The Phoenix Suns have overcome some pessimistic preseason predictions and earned enough seemingly improbable victories to be recognized as one of the league's most surprising teams.
Now it appears they'll have to contend with the absence of Eric Bledsoe for a while longer.
Visiting Phoenix looks to beat the Memphis Grizzlies for the first time in three tries this season Friday night after learning Bledsoe will need surgery that will keep him out indefinitely.
The fourth-year guard, acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in a trade July 10, is averaging 18.0 points - more than double his career high of 8.5 set last season - to help the Suns (21-13) get off to solid start few expected.
Bledsoe, though, has missed the last four games with what the team said was a sprained right knee. The injury appears to be more serious, as he suffered what's believed to be meniscus damage in Phoenix's win over Bledsoe's former team on Dec. 30.
The Suns are 5-5 overall without Bledsoe, including a 99-91 loss to Memphis on Jan. 2 in the first game since his latest setback. Phoenix appeared to be headed toward another defeat Wednesday, but finished on a 7-0 run over the final 1:36 to beat Minnesota 104-103.
Gerald Green scored 14 points and hit a jumper with 3.9 seconds remaining, while Channing Frye finished with 22. Goran Dragic, who scored a career-high 33 points in the last meeting with Memphis, had a game-high 26 while adding nine assists.
''We just have confidence in each other, and I think we just want to continue to play our way of basketball,'' Frye told the team's official website. "We are addicted to winning. It's an overpowering feeling."
First-year coach Jeff Hornacek was impressed with the comeback, though he said that kind of fight is not uncommon for his club.
''They kept their composure,'' Hornacek said. ''They didn't get panicked. That's the key.
"When they care about each other, when they're willing to do anything to help each other succeed, you have a chance. That's what these guys have done."
Dragic is averaging 23.7 points over his last six, and he'll look to help the Suns avenge two previous losses to Memphis, which also won the first meeting 110-91 on Dec. 3 at FedExForum.
Mike Conley had 18 points and 14 assists in that contest, and he nearly helped the Grizzlies (15-19) pull off a comeback of their own in Tuesday's 110-108 overtime loss to San Antonio.
Conley scored 30 points - one off his career high - and hit a layup at the end of regulation to force overtime. His 29-footer at the end of OT fell short.
''On the last play of the game I would have liked to have gotten it closer to the (3-point) line,'' Conley said. ''But I had a good look.''
Zach Randolph added 17 points for Memphis, which trailed by 16 points with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
''I was proud of the effort at the end,'' coach Dave Joerger said. ''We kept coming. We started to attack them the way we needed to attack them, which was in transition and with quick attacks. I thought we played pretty hard. We were just too slow in the first half.''
Randolph sat out the first meeting with the Suns with a toe injury, but finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds in last week's contest.
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