Portland Trail Blazers 96, Phoenix Suns 93 — Lillard the big shot

Opportunities for the Phoenix Suns were there. A missed three here by Jared Dudley, Shannon Brown’s misread of a fastbreak opportunity with the team down three points there and another missed three by Goran Dragic in the waning seconds were only a few of them.

The Suns’ four-game winning streak ended in Portland Saturday night as the Trail Blazers hit big shots and held off Phoenix to win 96-93 at the Rose Garden.

Damian Lillard drove left on a hard cut to the hoop and effortlessly stepped back to create more than enough space against the long and athletic Brown to give Portland a 96-91 lead with less than a minute to play. It was a summation of the night for Phoenix, which couldn’t stop Lillard nor come up with the big play when needed.

The rookie point guard’s big – yet timely – shots gave him 25 points and seven assists on the night to lead his Trail Blazers to a win in a game between two growing but young teams.

To Marcin Gortat, Portland again acted as his dose of confidence. The center scored 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds after his 22-point outing against the Blazers earlier in the year.

Although Portland center J.J. Hickson scored 13 points in the opening quarter as the Trail Blazers moved the ball well, taking advantage of the Suns’ starting front line and its plodding nature on help defense, Phoenix led 25-23 going into the second.

The Suns’ bench built the lead to double digits, going ahead 47-35 two-thirds of the way through the second quarter and leading 53-44 at the half. The second-string bigs, Markieff Morris and Jermaine O’Neal, combined for 18 points and 7-of-10 shooting in the second quarter for the Suns. In what was another strong defensive game as far as Suns’ deflections were concerned, the Trail Blazers had 13 turnovers in the first half, seven of which came by way of Suns steals.

They would finish with 20 turnovers to 13 for Phoenix. But the Suns’ 20 more shot opportunities were deceiving; they got to the free throw line 11 times while the Trail Blazers went 23-of-28. Phoenix launched 19 threes yet only made five.

So much for the opportunities given to them.

Aldridge came out gunning for the Suns’ necks out of the halftime break. He scored nine of the first 19 Portland points in the second half as the Trail Blazers suddenly found a sense of urgency. Phoenix showed mettle by responding with a Gortat dunk off an offensive rebound followed up by a savvy post and fadeaway as his confidence blossomed within the game. The Suns’ starting center scored 10 of his points and grabbed four of his rebounds in the third period.

Gortat’s ability on Saturday night showed how different of a player he is when funneling the confidence of one play in his favor. And while it’d be better to have consistency from the 7-footer, the Suns at least saw that he hasn’t permanently checked out this season.

After at one point finding their lead at just 61-60, the Suns used the play of Gortat and a steal then dunk by Brown to build the lead back to double figures with four minutes to play in the third quarter.

And just as quickly as they had regained control, the Trail Blazers took it right back. They went on a 12-2 run to tie the game at 75 apiece heading to the fourth.

There, no team led by more than three points until Portland bumped its lead up to 89-85 with four minutes to play in the game. But with the veteran awareness that he had displayed in scoring 24 points against Phoenix in the two teams’ first meeting, Lillard — who had just seven first-half points — drilled a pull-up three to give his team a 92-85 advantage.

Lillard had 18 points in the second half, and easily outplayed Dragic, who had a quiet 10 points and five assists on Saturday night.

The Suns cut the lead down to three points with just more than a minute to play. At 94-91, Lillard drilled his step-back jumper over Brown, scoring the final two points of the game for Portland. The rookie out of Weber State scored the final nine points for the Trail Blazers as Brown ran toward the rim on a fastbreak opportunity instead of drifting out to the three-point line while Phoenix trailed 96-93. Dragic missed a heave, and Brown’s offense rebound saw him attempting a put-back two that would have led to a Phoenix loss just the same.

The fight was there on Saturday. The Suns just didn’t capitalize.

And 1

  • Jared Dudley’s hot scoring streak came to an end along with the Suns’ winning streak, but he did have 10 assists on the night.
  • With the return of rookie point guard Kendall Marshall after serving nine games in the D-League, the Suns listed fellow point guard Diante Garrett as inactive.
  • Michael Beasley appears to be falling out of favor even moreso these days. He played only 10 minutes in the game, going 1-for-4 from the field, but he was a team-best plus 15 in that time for a change.

  • bill.thomas

    Just one quick quiet note, Beasley went 1/4 with no other statistics compiled in his time on court. Not a big baseball fan here, but I think in the American League, that is called something like “Designated Hitter?”

  • bill.thomas

    Maybe he would like to switch sports like Michael.

  • Luka

    The Suns just don’t execute well when teams dial up the pressure defensively. Dragic was way too passive late in the game. He’s the only one capable of collapsing defenses.

    Instead we have Brown trying to go one on one which usually ends with a bad shot. Or Morris making an ill-advised pass to Dudley. In those situations Dragic has to be the one taking it upon himself to score, and he didn’t do it tonight.

