Phoenix Suns 104, Portland Trail Blazers 91 – The right-wrong way

PHOENIX — Jeff Hornacek, Ryan McDonough and Suns owner Robert Sarver met with their team following the Marcin Gortat trade to deliver one message. No matter the rumblings coming out of media outlets everywhere, Phoenix isn’t tanking – so they say.

The product on the court in the season opener against the Portland Trail Blazers didn’t look like tanking. Neither did the result, a 104-91 win at U.S. Airways Center on Wednesday.

Phoenix opened up an 18-10 lead midway through the first and never looked back, taking a page out of the book of the Philadelphia 76ers, who just at the Suns’ tip dropped the Miami Heat in a shocking opener themselves.

The Suns answered a number of our pregame questions, but of course, one game should be taken with a grain of salt.

Can Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe hold their own against Damian Lillard and Wes Matthews?

They did against Wes Matthews, yes, if only because he was running up and down the court like a zombie had eaten the flesh in and around his knees. The Suns point guards couldn’t handle Lillard, and it was mostly on Bledsoe. Lillard had 18 points by halftime and shot 10-for-20 on the game for 32 points thanks to patience leading to wide open three-pointers, both from movement off the ball and poor pick-and-roll defense by Phoenix.

The Suns’ backcourt duo made up for it by both playing efficiently and aggressively on the offensive end. They combined for 48 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds, with Dragic scoring 26 and dropping nine of the assists.

Who will step up and bang with Portland’s tough frontcourt?

U.S. Airways Center just wasn’t ready for Miles Plumlee. If fans didn’t know his name before the game, they certainly left with Plumlee giving them with good first impressions. He had recorded two blocks within the first five minutes of the game and finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks.

Plumlee’s help defense was especially impressive. He seemed alert on every play and aggressively moved his feet – all without getting into any foul trouble. It simply showed his smarts and calmness that’s suprising for a player without much NBA experience.

Frye started alongside Plumlee and, as Hornacek mentioned in the pregame, wasn’t on any minutes restriction. The big man got into early foul trouble and had to leave after hitting two shots.

Rookie Alex Len played sparingly in the first and second halves and recorded three blocks while dealing with foul trouble.

How will Coach Hornacek adjust as the game goes along?

Hornacek didn’t need to adjust much against the Trail Blazers, who in 2013-14 still don’t have much for versatility. The Blazers relied upon their starters as usual, and Hornacek only needed to keep the Suns level-headed.

Most impressively, Phoenix responded to a late first-half run that had the halftime score 50-46 in the Suns’ favor. The Suns outscored Portland 31-23 in the third quarter thanks to a 14-5 start in the first 4:30 of the period.

And 1

P.J. Tucker frustrated a Portland team with little help outside Lillard and Aldridge’s 28 points. Nicolas Batum scored seven points on 3-of-9 shooting, mostly because of to Tucker’s defense.

  • Russell’s Suns

    It’s only been one game for both the Suns and the 76ers and neither was showing signs of “tanking”. I’ll say this, if this is how PlumLee, Dragic, Bledsoe play every night, the Suns are going to win a lot (I don’t expect PJ Tucker to play like this every night, he had a monster offensive night).

  • hawki

    Updated Prediction

    Suns beat 76ers 4-3 in NBA Finals

  • EBJM

    Plumlee had the best first game performance of any Sun’s center in the Suns entire history!
    We finally have the better brother!

  • Ty-Sun

    Wow. If someone can start hitting 3′s the Suns could have a much better season than anyone expected. I am very happy with this win and especially the way the Suns did NOT fold at the end of the game and let a win slip away.

    Great win! Go Suns!

  • Zack B.

    Well it’s definitely too early to call him the better brother, but he had a monster game. Wish he wouldn’t have traveled so he could of had 20, but nonetheless a great debut for the Miles High Club. Great games from the starting guards as expected. I can see Bledsoe getting a couple triple-doubles this season. Overall a great opening night, now to see whether we extend Bledsoe or not. We definitely should in my opinion because we can probably get him for cheaper since he hasn’t proved his worth yet. Don’t be cheap Sarver!

  • foreveris2long

    Zach B., Tom Chambers said it best in the post game show when he essentially commented to get the Bledsoe deal done now because it will be more expensive next sumer.

    I just love these Suns because they all have heart and skills. Len has a little edge to him. Goodwin looked like he was going to do a freak show on one play around the basket but lost the ball.

    I cannot wait until Friday.

  • hawki

    Goran played great & showed his heart

  • Azbballfan

    Suns played with an edge while Portland dogged it through most of the game

    Len had a few points, a few boards and a block in 8 minutes

    Ben McLemore and Anthony Bennett both had subpar debuts

    Michael Carter-Williams had an incredible debut

    I dont see the Suns playing like this all the time, but it was nice to see us beat a Portland team that had more talent but didnt want it as badly

    Oh yeah and the Lakers lost by like 31 points

    so it was a pretty good night overall

  • ShanMan

    Indiana wanted Scola over Plumlee why now? haha. In all seriousness though, what a bunch of hustle and heart they showed. And I hope that at least our GM shows Dragic some love and realizes it would be dumb to trade him. Dragic and Bledsoe played well together. If only we could get a star small forward….uhh umm, Wiggins. But we won’t get him if they keep playing like this.

