Preview: Portland Trail Blazers (11-11) at Phoenix Suns (11-11)

Portland Trail Blazers 101, Phoenix Suns 94

Trail Blazers


PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns’ starters carried them in Tuesday’s loss to Portland, and the bench brought them back in Wednesday’s overtime loss to the Grizzlies.

Alvin Gentry will continue searching for the right combinations when the Blazers come to town tonight for their second game against the Suns this week, with Portland playing the second half of a back-to-back after defeating Orlando last night.

It will be interesting to see how Goran Dragic performs after bouncing back from his stinker of a performance in Portland when he went scoreless in nine minutes and played poorly enough that Steve Nash had to return with nine minutes remaining in the game by putting up a cool 17-3-5 line in a team-high 35 minutes against Memphis.

As he continues to seek out rotations that work, Gentry on Wednesday substituted Dragic for Nash earlier, played the duo together for significant time for the first time all year and ultimately finished overtime with Dragic over Jason Richardson, who has scored 10 points on 4-for-19 shooting the last two games after tallying at least 20 in seven straight.

“It helped to get a rhythm and everything,” Dragic said of entering the game earlier. “From the bench you’re not warm and still have to get a rhythm. In this a couple extra minutes helped me a lot.”

After his rough game in Portland it will be interesting to see if Gentry puts Dragic in earlier once again and gives him time with Nash. Then again, if J-Rich returns to form there won’t be as many minutes for Dragon as there were against the Grizzlies.

In any case, perhaps that performance can spark Dragic after what’s been an underwhelming third season thus far that’s followed up his breakout second campaign. The same can be said for a bench crew that has gotten many solid individual efforts but has yet to really mesh as a unit.

The calling card of last year’s bench was its defense, but that has yet to really be the case before Wednesday’s fourth quarter effort. That comeback was comprised of heart, hustle, defense and rebounding while Hedo Turkoglu knocked down big shots at the other end.

In an ideal world, that’s the formula with Dragic and Turkoglu leading the offense and Childress and Dudley creating the kind of frenetic pace Dragon thrives in with their defensive intensity. Hedo’s work on the boards was an added bonus, and his offensive aggressiveness showed how well he fits this group.

“It’s only one game,” Dragic said. “We still have to work hard, but hopefully the next game against Portland we’re going to do the same thing. We just have to bring our energy from the bench and try to be aggressive in defense and make some easy baskets.”

Added Grant Hill: “Hopefully the second unit can kind of rally around that performance and get some confidence. We’re going to need that from them.”

The Suns still have too many wings and not enough quality bigs especially with Robin Lopez still out, but at some point this bench unit needs to find something that at least resembles the chemistry of last year’s fabulous bench.

Tonight’s matchup versus a team the bench struggled against so recently will provide a great barometer as to whether Wednesday’s bench comeback was merely an inspired performance against a mediocre opponent or the start of this unit finally getting it.

“I think we just have to keep searching and searching, and I thought we found a good little combination of guys out there,” Gentry said.

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I will be covering the #SunsTweetup aspect of the game tonight and look forward to hopefully meeting some of you guys, the community of ValleyoftheSuns. If you’re attending please come up and say hello.

Tags: Goran Dragic

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