Bledsoe Returns in Suns Win at Utah

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The Suns went into Friday’s game with many focusing on Jeff Hornacek’s return to Utah.

The even bigger story for Phoenix ended up being Eric Bledsoe’s return to the lineup.

The 6-1 guard came off the bench for 19 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists in a revitalizing comeback after missing six games with a shin injury suffered in practice. He and his teammates shot a scalding 54.1 percent from the field en route to a 112-101 win, their fourth victory in five games.

Six Suns players scored in double figures, led by Markieff Morris (23 points) and Goran Dragic (19 points, nine assists. Plumlee added his seventh double-digit rebounding effort of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Phoenix absorbed a 9-0 Jazz run at the start of the game before Goran Dragic responded with nine of the Suns’ first 11 points. Bledsoe entered the game later in the quarter and immediately deflected two passes and drew a foul, showing frustration when failing to convert the and-one in the lane.

That would be one of the few times he didn’t. The fourth-year guard shot 7-of-11, including a steal and breakaway dunk and a shot in traffic where he pivoted twice before going underhand off the glass through a double-team.

Morris took full advantage of his speed and strength, driving to the rim repeatedly for close shots or free throws. His six attempts at the line tied Bledsoe for team-high honors.

The Jazz made a push in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 11 after Phoenix led by as many as 20. Channing Frye (13 points) responded with a hook shot in the paint.

Dragic followed with his final jumper of the night, and Frye sealed it with a putback slam off a P.J. Tucker miss.

Bledsoe’s Value Shows

While Bledsoe was out with his shin injury, Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek repeatedly stressed how his playmaking ability makes for a much easier night on offense for the entire team.

It showed early on. He zipped a bullet pass through two defenders to Markieff Morris for an easy bucket and caused the defense to collapse multiple times with his driving forays to the rim.

Five of Bledsoe’s seven made field goals came in the paint. Combined with his free throws, the point guard amassed 14 of his 19 points in the key.

Hornacek’s Return

The Suns head coach got a rousing ovation when he was announced on the public address system before the game. He played his last six-and-half seasons with the Jazz and had his jersey retired by the team.

He refused to play down his return throughout the week, however, often falling back to analyzing the on-court matchup instead of recalling off-court friendships.

His Friday and Saturday night opponent, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin, also played for the Suns and Jazz in the 80s and 90s, respectively. Corbin is in his third full season with Utah.