  • hawki

    Bledsoe was everything we hoped he would be
    Tucka hit big baskets when the Blazers got close
    Plumlee > Alvan Adams
    Len & Archie got their feet wet

    Congrats to Horny & Staff

  • MidnightSuns

    Hey there Hawki, It’s that one guy that said those things back from the AZC days. Good to see, good to see man.

    And what a nice win against the TBlazers in our one season opener in our own house. I heard the Suns have dropped the last few to Por at the Rose Garden in season openers.

    AND How will you feel after the Suns game #ignitethefuture: Laughing I suppose at the Blazers Tweet of “undefeated. Yea because Portlandia is really headed for the playoffs THIS year, no we really mean it this TIME LOL #nothinghaschanged..haha

  • MidnightSuns

    I don’t like the comparison of Plumlee’s game to the one Gortat just had either. Unless you also want to compare those front lines of Monroe/Drummond/Smith vs. Lopez [lol] Aldridge/Batum -as well. So yea Tom Leander comes off as sounding like a Douch once more.

  • MidnightSuns

    Oh hey,I didn’t catch you here too Foreva, Hey pretty awesome to catch you guys somewhere around one of these sites. Dang I should have looked here a while ago but as the case I stay away from this four letter network as a rule. Anyways it’s cool to see some of the old gang. And get to discuss the fine art of tanking with style with you this year.

  • Kulajar

    Greet opening night! Hoping Plumlee will bring a fresh blood in next games too. Well done guys!


    NBA Finals just got one game closer.

    Blazers were severely beaten and bled so.

    Hornacek a better fit than Majerle for this team.

  • hawki

    Hey Midnight…good to see ya
    Lot of the old gang is here & some great new posters as well
    Keep in touch bro

  • vtsunrise

    we’s crawlin’ outta the woodwork and onto the ‘wagon…

  • Chris

    Don’t confuse tanking with the effort on the floor. Tanking is what management and sometimes the coach does. Players will play. The suns are tanking, wait for Dragic to be out the door be the trade deadline, maybe even Frye. I have no issue with tanking considering what is in store for the suns in the draft.

  • foreveris2long

    Midhnight, great to see you in the house. We may not win a lot of games but we will have fun with the young Suns. These guys will be exciting and bring effort every night. Hornachek will be a very good leader of the troops.

    Hawk,I agree Dragic could not have played better. Man he and Bledsoe played really well together tonight.

  • foreveris2long

    I keep forgetting the Butler. Man it great to have you and the others here. You guys bring the groceries everyday so the rest of us can eat. This is a pretty intelligent board so with the young Suns it will be fun dialogue this season.

  • DBreezy

    Excellent game that showed off the real star of the preseason, Hornacek. The team is still likely to have a lot of rough nights but he seems to have them prepared well and has an excellent demeanor. Plumlee played great and was happy with the role that Marcin hadn’t been. Len looks engaged as a big which is huge and he can run the floor. He might be a really big body in a year or so with weight training a la Drummond. Archie looked like he was watching himself on tv in his first game, which is alright.

    Bledsoe and Goran are gonna be a tough call for the front office if they play like this. I watched the game on a replay of the Portland feed and you could tell from the announcers that they were far more concerned about Goran than Bledsoe. It was almost like they hadn’t scouted Bledsoe as they repeatedly played up on him and didn’t clog the lane at all. He shredded them despite only making 1 jumper that remember. While I thought their D stunk, I was glad to see Eric finishing around the hoop in the half court as that has been a knock on him.

    The Blazers locked in on Goran but like the Suns on Lillard, it didn’t work. If Goran is hitting that mid range shot, he’s really tough. That’s what going to be hard for the front office because Goran’s toughest as a one because few pg’s have the size to contest that step back J which helps his drives and dishes. It’s one game we’ll see where it goes.

    Portland looks like it’s going to be like those old Utah teams. In the mix for 8th based off a strong home record, but struggling on the road because no one but Lillard and Aldridge can score away from the Rose Garden. They got nothing from the rest of their players which is why Lillard’s assist totals were about 6-8 off where they should have been. CJ Mcollum could change that, but until then Stotts has his work cut out for him.

  • Ryan

    Any team that starts Robin Lopez usually loses. We know that all to well.

    Sign Bledsoe today! I see the “mini Lebron” in him. I love he can get to the stripe at will. We haven’t had a strong guard like that in a while.

  • vtsunrise

    Still puzzling over Midnight Suns’ “4-letter network” …

    I give up…

  • RudeCerveza

    Please don’t call Bledsoe mini LeBron.

    Lebron is the shit.

    Mini LeBron is just a shit.

    That’s how we non English speakers see it.

    Eric is so much more than that. Yeah, there are things he can’t do. A lot of them, actually. But what he can do, he is doing spectacularly well. Those arms… he looks like he could do a crossover between continents.