    The Suns are almost there though. If they could just swap Beasley for a defensive 3/4 or even a spot up shooter they’d likely come out ahead in these close games. They also need a PF who can get to rim hard. Morris needs to learn how to attack strong, and stop settling for jumpers.

  • DBreezy

    First game I’ve gotten to watch live since Memphis and of course it’s an L. Oh well, it was a very entertaining game. What can you say about Lillard? The young man has been very impressive every time I’ve seen him, love his poise and how he doesn’t seem to rush anything.

    While it’s probably pretty safe to say they aren’t going anywhere this season, the players and staff seem to have found their mojo somewhat recently. They’ve found rotations and plays that work for them, are playing hard, and should be in most games if they keep it up. They’re doing their part, now let’s see if the people upstairs do theirs.

  • gordon

    What a terrible signing Goran Dragic was… Chucks bad shots whole game and when we need him to shoot he passes up open shots. Bad on defense, can’t make a simple entry pass to the post or a bounce pass on the pick and roll. Just awful.

  • Scott

    The Suns might have been a bit slow defensively to start the game, but they picked it up and were solidly engaged in the game by halftime, up by 9.

    However, for whatever reason, I got the impression that in the 2nd half the Suns just didn’t have it. No mojo, no juice, no hunger. They had some good plays, but it seemed like they were going through the motions, and not quite as energetically or purposeful as they were in the first half.

    Maybe Gentry gave them a halftime speech that got them thinking ahead to the next game or something.

  • DBreezy


    While you could really say that Morris settled for jumpers to much last season, I’m not really sure that is as accurate this season. While he’s not a shrimp, he’s definitely undersized for his position and doesn’t really possess any plus level athletic attributes imo. He’s not an explosive leaper like a Faried. He doesn’t have the quick first step that Amar’e had or other undersized guys like Millsap and Landry have. He doesn’t possess really long arms like an Aldridge, Frye or Sam Perkins. He doesn’t have the brute strength and bulk of a Randolph or Jefferson. He doesn’t even have the deceptive strength and banging ability of a guy like David West who can abuse you at the elbow/high post area if you aren’t careful.

    What he does have is a nice set of all around fundamental skills offensively with probably NBA average athleticism. IOW he has to mix up his game to score effectively in the league-not the easiest thing to do for a young player and I think it shows in Kieff’s FG percentages. Whereas he may be able to feast inside against a poor rebounding Dallas team, he may have to hit jumpers the next night to draw a guy like Randolph out of the paint to allow him driving lanes. Often if he just drives right into guys like that without setting them up he has trouble scoring over them. Sometimes he has to see that the defense is just running him off the 3pt line, hoping he passes or goes all the way into the trees, and take that midrange jumper like EJ was saying tonight.

  • kdm

    “To Marcin Gortat, Portland again acted as his dose of confidence. The center scored 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds after his 22 point outing against the Blazers earlier in the year.”

    9 not 7 of 12

    • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

      Thanks, fixed!

  • Polish_fan

    @gordon – exactly !! Thats the difference with Nash.

  • bill.thomas

    Yeah, agreed on Dragic. Frankly, he is a personal favorite of mine, but his performance tonight was very disappointing. 4/13 and 5 assists in 33 minutes. If he can’t figure out how he is supposed to be running the offense and run it that way, maybe someone needs to figure it out for him and show him. Of course, I could be somewhat wrong, as I realize it is hard to give an assist to a black hole, and we have a few of them on this team.

  • Luka


    You had to bring up Faried. He’s exactly what this Suns team needed. Suns need a PF who gets you a handful of trips to the foul line time and again. Those extra trips to the foul line are the difference in ball games.

    Morris isn’t the weakest link on the Suns. I’ll give you the fundamentals point. For example, he seems to have a knack on the defensive end for getting key steals.

    Yet, you proved my point in saying he doesn’t do anything exceptionally well. That unfortunately seems to be a recurring theme with this roster.

  • bill.thomas

    Babby doesn’t do anything exceptionally well except fine dining and wine appreciation.

  • Luka

    He once held a press conference praising Donovan’s Steakhouse for having the “utmost professionalism” in a dining transaction.

  • bill.thomas

    “A recurring theme with this roster???” A recurring theme with this entire organization, save for the training staff, ushers and popcorn vendors.

  • bill.thomas

    I bet he gives lousy tips. A born tightwad, like Sarver.

  • http://none Sillmarillion

    The last posession was so poorly executed, what a shame! Dragic to Dudley back to Goran back to JD back to Dragic? With Nash on the floor the Suns would have tied the game on the last posession for sure.
    Didn’t they have a timeout left?

  • Luka

    Babby is a cheap Jew.

