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.
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.