The Phoenix Suns jumped out to early leads in the first and second halves, a welcome change from their pattern in preseason and game one on Wednesday.
While Steve Nash's induction into the Suns Ring of Honor was the big event of the night, a Suns win would mean a lot too.
And that's just what they did. The Suns finished off the Blazers by winning the rebounding battle, and getting enough steals and hustle points to put the game away. The lead ballooned to 20 with 5:34 left, and after the extra long halftime (40 minutes+), fans started to make their way home.
Let me take a minute to recognize those fans before you blast some for leaving at the 5 minute mark. It was already late, and the near-sellout crowd had been cheering and lively all night long. This was the most sustained positive vibes from the crowd I've heard since... well, since Nash donned the jersey. Nice to see!
It was also nice to see the starting unit play a great game together.
- Eric Bledsoe broke 20 points.
- Brandon Knight had his best game since joining the Suns, with 18 pts, 4 assists and 3 steals
- Tyson Chandler had a double-double - the first of many - with 15 and 11, looking like the guy the Suns wanted all along
- Markieff Morris had some head-scratching plays, but still got 13 points and 8 rebounds
- And finally, P.J. Tucker didn't have the stats but played like the guy we know well - hustling and forcing the other team into bad offensive possessions.
- Off the bench, T.J. Warren had 17 points and 6 rebounds, Jon Leuer had 8 rebounds, Alex Len had 10 points and 4 rebounds and everyone else did their part
- Mirza Teletovic, Devin Booker and Archie Goodwin only played the last 2 minutes - likely being rested for tomorrow's second game against the Blazers in this home-and-home series.
Suns win big, 110-92.
The Suns came out with big energy early, with Brandon Knight driving twice on C.J. McCollum for scores at the rim and the guards getting a couple of steals. And it helps that Tyson Chandler got some early offense chances at the rim.
Quickly, the Suns were up 12-9 and then 18-14, shooting 58% from the field.
Tyson Chandler had 9 of the Suns first 19 points.
The Suns kept up the energy through two lineups (played nine guys by end of one) with Brandon Knight running the second unit. The Blazers kept it pretty close with hustle and effort plays, but C.J. McCollum was off on his shot and Damian Lillard didn't take over. Part of that was Bledsoe and Knight's defense, part Lillard just not taking over.
Either way, Suns up 36-28 after 15 minutes of play. But they lost their edge a bit and allowed the Blazers back into the game before pulling out to a 55-49 halftime lead (that was almost 58-49 as Bledsoe's three at the buzzer rimmed out).
Nash ROH Halftime
Very nice speeches by Al McCoy, Jerry Colangelo and Mike D'Antoni.
McCoy: "I called every single one of your games."
Colangelo: "I'm the chairman of the Naismith Hall of Fame (voting) committee, and you are without a doubt a first-ballot electee."
D'Antoni bowed to Nash at one point (like he did after every win), and then told Nash's parents how glad he was that they met.
Then Nash went on a 13-minute ramble with some great, funny comments and always so deprecating.
The Suns came out hard, with two quick steals for scores, before the Blazers came out of their haze to get back into the game on some three pointers (one a 25-foot bank shot from Lillard).
Still, the Suns kept their foot on the gas and kept the lead.
Love the hustle from these guys! Wish it was there on Wednesday, but that game is over now. Onto the final 81. If they are anything like tonight's game, I'll take it.
Again, the Suns got sloppy after a few minutes of play. Also, Markieff Morris had a few brain freezes and refused to take open threes, instead catching and either passing out or dribbling into the midrange, and he just didn't finish well.
This allowed the Blazers to stay within reach of the Suns, getting the lead down to 8 on a couple of breakaways when the second unit came in.
The second unit, with Keef still out there, managed to keep the lead thanks to hustle on their end as well. Markieff made some dumb plays and didn't get into his comfort spots very well. And he absolutely refused to take the open three on p-n-r pops. He's still trying, I believe. Just trying to be something a bit new this year: a stretch four.
Luckily the Blazers just didn't have it tonight, and the Suns were able to gut their way to a big win.
Helps to win the rebounding battle, and get the other team in foul trouble for a change.