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Newcomers carry Suns past Blazers

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- Miles Plumlee and Eric Bledsoe witnessed of a lot of wins last year, but they spent a lot of time on the bench while their teammates ran the show.

On Wednesday, it was their turn to be on center stage as with their new team, the Phoenix Suns, and both basked in the spotlight of a season-opening win.

Plumlee surpassed his scoring total from all of last year with 18 points, and he added 15 rebounds and three blocks as the Suns posted a 104-91 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Bledsoe teamed with backcourt mate Goran Dragic to put up 48 points and 15 assists.

Plumlee scored just 13 points playing behind big men Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough last season with the Indiana Pacers. Bledsoe was point guard Chris Paul's understudy with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Dragic had 26 points Wednesday, and Bledsoe had 22 as the Suns racked up 31 fast-break points and outscored the Blazers 52-24 in the paint.

P.J. Tucker added 18 points as the Suns, who had only three returning players from last season see action Wednesday, gave Jeff Hornacek a win in his NBA head coaching debut

"They say we're rebuilding, but it felt great to come in and get a win right off the bat," said Plumlee, who became the first player to record a double-double in his Suns debut since Shawn Marion had 14 points and 14 rebounds as a rookie in 1999. "It's given people something to be excited about.

"I was nervous here the first week of training camp, but each day since then, I feel like I've gotten better. This is the situation I've dreamed about, and I want to make the most of it."

Damian Lilliard scored 32 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had 28, but no other Blazer reached double figures. Portland shot just 40.7 percent (compared to Phoenix's 51.8 percent), and the Blazers were outrebounded 47-39.

The Suns shot 60 percent in the first quarter and didn't commit a turnover, leading by as many as 14 as the combination of Plumlee inside and Dragic outside left the Blazers flat-footed. Dragic capped a 10-1 Phoenix run with a fast-break layup a free throw to put Phoenix up 18-10 just six minutes in.

"They came out and they kind of shocked us," Lilliard said. "They played at a real fast pace, and their guards finished some tough shots. It was tough to guard them, and it wasn't a help that we got off to a slow offensive start. We dug a hole, and when we got back in the game, they turned it up on us."

Portland ended last season with 13 consecutive losses, and it picked up where it left off, losing to the Suns for the sixth time in the past eight meetings.

"All the things we've been working on we had setbacks in today," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "Still, we were in a position to win the game with three minutes left, but they outplayed us."

The Blazers trailed by as many as 17 but cut Phoenix's lead to 96-91 on Lilliard's sixth 3-pointer of the night and a Robin Lopez free throw with 3:15 left. Dragic closed out the game with two jumpers, and Tucker's fast-break layup restored Phoenix's lead to 102-91 with 1:19 left.

Plumlee impressed the Suns so much in training camp that they traded starting center Marcin Gortat to the Washington Wizards five days ago. His big night helped Phoenix survived despite ragged long-distance shooting (4-for-19 from 3-point range).

"When (Plumlee) first got here, we thought, 'We'll get some rebounds out of him, but that's going to be about it,'" Hornacek said. "But our assistant coaches (Kenny Gattison and Mark West) have really worked with him on footwork, and what we saw tonight we've seen in practice and all preseason. We're calling post-up plays for him. I wouldn't have imagined doing that, but he's done a great job."

The Suns saw their 16-point lead in the second quarter shaved to 50-46 at the half as Lilliard went off from deep to bring the Blazers back. The reigning Rookie of the Year had three 3-pointers in the final 1:04 of the second quarter. He capped a 15-3 Portland run with a 25-footer with 1.8 seconds left.

Aldridge had 14 points in the first half but needed 13 shots to get it done.

Phoenix's starters regained control quickly in the second half. The Suns opened the third quarter with a 12-0 run, stretching their lead to 64-51 on a Bledsoe layup off a Channing Frye steal.

NOTES: Is Blazers' slate is wiped clean for the new season? "On paper, yes," Stotts said. "But when we lost our first two preseason games, my wife (Jan) reminded me 'That's 15 in a row.' So it depends who you ask, I guess." ... Frye, back after missing all of the 2012-13 season with an enlarged heart, got the start in place of Markieff Morris. He scored seven points. Morris was suspended for the first game for his elbow to the face of the Oklahoma City Thunder's Serge Ibaka in an Oct. 22 preseason game. ... Stotts on the former Sun Lopez, the only new addition to Portland's starting lineup: "He's been terrific. He's really set the tone defensively. He competes in practice, he has a serious professional approach to his job, and I think the team has really picked up on that. Having him in the middle will shore things up for us." ... The Suns improved to 24-22 on opening night, 15-7 at home. ... G C.J. McCollum (left foot) and G Earl Watson (left calf) were inactive for Portland.
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