Suns melt the snowbird Blazers

by Kevin Nesgoda

February had been red hot for the Blazers, but then they forgot they have to play a full game and what defense in a loss to the Washington Wizards on Saturday night. There was hope that the Blazers would rise to the competition as they took on the Phoenix Suns in a potential first-round playoff matchup.

After the butt-kicking they took tonight against the Suns tonight, they probably might want to drop down to the 8th and play the Jazz. It might be a much closer series.

Let’s get to the thoughts.

First Quarter Thoughts

Terry Stotts has decided to let Damian Lillard guard Devin Booker to start the game and Booker got a quick four points on three shots to start the game. Not sure of this defensive assignment to start the game. I’m not an NBA head coach, but what do I know. Gary Trent Jr. got a couple of cracks at Booker and caused him to miss two shots. In the next possession and Lillard is back on Booker and Booker gets scored on again.

The Suns aren’t forcing the Blazers to switch either. Lillard is picking up Booker at half-court. I am not really sure what you can do about the Blazers’ defensive issues, Dame and CJ are not great defenders and don’t appear that they’ll ever even be decent.

You can’t score 30 and give up 50. The math does not work that way.

We’ve seen Derrick Jones Jr. on Chris Paul to start the game. Paul is still an effective player, but your best and longest defender does not need to be on Chris Paul. Booker is the biggest threat that Phoenix has. Have Jones on Booker, Trent on Paul, and Lillard on Bridges. It does not seem like rocket science to me.

Okay, it might not be anything that the Blazers can do against Booker tonight. He has 17 of the Suns first 24 points in the first quarter and five different Blazers have guarded him tonight and he’s has scored on all of them at this point. He’s not letting Portland set the defense on him. If he gets picked up high he dives to the basket and if they pick him up, he posts up quick and gets an easy basket.

This has honestly been a masterclass in how to work your superstar in a game. Seriously, just rewatch Booker on every possession in the first quarter and everything he did was just about right.

Portland was lucky to only be down six, 32-26, after the first quarter.

Second Quarter Thoughts

Rodney Hood started the second quarter with his own personal 7-0 run to put the Blazers up 33-32. The Suns were forced to call a timeout after Hood picked Chris Paul’s pocket and raced down the court for a nice two-hand dunk.

Hood has not played that great over the last week or so, so it’s really good to see him playing well to start his minutes tonight. Even if he caps out at these seven points and adds a few more rebounds then I’ll call this a win for him tonight. Have to start small and get the confidence going again.

We have to remember that he had a bad achilles tear and that he is not Kevin Durant.

The Suns are killing Portland in the paint. They have 26 points in the area that is differently colored from the rest of the floor at the half. Portland had 24. A huge chunk of those points came in four straight possessions where Lillard found Jones and Kanter doing wide-open back cuts on those plays.

Phoenix did not make any adjustments to stop those cuts either. The last few baskets came against a zone with Chris Paul playing in the center of the paint. Dame kept finding a cutting Derrick Jones Jr. for easy baskets.

Really don’t know what the hell Phoenix was trying to accomplish with that defensive set. The defense was something that Taylor and I would run, poorly, in 2k21 as were are getting our brains bashed in by the Timberwolves. Trying something different, you know? But to allow ten straight points on that set and not switch it up? That is some Stotts level coaching there.

The thing though is that Phoenix somehow extended their lead during all this. Booker with three-point plays or Dario Saric hitting corner threes.

Portland also outshot Phoenix by percentage, 56-47 in the first half, but took a 54-63 deficit into the half.

Third Quarter Thoughts

Phoenix picked Portland up in a full-court press to start the second half. The Blazers were really confused and had a really off first possession that led to no points. Devin Booker immediately capitalized on two straight possessions. Bridges scored on Dame the next trip down and I’m really starting to think that I could get some points on Dame right now. He gave up 90 to Bradley Beal the other night, I really think that my out-of-shape ass could at least get 10 in an NBA game against him and I only play three-point line to three-point line.

I’ve seen better defense of a drunk and elderly snowbird at the YMCA in Scottsdale. I’m not joking either. There was this 91-year-old dude that was locking down 18-year-olds without a problem. I got ask if I wanted to have a run, but I did not want that smoke.

There isn’t much at all to say about this third quarter. The Blazers played like they usually do coming out of halftime, flat, not focused, and with no urgency. They got outscored by 20, 37-17 in the quarter, and have a 29 point margin to make up in the fourth.

With the game against the Nuggets tomorrow night we’re going to probably see a lot of bench guys in the fourth.

Fourth Quarter Thoughts

The Phoenix third unit is killing the Blazers second unit. Not much else to say about this game other than the Suns’ third-string outplayed the Blazer second string.

Next Up

Tomorrow night against the Denver Nuggets.

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