Preview: Portland Trail Blazers (13-2) at Phoenix Suns (7-7)


Time: 7:00 pm MDT

TV: FSAZ

Suns

Suns

Trail Blazers

Trail Blazers

Tonight the Phoenix Suns return home from their successful southeast road trip to take on the Portland Trail Blazers for the third time in four weeks. After their opening night loss to the Suns, Portland has won 13 of their last 14 games, making them one of the hottest teams and biggest surprises in the NBA. Damian Lillard has improved on his Rookie of the Year campaign. LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging 20 and 10 for the first time in his career. And Wesley Matthews is having his best year as a pro, becoming a legitimate third option on one of the NBA’s most potent offenses. On the flip side, the Suns are just .500 for the year, but they too can be viewed as overachievers, especially when considering how well they’ve played in Eric Bledsoe’s absence. No one believed Phoenix would sniff relevance this year, but 14 games in, the Suns are hanging tough and proving themselves to be farther along in the rebuilding process than any NBA pundit could have predicted.

It would seem Portland is the far superior team in this game, but Phoenix matches up with them quite well. The Suns definitely have a chance to throw some cold water on Portland’s hot start tonight. Phoenix will be looking to avenge their heartbreaking 1-point loss in Portland two weeks ago. Eric Bledsoe, who is likely to return to the court tonight, will definitely have something to prove after a defensive miscommunication between he and Channing Frye allowed Lillard to score the go-ahead layup, and his own subsequent attempt at a game winner was just a touch too strong. For more on tonight’s matchup, let’s look at three key questions to be answered.

Which Aldridge will show up?

In the first game between these two teams, LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points on nearly 55% shooting. In the second, he had only 12 points and shot under 30%. Aldridge could do no right in the game two weeks ago. He missed easy buckets all night long, turned the ball over four times, and was more hindrance than help to the Blazers’ cause. Overall, he’s having a stellar season, but he has had been inconsistent lately, shooting under 40% in each of Portland’s last three games. The Suns are a tough defensive team with the size and depth to contain Aldridge. It will be interesting to see how LaMarcus attacks the Suns’ defensive game plan.

How will Eric Bledsoe’s potential return impact the lineup and team chemistry?

UPDATE: Eric Bledsoe is listed as a gametime-decision tonight but is undergoing a precautionary MRI.


Though Phoenix went 2-3 in the games Bledsoe missed, his teammates definitely stepped up and proved themselves worthy of handling the scoring load in his absence. With Bledsoe potentially set to return tonight, it will be interesting to see how his presence alters the lineup and the rhythm the Suns have developed. Between injuries to Goran Dragic and Bledsoe, Gerald Green has spent plenty of time in the starting lineup this year. He has taken advantage of this opportunity and is having the best season of his career. Green is averaging a career-best 15 points per game. He’s shooting over 50% from inside the arc and 40% from beyond it. His athleticism, floor-spacing ability, and energy have all been huge assets for the Suns. Will his return to the sixth man role affect his commitment and production? Only time will tell. On the positive side, Bledsoe’s eventual return means Goran Dragic has fewer hats to wear. The reduced pressure will free Dragic up to score more and facilitate less. Plus with a pit bull like Bledsoe back on the floor, Dragic will definitely have to expend less energy on defense. One of our biggest questions coming into the year was how well these two could play together, but because of injuries, they haven’t had much opportunity to develop chemistry thus far this year.

Can the Suns close out the fourth quarter?

The Suns have been in too many close games already this year. If the first two meeting between these two Western Conference opponents are any indication, this game will likely come down to the wire as well. Will the Suns do a better job of closing this one out? Will home court advantage play any part? There’s no way to predict how Phoenix will play in crunch time, but it stands to reason their chances of pulling out a close win are significantly improved if Bledsoe is in the lineup and on the court.

The main reason the Suns have struggled to close out games is their offense. As the fourth quarter wears on Phoenix tends to stray from what has been working for them offensively the entire game. The Suns have noticeably tightened up late in close games. They’ve looked nervous and unsure of themselves. This is partly due to their youth and inexperience. But some of the blame has to fall on Coach Hornacek as well. The Suns have a free-wheeling offense built on ball movement, spacing, and above all running. The game slows down in crunch time and as such, the Suns can’t run the way they would like to. Thus, they need defined offensive sets late in games. Look for Phoenix to focus on their pick and roll with Plumlee and/or Frye as the game winds down.

