Jeff Hornacek must have gotten the message across.
Two losses to the Los Angeles teams in a row made the Phoenix Suns able to see the end of their season on the horizon, but at first against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, it wasn’t clear whether they’d be able to harness the urgency in the right way.
But the wildest of wild cards of all people did just that, and his teammates followed him. Gerald Green came out gunning early, and it might have been described as chucking. At the end of a 109-93 win for the Suns in the Moda Center, Green had 32 points in catapulting his team to a crucial win, especially with the Grizzlies and Mavericks also winning on Friday night and keeping ahead of the Suns in the standings.
The first 36 minutes was a back-and-forth affair, and somehow the Suns kept pace with the Blazers. Phoenix pushed the pace and the guards made it clear they had no intentions other than to drive the ball into the paint. Sometimes it got them into trouble.
Hornacek’s squad forced a lot, but it always came with aggressive and sure intentions.
Phoenix scored 24 fastbreak points to Portland’s six.
The only issue was that the Suns struggled to finish their many looks in the paint. In the first half, they got 25 shots in the paint but hit just 10, all while holding Portland to just 12 shots in the paint. By the end of the game, Phoenix got off 50 shots in the paint to the Blazers’ 30, outscoring them there 48-32.
Eric Bledsoe added 30 points, a few blocks and some offensive boards, and Goran Dragic added another 19 for the Suns.
Phoenix trailed 80-79 heading to the fourth quarter, but unlike the pivotal minutes against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, they didn’t shy away from the pressure. Green threw a lob pass to himself off the backboard for a dunk, then hit a transition three-pointer to cap a 7-0 Suns run in the first 2:08 of the fourth quarter, which gave the men in purple a six-point lead.
Green added 14 more points in the fourth quarter, Bledsoe scored 12 more, and Phoenix outscored Portland 30-13 while holding the Blazers to 31 percent shooting.
To the pregame questions from today’s game preview.
How well do the Suns handle the pick-and-roll on defense and offense?
Aldridge scored just four points in the first half but came out of halftime gunning for the Suns. Phoenix didn’t shudder at his aggression, and waited out a brief storm. Aldridge went 8-for-18 for 18 points and point guard Damian Lillard went 5-for-13 from the field for 15 points.
Can the big brother Jayhawks beat on the little brother Jayhawk?
The Morris twins allowed Thomas Robinson to grab seven rebounds, three offensive, and the Suns allowed the Blazers to 11 second-chance points in the first half. The good news is that Markieff Morris got into the game in the second half. He finished with a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double. He, Ish Smith, Shavlik Randolph and Green had plus-minus ratings at or better than 17 points, giving the Suns the key boost to outdo a thin Portland bench unit.
Will Miles Plumlee give another active performance?
Robin Lopez was out for blood, and a revenge game he had. The former Suns center scored 12 first-half points and finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. But Plumlee held his own, nabbing 16 rebounds in 25 minutes and acting as a threat in rolling to the rim.
Randolph ended up getting important minutes in the second half to handle Lopez and Aldridge.