PHOENIX– The Portland Trail Blazers have officially found their kryptonite in 2013-14.
It wasn’t Carmelo Anthony’s one-man show, the Golden State Warriors’ up-tempo offense, the Brooklyn Nets’ cavalcade of aging stars or Tom Thibodeau’s stingy half court defense.
No, their weakness apparently is playing inside the US Airways Center.
For the second time this season, the Blazers came to the Valley of the Sun with a heavy dose of optimism and left with an L beside their name.
Paced by a 40-point second quarter, tremendous offensive contributions from Goran Dragic (31 points on 10-of-18 shooting) and Channing Frye (season-high 25 points and nine rebounds), impressive bench production from the Morris brothers and Ish Smith and a rare sign of aggression on the offensive glass (13 offensive rebounds), the Suns put an end to the Blazers’ 11-game winning streak with an impressive 120-106 victory Wednesday night.
The margin of victory (14 points) was the Suns’ largest of the season, surpassing the 13-point beat down they already put on Terry Stotts’ squad on Opening Night.
For the Blazers, they move to 0-2 in Phoenix, and 13-1 everywhere else.
For more analysis, let’s answer Ryan Weisert’s preview questions.
Which Aldridge will show up?
The ‘Bad’ LaMarcus Aldridge that went 5-of-19 for 12 points back on Nov. 13 was nowhere to be found Wednesday night. From the outset, the Blazers made a conscious effort to get their All-Star power forward the ball.
Aldridge scored 11 points on eight shots in the first period alone and finished with 24 to go along with four rebounds.
But outside of a five-point spurt he had in the third quarter to trim the Suns’ lead down to seven, the seven-year pro didn’t have a major impact on the game’s outcome.
Whether it was Channing Frye, Markieff Morris or occasionally Marcus Morris, the Suns seemed content to let Aldridge get his touches, as long as they came primarily outside the paint.
How will Eric Bledsoe’s potential return impact the lineup and team chemistry?
For the sixth straight game, Eric Bledsoe sat out due to a left shin contusion. Before the game, Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said that an MRI on the shin came back negative, but that until he proves that he can play, the coaching staff will continue to game plan as if he won’t be available.
Gerald Green continues to make that process a little bit easier with each passing game. Although having Bledsoe in the backcourt certainly provides the Suns a luxury of having an interchangeable one-two punch at the defensive end against dynamic guards like Damian Lillard, Green has filled in admirably in his absence.
In Wednesday’s win over the Blazers, Green didn’t shoot particularly well (3-of-14 from the field) but he reached double figures, hit two big three-point shots during the Suns’ 19-point second quarter turnaround and held Wesley Matthews to a rather quite night (eight points and five rebounds) from the field.
Can the Suns close out the fourth quarter?
The Suns have had their fair share of issues closing out teams in the fourth quarter, including earlier this month in a 90-89 loss to the Blazers.
So they decided to make that issue a priority coming out of halftime. After erasing a 16-point deficit in the second quarter, Phoenix came out of locker room and scored the first 10 points of the third quarter to push its lead up to 13.
After the Blazers trimmed their deficit back down to single digits, Marcus and Markieff Morris took over, scoring 11 of the Suns’ final 13 points in the period. On the night, the Morris brothers combined for 34 points and seven points off the pine.
A 7-2 run to begin the fourth officially put the game out of reach, as the Blazers never got to within single digits the rest of the night.