As Backcourts Collide: Portland outlasts Phoenix 110-101

Mar 12, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (left) controls the ball against Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Portland defeated Phoenix 110-101. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 12, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (left) controls the ball against Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Portland defeated Phoenix 110-101. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Both teams coming off of game-winning shots last night and flying into the Valley of the Suns very early in the morning, Portland and Phoenix fought hard, but the playoff potential Blazers came out on top.

Trail Blazers33331628110

Playing with the same desperation as the Dallas Mavericks did last night, the Portland Trailblazers needed a win over the bottom-feeding Phoenix Suns in order to continue to make their move into the Western Conference playoff picture.

The Suns opened up action taking a quick seven-point lead while the Blazers, who came into Phoenix at least an hour later than the Suns, appeared that they might be too tired to keep up with the younger legs of Phoenix. Devin Booker nailed four of his first five buckets and had a quick 8 points within the games first 5:13 looking to build off the energy of nailing the game-winner last night.

Portland, however, had no plans of being run out of the building and mustered all of it’s playoff-push intensity to rip the Suns for a 15-0 run that expanded into a 21-2 run to end the quarter.

The Suns re-gained their edge in the second and the two teams battled to Blazers +1 quarter advantage. Though on little sleep, Damian Lillard showed no fatigue early, much like Russell Westbrook two weeks ago in Phoenix following a late night game, ironically, in Portland. Lillard followed up a 15 point first quarter with a 13 point second on 9-14 shooting combined. Although Booker was able to score his first quarter eight point very quickly in the first quarter, he was held scoreless for about 17 minutes before finally grabbing another bucket with 1:59 remaining in the half finishing with 10 points.

The Blazers stretched their lead to a game-high 18 points early in the third quarter before the Suns went on a nice little run of their own led by their backcourt. Outscoring the Blazers by 13 as a team, Booker and Eric Bledsoe broke out of their first half malaise with a 17-point combined third quarter, outscoring Portland by one by themselves. Lillard scored 7 points himself, but with the Phoenix intensity pushing for the upset victory, the Blazers were unable to keep up as the Suns’ fastbreak mentality took over their offense. The Suns finished with 8 fastbreak points in the quarter, and 22 for the game.

Having grabbed a one-point lead with 4:15 remaining in the fourth, the Suns were unable to capitalize on Portland miscues and exhaustion. With 4:00 remaining C.J. McCullum retook the lead for Portland on a layup, a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the way as suddenly it was the Suns’ offense that became suspect. Portland outscored Phoenix 16-6 over the final stretch, pulling out the hard-fought, but well-worth victory for the playoff hopeful team.

In the fourth, as Damian Lillard began to fade (2-5 shooting and 0-2 from beyond the arc for 4 points), backcourt mate McCullum picked up the slack and helped to hold off the streaking Suns with a miss-less 12 points, and 2 assists. The Suns backcourt continued to press the Blazers and carry the bulk of the offensive load as Booker, Tyler Ulis, and Leandro Barbosa combined for 16 of the team’s 22 fourth quarter points – Eric Bledsoe was held scoreless on 0-4 shooting.

For the second game in a row the Suns were without center Alex Len due to injury, and since Tyson Chandler will not (it appears) make an appearance the rest of the season, Head Coach Earl Watson shuffled the lineup starting Marquese Chriss at center and Derrick Jones Jr. at power forward. Although technically each player is a day older than yesterday so they are not as young as they were yesterday, the starting lineup of Eric Bledsoe (27), Devin Booker (20), T.J. Warren (23), Derrick Jones Jr. (20), and Marquese Chriss (19), is the youngest lineup in franchise history.

Devin Booker finished with a team-high 28 points on 13-26 shooting, although he did not attempt a single three-pointer the entire game, a first for him this season. Booker did grab 5 rebounds and dish out 3 assists.

More from Valley of the Suns

Eric Bledsoe had his second consecutive poor shooting night, finishing 7-21 from the floor for 19 points, including 3-4 from three. He dished out 5 assists, although he failed to lead the team in that category.

That distinction belongs to Tyler Ulis who recorded 6 assists to go along with 10 points on 5-8 shooting and a blocked shot.

Call me “Mr. Double-Double,” Alan Williams recorded yet another one off the bench with 12 points and 10 rebounds in 25:27 minutes, his sixth in seven games. Although Williams was not named a starter, he was the team’s only true center with Alex Len still out due to injury, and Tyson Chandler technically missing tonight’s game for personal reasons.

Although he slowed down in the fourth quarter, Damian Lillard finished with a game-high 39 points, his highest scoring game since dropping 40 at Denver on December 15. He was 13-26 from the field including 4-10 from beyond the arc. C.J. McCollum scored 26 points and dished out a team-high 4 assists. Trade deadline steal Jusuf Nurkic recorded the team’s only double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, although Al-Farouq Aminu grabbed 12 caroms to go along with his 9 points.