The Phoenix Suns played their preseason road opener last night and came out with a 104-98 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Suns were led by a dominant effort from combo guard Goran Dragic, who finished with a team high of 19 points, including 11 in the first quarter on an efficient 7-9 shooting night.
Newly acquired Eric Bledsoe had an off night, going 3-11 from the field. The pint-sized dynamo made up for it in other areas, finishing with nine assists, five rebounds, four steals and, most importantly, no turnovers in a little more than 25 minutes.
Throughout the game it could be seen why so many teams coveted the former Los Angeles Clipper. On one defensive play, Bledsoe ran off his own man, snuck behind Portland’s Joel Freeland, poked the ball away from him and sprinted up court for a relatively uncontested layup. While it was a risky maneuver, those strokes of defensive genius by Bledsoe will fuel the Suns’ entertaining fast break offense.
The Suns, though, haven’t attempted to replicate their “seven seconds or less” glory days, mostly operating out of a half-court attack. The concern for the the team’s half-court offense is spacing. Fortunately, Marcus Morris and Channing Frye combined to go 6-8 on three point attempts and finish with a combined 29 points. Frye in particular looked great in only his second game back after missing last year with a heart ailment.
Fans and pundits alike should not put too much stock into preseason games. Teams play their backups for about half the game, and the second half is often devoted to battles for the last spot on the bench. That said, it was a very nice effort by the Suns. Defensively, they accomplished their goals of not allowing corner threes and forced 17 turnovers. The offense looked efficient, and Bledsoe showed he could run a team with his sterling assist-to-turnover ratio.
If the Suns can bring this type of effort and chemistry night in and night out during the regular season, look for them to escape the proverbial gutter of the NBA.