Preview: Portland Trail Blazers (0-0) at Phoenix Suns (0-0)

Posted by on October 30th, 10:00 am

Time: 7:00 pm MST

TV: FSAZ

Trail Blazers

Trail Blazers

Suns

Suns

After an offseason of wheeling and dealing the new look Phoenix Suns are ready to start their season. Many of last year’s biggest contributors are gone, but in the wake of those departures, the Suns have filled the roster with high-upside youth. These young players are as excited for the opportunity to prove themselves in the NBA as the front office and coaching staff are to see what they can become. For Eric Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin, Alex Len and Miles Plumlee, tonight’s game is the first step in what everyone in the Valley of the Sun is hoping will be a long and fruitful career.

The Suns will kick off the year playing host to the Portland Trail Blazers, a team whose aspirations for this season include a trip to the playoffs. Let’s look at three questions to be answered in this matchup.

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

One of the biggest storylines this season is how well “Bledic” will play together. In theory, their backcourt partnership should be a force considering the intensity the duo plays with night in and night out. But both guys are used to directing an offense and having the ball in their hands. Can they find a sharing balance? Another obstacle is the fact that Bledsoe has never been a full-time starter for an entire season. Much like Dragic did last year, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Eric had trouble adjusting to the role at the start of the season.

Every night Phoenix takes the floor, Dragic and Bledsoe will be playing a game-within-the-game against the opposing starting backcourt. It’s a tag-team match of sorts, where the duo with the best chemistry and communication will have the distinct advantage. Lillard and Matthews aren’t the best backcourt tandem in the NBA, but they are definitely in the top-12. Lillard is coming off an impressive rookie campaign where he averaged 19 points and 6.5 assists per game. Playing alongside Lillard, Matthews had one of his best seasons as a pro, averaging nearly 15 points a game and shooting almost 40% from downtown. For Bledsoe, the biggest challenge will be staying in front of Lillard and avoiding foul trouble. For Dragic, the key will be staying close to Matthews on the perimeter and not allowing him to shoot open threes. When the Suns play teams with elite point guards – which this year seems like nearly every team – Dragic will likely guard the 2 spot. His primary disadvantage there will be his size as many shooting guards in the NBA stand 6’6” and above. But Wes Matthews is only 6’5” and Dragic has long arms. So long as Goran remains tight on him, he should be able to keep a hand in Matthews’ face.

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

LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the best power forwards in the NBA. He’s not a high flier like Blake Griffin or a threat from downtown like Kevin Love, but inside the arc, he’s the best in the game for my money. In the offseason, the Trail Blazers brought in former Sun Robin Lopez to play center alongside Aldridge. They are a formidable opponent for a Phoenix front line which just lost its best player in Marcin Gortat. Can Markieff Morris, Channing Frye, Alex Len or Miles Plumlee be the next man up and answer the bell?

The Suns will play this matchup one of two ways. Option No. 1 1 is to simply look at their frontcourt as 24 fouls, 30 if you count Kravtsov. They can be physical with Aldridge and try to throw him off his game. Overly physical play has been known to inspire Robin Lopez to lose his mind. If it gets rough inside, Lopez will either pick up several fouls himself and be forced to the bench, or he’ll post a double-double in just a few minutes of play. Phoenix fans have seen both happen.

Option No. 2 is to go big and overwhelm Portland on the boards. Phoenix played Len and Plumlee together a few times in the preseason. Having two centers and a Morris twin on the floor together would give Phoenix a lot of size. It may not make them overly potent on offense, but it would certainly clog the paint and make it hard for Aldridge and Lillard to operate there.

How will Coach Hornacek adjust as the game goes along?

Lost in all the recent roster shuffling is the fact that this will be Jeff Hornacek’s first game as an NBA head coach. While I’m sure he’s been preparing for this moment for a long time, the pace and frequent dynamic changes of an NBA game are no joke. Hornacek has said the Suns will run, but will he be able to enforce that desire against a Blazers team that loves the half court? Will he be able to switch tactics and lineups on the fly? That remains to be seen. There’s an old Mike Tyson boxing adage, “Everybody has a plan until they get hit in the mouth.” That seems oddly appropriate here at the dawn of what should be a fight of a Suns season.

Ryan Weisert

Ryan Weisert is a staff writer for ValleyoftheSuns. You can also find him at his sports and pop culture blog Spectavius.com.

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Tags: Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Preview · Portland Trail Blazers

21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ty-Sun // Oct 30, 2013 at 10:21 am

    I am really looking forward to this game! I think that the Suns can win it although containing Aldridge could be a big problem. The back court match-ups may be the real difference in the game though. And seeing how Plumlee fares against Lopez should give us some idea as to how NBA ready he is.

