It’s hard to say what was colder, the water poured on Chauncey Billups in celebration of his first win as a head coach or the Phoenix Suns Saturday night at the Moda Center. Billups would probably tell you the water, but the Suns, without Cameron Payne looked frigid as the Blazers rolled to a 134 – 105 win.
Suns coach Monty Williams said afterwards that his team wasn’t prepared to face these Blazers. They didn’t expect a Portland team energized by the fundamentals of defense. Players almost too excited by the prospect of accountability.
The Suns expected a predictable Blazers offense avertible by double teaming Damian Lillard. They expected a lackluster, hollow defense, composed of premature hedges, collapsible like a folding chair after a funeral.
What the Suns and everyone watching witnessed was far different. Unmistakenly on display were players buying into change, hungry and eager for it. Portland was dynamic and energetic on both ends of the floor. It didn’t matter who was on the court. The starters and bench were seamless.
McCollum led the Blazers with 28 points amidst another night aflame. Damian Lillard who went 0-9 from three in the season opener, missed two more before finally hitting one just prior to halftime. He ended with 19 points.
Norman Powell and Robert Covington made Phoenix pay on double teaming Dame cashing in on three pointers. Powell recorded 16 points in the first half before leaving with a left knee Injury. The MRI came back clean, meaning he avoided serious Injury.
The Blazers bench has been fun to watch. Anyone worried about replacing Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter have been relieved with the physical and defensively intrusive combo of Cody Zeller and Larry Nance Jr.
Nassir Little and Anfernee Simons have been an equally if not more pleasant sight. The two youngsters seem to be finally showing their promise. Little is potent and highly active on both ends, beating opponents for rebounds, granting the Blazers numerous second chance shots out of thin air, performing high flying dynamic dunks and in your face threes through contact. Simons is a sharpshooter getting ever more confident by the game.
Devin Booker led the Suns with 21 points on an off shooting night at the hands of CJ McCollum. Bridges and Payton added 14 pts a piece. Chris Paul finished with only 4 points and seemed more set on jawing with Chauncey Billups than on helping his team.
The Blazers led by 20 at halftime, 67-47. Things only got worse for the Suns in the third as the Blazers went up 25, 106 – 81 and never looked back.
Portland plays the winless Clippers in LA on Monday.