl, there were no fists flying, though Suns forward Markieff Morris and Caldwell-Pope exchanged some heated words midway through the second quarter. Both players were given technical fouls, but the only other thing that was hard-fought during the half was the lead, which changed hands nine times.

NOTES: Detroit PG Brandon Jennings came into the game averaging a team-high 16.4 points. “Brandon’s a scorer,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Some people don’t like point guards like that, so they tend to criticize, but that’s Brandon’s game and I don’t think he’s been selfish at all.” … Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek admits it is not easy juggling his guard rotation of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green. “Some nights it’s difficult,” Hornacek said. “One of the guys may not play that much, but hopefully, as time goes by, it will get easier for them to understand how we’re doing it.” … The Suns won for the ninth time in the teams’ past 12 meetings, but the Pistons had won the previous three at The Palace. … Pistons F Josh Smith averaged a team-high 20 points against the Suns last season. … Phoenix won each of the past 22 times it shot 50 percent from the field or better. The Suns hit 49.3 percent from the floor Wednesday.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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