Nov. 21, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat (4) handles the ball during the game against Portland Trail Blazers player Nicolas Batum in the first half at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Trail Blazers 114-87. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Phoenix Suns(17-36) vs. Portland Trail Blazers(25-28)

All students back to the classrooms! The all-star break is over and now the NBA players must return to the courts. The Phoenix Suns are set to take on the Portland Trail Blazers tonight at the Rose Garden in what would be a quick two-game road trip for the Suns before they head back to Phoenix for their three-game home stand.

One thing these two team currently have in common is that both teams are on losing streaks. Phoenix has dropped four straight games, while the Blazers have dropped five straight games.

“It’s a rough way to go into the All-Star break, losing five games in a row with a big loss, so we just need to get back on track,” Said Nicholas Batum, swingman for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Heading into tonight’s game, the Blazers are favorites by a 6.0 margin according to The Suns are currently free of injuries while the Blazers has Wesley Matthews listed as day-to-day. Matthews injured himself in the Blazers game against the Hornets just before the all-star break.

“I’m doing everything — I’ve done everything — to possibly put myself in position to play,” he said. “I feel optimistic about it.” Said Matthews, the Blazers guard.

Keys to the game: Suns

– Defend the three-point line! The Blazers has quite a few gunners on that team, in particular rookie sensation Damian Lillard and swingman Nicholas Batum.

– Keep J.J Hickson off the glass. Hickson is quietly having a great season with the Blazers this season averaging 12.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game; Hickson has had eight games this season in which he’s pulled down 15 or more rebounds.

– Turnovers! The Suns need every possession they can get, and they simply don’t have the offensive talent to make up for 15+ turnovers.

Keys to the game: Blazers

– Don’t beat yourselves! This year’s Suns are seldom going to beat the opposing team when the opposing team is on it’s A game; or even B game. The Blazers need to play within themselves, don’t turn the ball over, don’t take bad shots, and they’ll be just fine.

– Early buckets! The Blazers play in an arena with a notoriously loud crowd and the Blazers need to give the Rose Garden something to cheer about early in the game for momentum purposes.

The X-Factor!

– Different goals. The Blazers are a young team that wants a taste of playoff experience. With the exception of Aldridge and Batum, the rest of that team has had minimal playoff experience. The Blazers are currently three games out of the eighth and final playoff spot which is currently occupied by Houston. The Suns on the other hand is playing for draft position at this point, and the Suns may sacrifice a win by giving their young players more playing time.

Match-up of the night! 

– The most intriguing match-up of the night will be at the point guard spot, Goran Dragic vs. Damian Lillard. Lillard has an exciting future ahead of him while Dragic is struggling to live up to expectations, but nonetheless, both guys are talented and it should be a fun match-up to watch for tonight.

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Tags: NBA Phoenix Suns Portland Trail Blazers

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