  • 2 hawki // Oct 30, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Portland’s backcourt is relatively small…& their #1 pick CJ McCollum is out indefinitely…good news for the Suns backcourt.
    Joel Freeland has beat out Meyers (stiff) Leonard as backup to Robin.

    Can’t wait to see the newest Suns…Bledsoe…G Green…Len & Archie.

    I have no idea what to expect.

  • 3 RudeCerveza // Oct 30, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    I expect Goran and Eric stepping on each others toes, Green and Frye throwing bunch of bricks, Plumlee missing gimmies…

    … and the Suns win.

    Go Suns!

    Even with Eurobasket, this offseason was excruciatingly long.

  • 4 john // Oct 30, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Suns win an ugly one tonight. Poor shooting from both teams, but a standout performance from the dragon will push the suns over the top. Cherish the wins you get this year, suns fans.

  • 5 Azbballfan // Oct 30, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    I expect a close Blazers win, unless of course they shoot like garbage the whole game and the Suns clog the paint

    I cant wait for tonight, it should be fun!

    after 6 months and change without any Suns ball tonight is finally here

  • 6 BUTLER // Oct 30, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Let the Hornacek-McDonough campaign of violence begin.

    The absence of Blanks (and by association Marhsall, B-Ezy) is probably up there with getting rings before the game.

    May it be written afterward that the blazers lost because they were severely beaten and bled so.

  • 7 Smovas // Oct 30, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Thank you, Butler.

  • 8 EBJM // Oct 30, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    First off forget about Markieff Morris being “the next man up” tonight, he will be in a suit. Plumlee should take Aldridge and Frye on Lopez. Kravtsov will probally get some burn as I anticipate Plumlee and Len to get into foul trouble.

    Bledic shouldn’t have any problems with Lillard and Matthews.

    Green will lead the Suns in scoring. He watched Xavier Henry and said to himself, “hey, I can play like that!”

    Suns upset the Blazers furthering speculation Aldridge wants out of Portland.

    BTW, Horny is as mentally tough as they come and brilliant. Son of a coach, played for Cotton and Sloan. Was not in a rush to coach and HAPPLY took his time and paying his dues. Horny is NOT a liabilty. Hunter, Porter, Shaw, Drew, those are liabilities. Terry Stotts has nothing on Horny and reminds me of John Wetzel and Alvin Gentry, fantastic lead assistant but nothing more.

  • 9 EBJM // Oct 30, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Former Sun Earl Clark along with his young friends are taking it to the old guys of Brooklyn. If Bynum can stay healthy EC look out.

    Gortat riding the Pine.

  • 10 RudeCerveza // Oct 30, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    It seems this Michael Carter-Williams guy will turn out to be one of the best late Fantasy picks I’ve ever made. Has anyone watched the game? Was he really that spectacular … because on paper … I don’t think I’ve seen numbers like that in an NBA debut before.

  • 11 phxsunsfaninla // Oct 30, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    One word. PLUMLEE lol

  • 12 EBJM // Oct 30, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    So much for the 76ers tanking, huh Rude?

  • 13 EBJM // Oct 30, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    I love it! Cleveland takes down Brooklyn!

    Remember I called Plumlee as Most Improved Player!

  • 14 EBJM // Oct 30, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Plumlee 16/10/2 in 1st half!

  • 15 RudeCerveza // Oct 30, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Has anyone told our guys we’re tanking the season? That was very enj0yable basketball.

  • 16 foreveris2long // Oct 30, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    Rude, great Fantasy Basketball pickup in Williams. I was stunned when I saw those numbers against Miami.

    We have to sign Bledsoe as his value will skyrocket next summer. I know the Lakers would love to have him and they will have the money to spend. Their likely first choice, Paul George is locked up and I doubt LBJ wants to come to LA to share the stage with Kobe but I could be wrong.

    Dragic and Plumlee look really good out there. Plumlee is really impressive at the center spot. I love watching the Suns play this brand of ball. Go Suns

  • 17 EBJM // Oct 30, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Blazers were excited about getting Lopez, Wizards excited about Gortat. Plumlee is the “plum” of the three.

  • 18 RudeCerveza // Oct 30, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Oh man, what a game! I’m too excited to post. I knew this is going to be a good team.

  • 19 dave:f32 // Oct 30, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Suns looked better than the jerseys tonite. Good stuff. Bright lights and big stages sooner than much later…?

  • 20 vtsunrise // Oct 30, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    I guess I mistimed my “game night nap” but I woke up to a new dawn and a new day.

    Um, wow. I think my 26 win forecast might have been a low ball.

    Nice “Bled so” Butler. Someone’s in mid-season forum!

  • 21 vtsunrise // Oct 30, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    So, how good did they look? The Plumlee deal appears to be a steal. Suns backcourt one of the best in the league?

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