The Moda Center got hot Saturday evening, and it wasn’t because the Portland Trail Blazers.The Phoenix Suns were scorching, besting the Blazers 134-118 in a game the home team was never really in. Simply put, the Blazers got sunburned.
It’s only preseason, but should the Blazers be concerned anyway? Portland was out-everything by a Suns team sans it’s starters. (Ok, not everything, the Blazers had more blocks and offensive rebounds.) That’s right Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, and Ricky Rubio sat out, and the Suns still scored 134 points. 72 of those came from three, with the Suns setting a team record 24 three pointers, and six players shooting 50% or better from distance.
Meanwhile, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum played 29 and 30 minutes respectively. It didn’t seem to matter much. CJ finished with 27 points and looked the better of duo out there. He shot 57% from three, but so did Frank Kaminsky. Lillard finished with 18 points, but struggled shooting on the night making just 2-6 threes.
Hassan Whiteside played 22 minutes, the most we have seen him, but he was ill fitting throughout. He seemed unsble to set screens or manage the pick and roll. Maybe his ankle is still sore. Maybe he is still acclimating. If you ignore his six turnovers, he did finish with 12 points and 6 rebounds. Not to mention he had one pretty cool block in there somewhere.
The Suns started the game on a 16-6 run led by Kelly Oubre Jr and Mikal Bridges, and never cooled off. Portland used an extended run to take a 33-32 lead at the end of the first, but from there the lead became elusive. The Suns continued their barrage of threes, against Portland’s atrocious perimeter defense. The Blazers still managed to get back within 7, trailing 65-58 at half.
If there was any hope Terry Stotts was getting on his team about defense in the locker room during halftime, and the Blazers would tighten up and take control, it was dashed by the Suns who immediately returned where they had left off, hitting shot after shot from the arc. Stotts called and won a coach challenge mid quarter which was entertaining. The Blazers got within 2 at 70-68, but never got closer, as the Suns pulled away, leading by 14 at the end of the quarter.
Fans started leaving a few minutes into the fourth quarter as the Suns built, their lead with Lillard and McCollum on the bench for good. The Blazer dancers shooting shirts into the crowd during a timeout was probably the most exciting part of the period. The Blazers tried a couple more runs, but it proved futile. Monty Williams bested his old boss in the Moda center, with his bosses strategy: Shoot threes and shoot a lot of them.
The Blazers look to have a lot of lessons to learn on defensive schemes and oh good basketball God’s, the turnovers. The Blazers had 22 of them. 19 of those from Portland starters. 11 from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
But, again it’s just the preseason don’t panic right? Don’t Panic?! This will all get sorted out. Perimeter defense, isolation, pick n roll, all of it. Not to mention six of the Blazers who played tonight won’t be in the rotation, several not even on the team come the regular season.
We haven’t even seen Pau Gasol yet. So what Tolliver only took one 3, he made one against Haifa. Collins looked good yet again, another 16 points to go with 7 boards and 5 assists. The new guys are still getting acclimated. Simons will eventually learn to stay with his guy won’t he? We’re good, we’re good. What do you mean the Blazers are going a road trip to Utah and Denver. Uh oh!