Suns Recap: Eric Bledsoe, Suns Survive Thunder In OT

Feb 26, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) dribbles the ball past Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) during the first quarter at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) dribbles the ball past Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) during the first quarter at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports /

Donning new “PHXRising” uniforms for the first time, the Phoenix Suns showed off their new gray, black and orange colors that symbolized the ash, smoke and embers of the legendary bird for which the city is named.

More from Suns News

After a crucial 117-113 win in overtime against the Oklahoma City Thunder at home, the Suns will hold on to the belief that their 2014-15 season amounts to more than the ash, smoke and embers of the promise it started off with.

If tonight’s effort was any indication, the young Suns plan on rising from the flames to stay in this brutal playoff race.

Victory was once again within reach for the Suns near the end of regulation. Phoenix had a nine-point lead with nine minutes to play and despite a furious rally from Russell Westbrook, held a three-point lead with 20.5 seconds to play thanks to a clutch three-point play from Markieff Morris.

But Westbrook immediately responded with a three-point play of his own attacking the basket, tying the game at 109 to send it to overtime.

Eric Bledsoe led the way for the Suns with 28 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, while Markieff Morris finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds. The Thunder were led by a 39-14-11 triple-double from Westbrook, Enes Kanter added 18 and D.J. Augustin and Dion Waiters combined for 29 points off the bench.

The Suns came out fired up, and it seemed like they were fully aware of what could be at stake when they jumped out to a 9-0 run to start the game. Phoenix held OKC to 5-of-23 shooting in the first period, Westbrook went 0-for-8 and the Thunder had only 15 points in the first quarter, a season low.

In the second quarter, Westbrook continued to struggle as he was continuously hounded by Bledsoe, but the Thunder’s trade deadline acquisitions once again proved their worth to keep OKC in the game. Enes Kanter had 12 first half points and D.J. Augustin added 10 off the bench to pull the Thunder within five at the break despite Westbrook’s 2-for-14 start.

A quick 6-0 run in the first 89 seconds of the third quarter gave OKC its first lead of the game, and the Thunder extended their 5-0 run heading into halftime to a 15-0 spree by the time the Suns finally squashed their 0-for-5 start to the second half.

But Eric Bledsoe would not allow the game to slip away even with Kanter enjoying a feeding frenzy in the paint due to Alex Len‘s foul trouble. Bledsoe scored seven straight points for Phoenix in the third, starting with a sweeping three-point play across the lane that got him and the fans fired up again.

Bledsoe assisted on Phoenix’s next two baskets — an Alex Len dunk and a Marcus Morris three-pointer — to give the Suns a two-point lead before drilling a three-pointer to extend it to five.

The third period quickly transformed into a one-on-one clash of mini-sized titans, with Bledsoe and Westbrook going head-to-head on play after play, each chasing their own triple-double.

Once Bledsoe and Westbrook were subbed out, Marcus Morris and Dion Waiters kept the competitive fire (and accompanying trash talk) flowing, trading threes and making sure to stare down the other team’s bench in the process. The Suns led 86-84 heading into the final period.

A 7-0 Suns run to start the fourth extended Phoenix’s lead to nine with 9:34 to play. Westbrook scored six straight points for Oklahoma City, but Bledsoe battled him every step of the way with five points of his own.

A Waiters three cut Phoenix’s advantage to seven points with 5:45 to play and a Westbrook three-point play gave Bledsoe his fifth foul with 5:20 to play, but Westbrook missed the free throw and Bledsoe stayed in the game. During a four and a half minute stretch, Westbrook scored or assisted on 13 straight points for the Thunder.

Westbrook then found Serge Ibaka in the paint, and a quick pump fake from Ibaka resulted in Len’s fifth foul. Ibaka made both free throws to cut the Suns’ lead to three with 3:41 to play.

An Augustin three tied the game at 102 with just over two minutes to play, but Brandon Knight responded with a step-back long two late in the shot clock on the next possession. Westbrook missed a jumper on the ensuing possession, which led to a P.J. Tucker lay-in after Ibaka swatted Knight’s fast break layup attempt.

Westbrook cut the lead back down to two with a tough contested layup against P.J. Tucker, then found Ibaka for an easy bucket in the paint on the next play to tie the game at 106 with 33.1 seconds to play.

After losing so many close games, Markieff Morris was not ready to drop another one. He knocked down an elbow jumper on the next possession and was fouled, giving the Suns a three-point lead with 20.5 seconds to play.

The curse of the Suns in late-game situations didn’t take long to return, however, as Westbrook drew an and-one on the following play to tie the game back up with 13.4 seconds remaining.

A broken play for the Suns and an Ibaka block on the game’s final possession sent it to overtime.

Bledsoe continued to do all he could to keep his team head, chasing down Dion Waiters on a fast break with a highlight reel block that sent US Airways Center into a frenzy.

Bledsoe scored four of Phoenix’s first six points in the overtime period, helping the Suns build a 115-111 lead with 1:51 remaining. A Westbrook layup went uncontested by Bledsoe, who didn’t want to pick up his sixth foul, to cut the lead back to two with 35 seconds left.

Ibaka swarmed Bledsoe’s shot attempt on the next play, and the Thunder got the ball back with 11 seconds left on the clock. But when Westbrook got a pretty good look on his reverse layup attempt, the ball fell short, the Suns secured the rebound and the Thunder could only foul with 0.3 seconds remaining.

Tucker sank the free throws to ice the game and give the Suns much-needed hope in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Sporting a 2-8 record in their last 10 games coming into this important Western showdown, the Suns were also coming off a win in Denver that snapped a five-game losing streak — but that victory came against a Nuggets team that has lost 17 of its last 19 games.

The Thunder, on the other hand, were riding a seven-game win streak behind the incredible play of MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, who is nearly averaging a triple-double for the month of February. They also had the night off, while the Suns entered on the second night of a back-to-back.

The win pulled Phoenix within 1.5 games of the Thunder for the eighth playoff spot in the West, avoiding a loss that would’ve dropped them down to 3.5 games back.

Westbrook has put up at least 20 points and 10 assists in five straight games. Had the Thunder won, he would’ve become the first player to post those numbers in five straight wins since Magic Johnson in 1990.

Next: Goran Dragic: Top 10 Moments With The Phoenix Suns

More from Valley of the Suns