    I’d still choose Goran over him if I had to pick only one PG to lead my team, but I’d be really sad if he was wearing a different jersey.

    He’s gotta pick his D up though. Lilliard made him look silly at times.


    Dave, Midnight, Hawki, VT, Forever, Rude, Smovas – and everyone else – good to see y’all here.

  • Jeff From Jersey

    dragic and bledsoe are core building blocks and should be untradeable. plumlee was very impressive, lets see if he can keep it up for a few games before we crown him tho.

  • Ty-Sun

    @RudeCerveza – I like the way you think and agree. Some people think that Goran should be on the trading block, some just because he’s – gasp – already over the hill at 27 (read that last part as sarcasm). Goran works very hard on his conditioning/keeping in shape and, barring a severe injury, I think he’ll play at at least the level he’s playing at today for another 6 to 8 years if not better.

    And I like Bledsoe but also dislike the “mini-LeBron” tag. I loved watching the 76er’s/Heat game. :)

  • MidnightSuns

    Am I seeing that right? Butler and the entire crew here? Very interesting…Why oh why did I not get the Mem?

    Ok VT you’re going to be mad at yourself for not getting it, “ESPN” you know this is an ESPN blog listed on the True Hoop Network.? Which is where you have to go on ESPN if you want to read about anything Suns related other then the AP press release of the game and even that was buried. And It’s kinda amazing to me that you’re here and not all about the Nash/D’antoni reunion. I find it pretty awesome you still care. That’s one more win for the Suns in my book.

  • JK

    It was great to see the Suns win last night. Although I was impressed with how well Dragic and Bledsoe played together, it was Plumlee who surprised me the most. Looks like we clearly got the better deal of the trade that McMiracle made with the Pacers in the offseason. The best thing about Plumlee is that he’s still a developing player, so he will only continue to get better.

  • JK

    Looking forward to the rest of this season to see how our young players develop! I know some people are hoping for games like this from the Suns every night, but that is just unrealistic. On paper, we are going to be outmatched almost every night, so the wins that we get will be purely because of effort. The Suns will fall somewhere within the bottom 5 of the league, just like last season. Even if we do not end up with the worst record, nothing in the lottery is truly guaranteed, so all we can hope for is some luck when the ping pong balls get rolling.

  • MidnightSuns

    I’m not so sure which guard I would take? After just one game watching Bledsoe. I get the KJ references I kept hearing from Horny. What a closer he was for them last night. No doubt tho that Dragic is a highly skilled player hitting his prime. And quite a play maker. It did not go unnoticed Dragic had a couple of TO that would’ve been big plays if players were more aware of Dragic’s crafty passing abilities. for right now at least, I’am more pleased with the DredSo dynamic then I could imagine. Jeff Hornacek so far has been right about everything he has talked about this pre-season. Even on D. I knew the Jerry Sloan disciple would not let me down on that end.

    Talking about TO, Archie Goodwin had a fun first career game. Once if Goodwin had been more alert on the baseline instead of just watching the ball sail across court only to bounce out of bounds..Dragic was trying to lead him going to the basket. He could’ve made the highlights with a big time dunk. Funny too watching Archie get mugged by his own teammate when PJ took matters into his own hands and went straight up to the rim and took the RB and left Archie looking for the masked man who stole the ball right out of his hands.,lol Fun opening night. Welcome to the NBA kid! Cue Edith Bunker ..(ohh Arrrchie)!

  • HunterSThompson

    After imagining what these guys might look like on the court in a meaningful game (I did not see any preseason), I was psyched to see them pass the “eyeball test”. The chemistry level seemed surprisingly high, some solid coaching by Hornacek and assistants was obvious (see Plumlee), and some real talent in a number of guys was evident.

    I got the impression a few times that Horny really has an extension of himself on the court in Dragic. The intelligence and unselfishness in Goran’s game last night, especially in spacing and playing off of Bledsoe while still running the right sets, was really nice to watch. I’m a big Goran fan and believe that if he wants to continue on the quiet leadership path while allowing some other guys to have the media spotlight (Bledsoe) there is no reason why this backcourt can’t thrive together for many years.

    RudeC – Any insight as to how Goran might feel if Bledsoe signs a new contract worth more per year than what he has? They just looked soooo good together out there….

  • Harry

    I see the Kings declined Jimmer’s option for next year. I would assume that would mean he’s available. the Suns could use a back-up at SG that can score. I’d like to see him as a Sun. Goodwin will not be ready this year.

  • Ryan


  • vtsunrise

    Thanks, Midnight. I’ll put on my Homer Simpson cap for a sec: D’Oh!

    I care about Nash and I was curious about the Nash-D’Antoni reunion last year. But Jesus Frickin H Christ, how sad to see him limping and standing around as the Gross Koby Ego Show unfolded/unraveled… well, it was too hard to try and muster up interest.

    I bleed purple and orange. Go figure.

    And now, I need to brush up on my ESP…N! Thanks for setting me straight.