By Art Garcia, The Sports Xchange
DALLAS — Eric Bledsoe isn’t shy about the kind of player he wants to be.
“Big-time players show up in big-time games, and I want to be a big-time player,” he said. “So I have to show up in crunch time no matter how bad the game is going for me. The last couple of minutes is my time.”
While a clash between two of the worst teams in the Western Conference hardly qualifies as a big-time game, Bledsoe did own the crunch time down the stretch Thursday.
Bledsoe scored a game-high 26 points and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer to lead the Phoenix Suns past the Dallas Mavericks 102-95 at American Airlines Center.
The back-and-forth affair swung the Suns’ way when Bledsoe’s long-range dagger put the visitors up 96-93 lead with 1:14 left. It was the 14th lead change in a game that also featured 11 ties.
The Suns (12-25) won consecutive games for the second time this season and also snapped a four-game losing streak to Dallas.
“It’s a big win. We knew Dallas was 5-5 in their last 10,” Phoenix coach Earl Watson said. “They’re playing better. It’s a bunch of veteran players (that) have a lot of veteran experience, tons of experience, to speak of, but our young guys we came in, and we hustled, we scrapped, (and) defensively we turned into a pretty nice ballclub taking steps forward. We will continue to get better and the offense will flow.”
Bledsoe scored 12 points in the last 6 1/2 minutes. His two 3-pointers were also made during the finishing kick, and he shot 9 of 16 from the floor for the game.
Bledsoe’s backcourt partner Devin Booker carried the load in the third quarter with 11 points and finished with 22 on 9 of 17 shooting. He was a perfect on three 3-point attempts.
The Suns also got big contributions from reserves Brandon Knight (17 points) in his first game back from injury and Alex Len (14 points and seven rebounds).
Starting center Tyson Chandler corralled 18 rebounds, as the Suns dominated the glass with a 53-31 edge.
That deficit didn’t sit well with Mavs coach Rick Carlisle.
“Not good,” he said. “And that’s a big factor obviously in the game and the outcome, the number of possessions differential. You shoot better, but lose by seven. That’s one of the reasons. We’re gonna have to do better.”
Deron Williams led the Mavs with 20 points and six rebounds. Harrison Barnes scored 19, but only had five points after halftime. Dirk Nowitzki had 13 points and seven boards.
The Mavericks (11-25) were dealing with the fallout of Andrew Bogut’s apparent imminent departure. The veteran center expects to be either traded or sign with a new team after the season.
Carlisle said earlier in the day that he hasn’t been privy to trade discussions and has talked to president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson about re-signing Bogut.
Bogut, in the last year of his contract, said the team hasn’t approached him to discuss an extension. He had no points or rebounds to go along with five fouls in 20 minutes off the bench.
Devin Harris had 12 points, including a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer off a steal to give Dallas a 72-70 lead. The Mavs led at the end of the first three quarters, but didn’t have enough to finish.
“They just made plays,” Harris said. “They put the ball in their playmakers hands and at the end of the game they just made more plays than we did.”
The Suns opened the second quarter with a 7-0 run to briefly surge ahead, but Barnes heated up and Dallas went into the locker room up 45-41. Barnes had 14 points on 7-9 shooting at the break.
Knight and Booker each scored eight for the Suns. Phoenix outrebounded the Mavs 27-19, but the visitors shot only 41.9 percent in the half.