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(Friday, March 21st)
Final Score: Phoenix 98, Detroit 92
Phoenix, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - Eric Bledsoe scored 23 points and Goran Dragic dropped in 20 in the Phoenix Suns' 98-92 victory over the Detroit Pistons at US Airways Center.
The backcourt duo combined to shoot 14-of-28 from the field and added five assists each in the Suns' fourth win in five outings, which moved Phoenix within a half-game of Memphis for the eighth playoff seed in the Western Conference.
Detroit, meanwhile, dropped its fourth straight contest and 12th in a row on the road, the franchise's longest skid since a 12-game drought from Jan. 5- Mar. 5, 1993.
Rodney Stuckey put up 23 points for the Pistons, with Josh Smith and Andre Drummond each posting double-doubles in defeat. Smith finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Drummond pulled down 16 boards and scored 13 points.
The Pistons battled back from a 12-point third-quarter deficit to forge a 67-67 tie with 3:34 remaining in the period, then later took their first lead since early in the second quarter on Stuckey's three-point play off a steal that put them up by a 78-76 count with 9:20 left.
A Stuckey 3-pointer shortly afterward extended Detroit's edge to 81-77, but a Markieff Morris trey and Bledsoe's driving layup around a Drummond free throw drew Phoenix even at 82-82 midway through the fourth quarter.
The contest remained tight down the stretch, with Smith's long two knotting the score at 86-86 with 4:43 to go. The Pistons didn't make another field goal until a minute left, however, as Phoenix took control for good.
Bledsoe broke the deadlock with a trey that jump-started a 12-4 run that sealed the outcome, adding a layup and two key free throws in the game's final minute to help put the Pistons in a 98-90 hole with little time remaining.
"We did a nice job at the end of really scrapping, making tough shots, and then we got the boards at the key times," said Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek.
Detroit helped seal its fate with a woeful performance from the foul line. The Pistons were 10-of-26 on free-throw attempts, with Smith missing all eight of his tries from the stripe.
"We turned the ball over 19 times for a team that averages 12, and then you go 10-for-26 from the line," said Pistons interim head coach John Loyer. "I mean, we're not asking to make all of them, but if you shoot your percentage, which is about 66 percent, that's a totally different ballgame."
Neither side led by more than six points during an evenly played opening half that ended with the Suns up 51-50 behind 15 points from Dragic, with Gerald Green chipping in 11 off the bench.
Phoenix then began to pull away early in the third quarter, beginning the frame with a 14-3 run. A P.J. Tucker 3-ball staked the Suns to a 63-53 advantage 3 1/2 minutes into the frame, and Bledsoe fed Miles Plumlee for an alley-oop dunk moments later to lengthen the margin to 12 points.
Detroit countered with a 14-2 surge, however, to pull even. Smith accounted for five points during the flurry, with Greg Monroe scoring the first four of the spurt.
Drummond returned to action after sitting out Wednesday's loss at Denver with a strained neck ... The Pistons have now lost in six straight visits to Phoenix, with their last win there coming on Feb. 24, 2008 ... Morris finished with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting off the bench ... The Suns improved to 17-10 against Eastern Conference teams this season.
03/22 01:59:55 ET
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