Time: 8 p.m. MST
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.