Tags: Eric Bledsoe Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Preview Portland Trail Blazers

  • Sunsn7

    Yo Markieff? You up for this one? If so I see 20-10..will the return of Bledsoe stop the bleeding?

    Suns 108 Blazers 105

  • Sunsn7

    “GOODWIN, GOODWIN, GOODWIN!”

  • EBJM

    Hey Ryan, you need to give a shout out to Robin Lopez. He is considered the “glue guy” that is enabling all of the other Blazers to have career seasons. Robin himself has become a beast on the boards recently, having grabbed double-digit rebounds in at least 5-6 games, I forget but he just grabbed a career high 16 boards and scored 13 points on 6-10 shooting and blocked a shot against Chicago. He is also protecting the rim besides the blocks and has always been athletic to show on the PnR and return to his cover his own man.

    Thank J.J. Hickson who called him out after only grabbing two boards on opening night against Phoenix. Robin replied “I’m a true center” and has been playing like one.

    Your boy is making you proud Forever! How is that # 5 pick with the bum ankles working out? Sorry but drafting Len just cracks me up. Sure, I hope the kid works out but watching Robin and the Blazers perform as a top four team is pretty funny in a sick sort of way.

    I can see Robin sticking up that middle finger to Lance Blanks right now!

    Way to play some ball Robin!

  • roloz

    Robin didn’t resign. The comic book pitch Blanks made for him didn’t convince him to stay in AZ shockingly

  • vtsunrise

    Precautionary MRI yet a game-time decision on Bledsoe.

    Something smells fishy in the State of Arizona.

    Re: our preview-ish discush on injuries, good read:
    http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/10031323/how-injured-stars-derrick-rose-steve-nash-kobe-bryant-marc-gasol-respond

  • vtsunrise

    @Sunsn7, I would love to see three Good Wins and one good Archie Goodwin. I love that lil guy.

  • Foreveris2long

    Very much to be excited about with the pending return of Bledsoe and the Suns back home. Like I said two days ago I think this matchup pairs the two leading Coach of the year candidates as both have exceeded expectations.

    EBJM absolutely I enjoy watching my adopted son Lopez play. It is an astute observation by you (you know the game well) to notice how he can effectively show or switch on the pick and roles. As good as Portland has played, when they get McCollum back they are going to really be tough depending on how he trust his recovery. Portland and Phoenix have done a superb job in getting to their respective positions.

  • Foreveris2long

    Oops meant to say “roll”.I hope the Grammar Court lets me off with short probation.

  • vtsunrise

    The Grammar Court considers your transgression very minor, 4ever=2long. Suspended sentence of 2 minutes of suicide drills, pending further flagrant language fouls, or fowls, this being Turkey season.

  • David

    Makes no sense why Bledsoe is out for a sixth straight game for a bruise shin, this really is starting to look sketch.

  • Sunsn7

    Just tuning in, good to see the Suns battle back. Bledsoe out again huh? Maybe, just maybe he is seeing the athletically tragic situation of Derrick Rose and maybe is being super careful. He’ll be back soon enough.

    Archie can have his minutes, eh VT?

  • Sunsn7

    Suns ballin’ now!

  • vtsunrise

    Beautiful second quarter. I was about to give up on the game with them down 15. Tough bunch of ballers.

  • Dave:f32

    Boy, that Alex Len is some prospect. I think the Suns are putting too much pressure on such a young player. The same with Bledsome.

  • Sunsn7

    Dragic sure looks a bit like Nash the way he keeps his dribble alive.

    Suns on a 30 pt. swing since trailing by 16! Blazers want no part of the young, hustling Suns!

  • Sunsn7

    I knew Hornacek was going to be a good coach but have to say i’m pleasantly surprised to see he show’s more intensity than I thought he would.

    His team believes in what he’s teaching, beginning with hard work and hustle.

  • Bam

    I’m suspecting….
    Someone in the Suns’ training staff took my comment about convincing Bledsoe to take “extended rest” to ensure the longevity of his career seriously, so most of the off-time he gets are unofficial “DNP-front office decision”

  • foreveris2long

    VT, Man suicide drills? I would rather serve time. They use to always come at the end of practice when you are dead tired. You are killing me VT.