  • azbballfan

    Close loss by the Suns on Saturday

    Marshall didnt play in his return to active roster

    anyone wanna guess how many wins we would have if we didnt have Dragic on the team via free agency?

    dragic is our best player and, now that beasley is getting 10 minutes a game, the only guy that can create his own shot.

    hopefully our FO is looking to the draft even though its christmas time right now

    hopefully we can get someone like otto porter, alex len, or if we are lucky a shotblocker like nerlens noel

  • suns for life

    we were missing that “go to” guy at the end again… if Dragic is too scared to step up and put the team on his back when we need it most then we need to go out and find that guy through a trade.

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  • Ryan

    Really on the Dragic comments? He had a rough second half, and some are gonna call it a bad signing? Wow! As far as the loss, I gotta say Lilliard impressed the hell out of me more than blaming the Suns for this loss. I think we need to give credit to Lilliard on winning this game for Portland. I was a bit frusterated on some of the rotations. Gortat was hot and was subbed for O’Neal. Even though on a consistent basis I yell at my TV because Gortat is slow on rotations over and over I thought he should have gotten more time last night. Beasley was worthless, not sure what Gentry should do with him other than bench his ass. I hear Cousins may be on the trading block. See if the Kings would take Morris, O’Neal(veteran leadership), Beasley and a mix of picks. I’d def be in favor of a productive head case over Beasley at this point.

  • DBreezy


    I wasn’t saying that I think Kieff is better than Faried or that I think the front office has drafted well. I just get why Markieff doesn’t drive the ball to hoop all the time, a lot of times a jumper is the best available shot for him although you could argue that he should take a few more inside the arc vs. outside it.

    As for the draft, as long as the Babby/Blanks combo is around, expect more of the same. The safest picks possible who are expected to make quantifiable contributions right away vs the best prospect period. So you’re telling me that you wont be ecstatic to see Mason Plumlee in a Suns uniform next season?

  • john

    The hyperbole and tasteless insects are nauseating.

  • bill.thomas

    As cheap as Sarver may be, its still too bad that he’s being burned so badly and having his pocket picked by those two gross incompetents.

  • DBreezy


    While the price may be low, what are you getting with Cousins? I think he’s outrageously talented, but beyond the headcase stufff he hasn’t even been productive this season. There’s no excuse for a guy that big and talented shooting the same % from the field as Kieff. His performance vs the Suns was embarrassing. I’m glad EJ called him out for being flat out lazy on an open court layup attempt. So far this season in addition to his subpar play, he’s been suspended for punching another player in the nuts, chasing down an opponents announcer, and cursing out his coach on the bench and beyond. This after getting called out for being unprofessional during Team USA competition this summer. He’s responded to all of this by firing his agent and hiring known super agent agitator Dan Fegan. He obviously not only didn’t like what his old agent told him, he’s clearly trying to setup a departure from SAC. More importantly it seems that he feels no responsibility for his actions, something I’ve also heard anecdotally from people who used to be around him.

    Beas is a headcase, but he isn’t a bad guy, trains/practices hard, and isn’t a bad teammate as a person. Yet the Suns still haven’t been able to get anything out of him. How is Gentry going to get through to Cousins, especially on a team that is nearly as uncompetitive in the conference as the Kings? This is a town and organization that thought guys like Marion, Stat and late career Shaq were impossible prima-donnas. Those guys were benign by NBA star standards and at least they produced. I doubt they’re ready to take on Cousins. Especially if they couldn’t find a new home for Marcin quickly or if they plan on bringing in a new coach next season. That coach would have to be really established to put a leash on Cousins and I don’t see that happening.

  • Big P

    If we did end up trading for Cousins we would have to somehow keep O’Neal for it to have a shot at working IMO. Maybe we could steal Tyreke Evans if we throw in Gortat and picks as well.

  • Ryan

    Im just scratching my head wondering what the team can do with beasley more than anything. I have no idea what the kings would be asking for cousins, but its never a bad idea to buy low. As far as producing this season give me cousins numbers over Beasleys any day. Beasleys been nothing but short of awful, im not sure the suns can even unload him.

  • Ty-Sun

    Cousins would quickly destroy any team chemistry the Suns have. Emotionally he’s a spoiled 6 year old.

    Besides, the 2 spot is still the position that they Suns need to really improve at. Beasley might not be good trade bait for an upgrade at the 2 but Johnson’s expiring contract is. If we could just ship Johnson out for a good backup for Brown then I would be satisfied because Beasley could take Johnson’s seat at the far end of the bench and Tucker could move back to the best spot for him as Dudley’s backup at the 3. The odds of the Suns making a trade for a good backup 2 are much better than making a trade this year for an impact player.

    But I suppose even that depends on your point of view. If you want to try to salvage this season, it’s a good idea. If you want to tank and get a better draft pick, it’s a bad idea.

  • bill.thomas

    I’m not sure how you can have a “three-year plan” with the likes of Beasley and Marshall if you’re obviously going to have to blow this whole thing up within the next six weeks or at least the next seven months.