Preview: Phoenix Suns (5-2) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (5-2)

Time: 8 p.m. MST




Trail Blazers

Trail Blazers

The panic engulfing Portland following the Phoenix Suns’ season-opening win against the Trail Blazers might have said a lot about what Terry Stotts team’s expectations were. To put it simply, losing to the Suns wasn’t part of those expectations.

The 104-91 Phoenix win on Oct. 30 probably came for no other reason than Portland not being ready to begin the regular season, but for Jeff Hornacek’s team, it was a right start in a season that many expected to turn sour — and soon.

Now, the Suns have used that fine start to back up what they were thinking. This is the NBA, and the young Phoenix team can see now that no opponent is head-and-shoulders better than it. Portland recovered enough and is tied with the Suns in the early and meaningless Western Conference standings at 5-2, though the Blazers haven’t had much of a schedule, either. Their most impressive win came against the San Antonio Spurs, but after that they’ve only beat Detroit, Denver and Sacramento twice. The only loss since playing Phoenix came against the Houston Rockets.

What are we looking forward to seeing in the Suns’ second rematch of the young season?

Will picking the right poisons continue to work for Jeff Hornacek?

Phoenix goes into games with seemingly detailed gameplanning, and the execution of those game plans has been evident to those even poor of sight. Maybe that’s why the Suns are so surprising.

On Sunday, the Suns stopped rotating against New Orleans by allowing center Jason Smith to score 22 points, mostly on open, mid-range jumpers. Hornacek afterward said he’d take that rather than over-rotating, thereby forcing Smith to pass it to the corners for threes. After the Suns’ first win, Hornacek also said his team had to pick its poison. Phoenix lived with Damian Lillard pouring in 28 and LaMarcus Aldridge scoring 32 points in the season opener, and both stand as season highs. The key, however, was holding the rest of the Blazers to single-digit scoring nights.

Gameplanning has been key thus far, and it’ll be interesting if that continues now that the Blazers have seen Phoenix once before, just as the Pelicans had last game. Will Hornacek stay a step ahead?

How does Markieff Morris match up with Aldridge?

Morris, of course, missed the first game of the year due to suspension. It’s not looked at as a springboard to his season. Indeed, he’ll be coming off the bench, but Channing Frye hasn’t done enough to stay on the floor for extended minutes, meaning Morris will get a chance to go at another offensive-minded power forward. While Morris has puts his hardhat on this season, he’s still a bit undersized and in the preseason struggled against Aldridge when matched up against the power forward.

The other issue, obviously, is if Morris will continue on this hot streak. Nobody expects him to shoot 75 percent and above, but there’s now a building expectation that he gets good looks in the paint.

Will Goran Dragic start, and will he look improved from a game ago?

The Suns point guard is expected to make a flight to Portland after the birth of his son, and if he’s able, it’ll be interesting to see how Hornacek uses the former starter. Dragic came off the bench in his return from the sprained ankle and could be fine doing so with Gerald Green playing so well, but it would seem a bit disappointing if he doesn’t recapture his pre-injury explosiveness. Or his starting gig.

In Dragic’s return from his second sprained ankle in a few weeks, he looked hesitant to play as fast and recklessly as he usually does, and he looked a tad off-balance on defense. After the game, Dragic denied that he had much pain in his ankle, but he was wearing new adidas high-tops. It was the first time he had worn high-tops since he was a teenager, he guessed.

  • Sunsn7

    This should be a very entertaining early season game.

    Speaking of entertaining, LOVED what I saw from Julius Randle, Andrew Wiggins, and
    Jabari Parker. Randle has “the dog” in him to go with elite athletic big man skill. Parker was doing his best young Paul Pierce imitation and pulling it off. Wiggins showed his speed and athleticism but isn’t nearly as polished as Parker..but Wiggins was clutch over the final 9 minutes.

    Bottom line, I wouldn’t mind seeing any of these 3 with the Suns. All 3 are special players with enormous upside. Great upcoming draft to have multiple picks and assets with which to continue building with, that’s for sure.

    GO SUNS!

  • EBJM

    It has been always clear to anybody that knows basketball that Hornacek has an incredible basketball I.Q. and was going to be a great coach.

    Former Sun Boris Diaw has been playing well in the Spurs 7-1 start and you got to love Popovich, “he is in a contract year, just saying…..”

    Talking about people expecting Star players to always be Star players despite Father Time having caught them, D’Antoni said that Nash has built enough equity over the past ten years to allow him to stay with the team no matter how poorly he is playing and detrimental to the team he is.

    D’Antoni’s stubbornness still intact and the Lakers will be taking the Suns place in the lottery.

