Suns Out, Buns Out! Phoenix beats Portland again

by Kevin Nesgoda

Maybe it’s been a long week for me, but it feels like the All-Star break was longer than the entire offseason. Am I off base here? Heard it was a nice day up in the PNW. You know what they say when the Sun is out?

Anyway —

The Blazers got outworked by the Suns and completely no-showed the fourth quarter until it was too late.

Portland once again falls to Phoenix, 127-121.

Let’s breakdown the action.

First Quarter Thoughts

Remember a couple weeks ago in Phoenix where the Suns just back-cut the Blazers to death? The Suns remembered what they did and Chris Paul is exploiting the hell out of the Portland defense along a fifteen-foot stretch of baseline. Once again the Blazers do not have an answer. You’d think that Stotts would review that tape and prepare for the Suns to do the same exact thing tonight. He did not and the Suns are scoring at will early.

But Damian Lillard was scoring just as easily.

Dame continued his hot shooting from the All-Star Game, hitting his first two threes of the game and then he started attacking the paint and the Suns were not ready for that. He’s been so good lately. Should have been the ASG MVP and should be the NBA MVP this year too. He’s not going to get the love though. It’ll go to LeBron or Embiid this year.

Enes Kanter is having himself a ball game tonight. He had seven offensive rebounds in the first quarter to go along with six points. Kanter is known for not being physical and yet he was keeping both DeAndre Ayton and Frank Kaminsky at bay. There is no excuse for either of those guys to get outworked by Kanter, but Kanter was doing Kanter things.

Second Quarter Thoughts

Anfernee Simons hits a nice floater to start the quarter. The first few months were not kind to Simons to start the season. It seems like he’s really coming into his own in the last couple of weeks. Him winning the dunk contest really picked up his confidence. He has a bit of a swag to his minutes to start off this game for him.

After he and Gary Trent Jr. hit back to back to back threes to give the Blazers a 47-37 lead forcing the Suns to call a timeout.

Simons might have either made himself extremely tradeable or untradeable. Not sure who can get for him at this point, but I could see it being a net negative in value.

The rest of the Blazers’ offense has been exceptionally solid this game. They have made 11 of 24 threes into the half. Derrick Jones Jr. and Robert Covington were both knocking down threes.

As I type this Kanter comes back in, is not getting rebounds, and the Suns are off and running off Blazer misses. Mikal Bridges especially was out running everyone. He got a couple of easy dunks on the run and then hit a three from the wing after a nice screen from Ayton freed him up on a curl.

Suns ended the half on a 10-2 run to tie the game at 60.

Halftime Thoughts

I honestly thought we’d get to see CJ McCollum tonight, but it looks like it’s going to be a few more games before he comes back. Before the break, he was looking great in practice. He did not have a limp, no hobble, looked smooth, and was allegedly playing in scrimmages with zero limitations.

I wonder how it will affect the minutes of Gary Trent Jr. Trent has not been shooting well as of late, but he continues to be one of the better defenders that Portland has and we know how well CJ plays defense.

I’ll need a bit more time and a bit more wine before I can come up with some cohesive thoughts. Got a nice 40-year reserve Tawny tonight that I’m excited to dive into this weekend. I should try CJ’s label, but I’m not a fan of Oregon Pinot. I should still try it though.

Third Quarter Thoughts

I really like how Dame is getting to the basket this game. Blazers are running that double high look where Dame finds some space and takes a three. Tonight as the defender fights over the screen and closeout, Dame is blowing right by everyone and getting easy layups. I’ve been waiting forever for the Blazers to start doing this. The lane is always going to be there for Dame because teams are so afraid of him shooting the three.

With him getting to the paint will get him easier baskets and probably get him to the line more. He goes to the line more and the refs will look to call more fouls for him. And then maybe, just maybe, he’ll start getting those calls on the three point shots.

Lillard has 22 points through two and a half quarters.

Gary Trent Jr. was 1-7 on threes for the night until Nassir Little made a nice drive and found GTJ on the wing. Trent really needed that shot.

Little has been a great spark plug off the bench lately. His minutes can’t take a hit. He needs to continue to play and develop. Not only his game, but he needs to get that confidence up too. Confidence is such a huge part of the game for a young player. Little has been playing solid ball since his break out in Milwaukee.

His dunk tonight was filthy.

I really love how Devin Booker works the mid-range. He is about the only guy who will work all three phases of the floor on offense. The percentages say dunk or three now, but with Booker playing the way he does it keeps defenders on their heels and makes him that much more dangerous. Really like to see Dame and CJ trade-off on this type of play.

Don’t let the defense get comfortable ever.

Blazers somehow won the third quarter by four points. Let’s hope they don’t screw up the fourth quarter. Really need this win with two games against the Timberwolves coming up this weekend. Would be great to have a seven-game winning streak heading into next week.

Fourth Quarter Thoughts

The Blazers have started the fourth like they usually start the third. Phoenix takes a two-point lead by outscoring the Portland 9-3 in the first three minutes. Was having a lot of praise for Simons to start the game, but he’s had two horrible turnovers to start this period.

Simons got the quick hook in the fourth. Lillard was back on the court to start the after nine-minute timeout. Melo followed him to the bench shortly thereafter. Melo was getting mugged in the fourth and did not have much to show for it. He was frustrated (and for good reason) and it got him out of his game.

This is falling apart faster than a dude in the champagne room without cash or a credit card with the bill due.

The Blazers have not been able to get a call this quarter and the Suns have outscored the Blazers 24-10 with only five minutes left to go in the game.

There was a questionable call on Rodney Hood that was ruled an offensive charge and the play before Devin Booker two armed GTJ almost the entire length of the baseline before getting a pass and a layup.

The Suns use Booker in such fun ways. He’s all over the place from on the ball to off the ball, moving fast, posting up, running a high-low, and finding easy baskets for teammates. It’s hard to defend that.

Also, Ed Molloy is a terrible official.

And the Suns have made eight threes here in the fourth and continue to build the lead.

Would you bet your life on the Blazers getting a single stop against the other 29 teams in the league or any of the 300+ NCAA schools?

I don’t think I’d do it and I’m not risk-averse.

Box Score

Next Up

Blazers have two in Minnesota with the first happening on Saturday at 5 PM.

Check Out

Hoops Uber Alles. New episode happening this Saturday at 10 AM. It will be our third.

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