    Amare has become the forgotten Knick. They have publicly said they will go after Kevin Love this summer. J.R. Smith just declared that he, Melo and Ray are the vets of the team that need to provide vocal leadership.

    They are also considering a questionable trade, sending Inam Shumpert to Denver for Kenneth Faried. Knicks are looking for front court help with chandler being out so they want to give up Shumpert for the 6′-7″ Faried? Why not bring back Ike Diogu? At least he was in camp and they don’t have to give up Shumpert. Dolan and Steve Mills are heading back to the Isaiah Thomas days rather quickly.

    Joe Johnson is suffering in Brooklyn with all those badly declining vets. The Celtics meanwhile are playing better than the Nets while rebuilding and the help of the younger players the Nets gave up for those old guys. Danny Ainge sure knows when to trade for them and when to dump them.

    Shawn Marion is the only happy ex-Sun from the SSOL era. Starting for the revitalized Mavericks.

    Meanwhile Phoenix looks good compared to those “bought” teams! Not referring to the Spurs of course.

  • http://none Go Phx

    Great preview. Going to be an interesting game. Let’s do it.

  • Luka

    This’ll be a tough game. Portland is not an easy place to win. The Suns overall depth should win out. As long as they can keep Batum and Wes Matthews under wraps they’ll win.

  • Roger


    Agree with you about containing Batum and Matthews. They’re a handful though. Aldridge and Lillard can score all they want as long as the rest of the team just stand around. Let’s see what are our studs made of.

  • EBJM

    Reading about Gorat on “Hang Time” and he sounds bummed that Plumlee just walked in and took his job and the Suns are playing well and are 5-2 while conversely he was suppose to be the last piece to get the Wizards yet they are 2-5 after opening the season 0-3.

    Gorat 13/10/2 blocks
    Plumlee 12/10/2 blocks

  • EBJM

    Another note about former Sun Robin Lopez, he is coming off back to back double-doubles.

    Last game against Pistons he put up 17 and 10 BUT Drummonds went for 16 and 16.

    Against Kings he went for 12 and 10 BUT Cousins hit him with 33 and 12.

    I guess overall it an improvement but his days in Phoenix.

  • EBJM

    The following is for Forever:

    First off, Lopez has a big body. He takes up space and he plays fundamentally strong. He boxes out on every shot and allows his teammates to track down loose balls.

    Batum, with his athleticism and length, is becoming the biggest beneficiary of Lopez and his play.

    The Blazers have got to be tickled pink to see how well they have played thus far, and their biggest improvement has been at the center position.

    Lopez has improved this team, despite not putting up huge numbers. His effect on his mates and on the overall team concept is very telling.

    Lopez is your prototypical glue player, and he is showing his value thus far.

    A snippet out of a Bleacher Report on the Blazers. Earlier the said all four other starters are more relaxed on offense with Lopez on the floor and all are putting up career numbers.

    Thought Robin’s biggest supporter deserved the acknowledgement.

  • Smovas

    Thanks to Hawki and VT for a great night on Sunday! You guys are every bit as cool in person as on the boards.

    Butler – hope you are feeling better.

    As for the Suns, I just can’t root for them to lose but watching the big 3 (plus a couple of the other players) last night sure has me close. Wow!

    Tonight will be a great challenge for these Suns. Surely Portland will be looking for some revenge.


    we will learn a thing or 2 tonight for sure



  • RudeCerveza

    Moda Center …. hehehe

    Moda means testicles in Slovenian.

    I guess Goran should do OK there.

  • Sunsn7

    I’m sure glad the Suns eventually went with Hornacek after bypassing Majerle. Boy am I glad.

    Sorry Thundah

  • foreveris2long

    EBJM, you know I follow Lopez so thanks for the stats. As I watched a little bit of the Lakers last night I could not help but think the Pelicans are struggling despite the influx of talent at point guard and Evans at the 2 guard behind or with Gordon. I think the absence of a defensive center is hurting them. Lopez is a throw back center that enjoys or embracing playing defense. If he does not block a shot he often will contest it.

    Jordan under Rivers is also improved in applying defensive principles which is helping the Clips. If he could only shoot free throws. Defensive centers who are fairly mobile still have a place in the NBA.

    Great night for basketball as the Clips against the Thunder should be an enjoyable game.

  • RudeCerveza

    Unbelievable. No one is really playing good, they are shooting abysmally, they are outrebounded but they are still ahead at half.

  • hawki

    Bledsoe, Kieff & Tucka are legit tough guys.
    They take their toll on the other team.


    Had dinner tonight with VT and his lady here in Flagstaff at a brewery. That was fun. I ended up with 2 bottles of some VT home brew, thanks man!