Suns @ Blazers
- Records: PHX 5-2 (1st, Pacific); POR 5-2 (2nd, Northwest)
- Time: 8 p.m. local, 9 p.m. CST, 10 p.m. EST
- TV: Fox Sports Arizona
- Radio: Arizona Sports 620
The Suns showed up ready to play on opening night, while the Blazers ... didn't. Portland stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard combined for 60 points, but they didn't get much help from the other starters and the bench was just as bad (that is, historically bad) as it was last year.
The Suns jumped ahead early in the first quarter and held on for the rest of the game. Goran Dragic showed just how good he can be when healthy with 26 points and nine assists, an he took over down the stretch and carried the Suns to a 104-91 victory.
Eric Bledsoe (22 points, seven rebounds, six assists) and Miles Plumlee (18 points, 15 rebounds) both had big debuts for Phoenix and gave the fans a glimpse of what they were going to get from the two newcomers.
If you haven't already done so, go ahead and congratulate Goran Dragic on the birth of his first child, Mateo. That's great news for Goran, but even better for the Suns as Dragic will be free to play against the Blazers with the baby already here and doing well.
Eric Bledsoe has been incredible for the Suns so far this year. With Dragic in and out of the line-up due to injury, Bledsoe has stepped up his play and is leading the Sun to wins. 21-7-4-2 isn't too shabby for a first-time starter.
But more surprisingly, right behind him on the scoring chart is Markieff Morris at 17.2 points per game. Keef was outstanding last week and his play was recognized as he was named Western Conference Player of the Week.
The Suns are getting tremendous production off the bench as well. Gerald Green has played well for the most part, whether he's started or come off the bench, and the Morris twins have been a force in the second unit.
The Blazers have a very strong top four in Aldridge, Lillard, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum, an all four have played very well so far this season. Aldridge is a force both on the block and at the high post, Lillard can fill it up in a hurry and Matthews and Batum are both versatile, two-way players that compleement their two stars well.
The Blazers' downfall was their historically inept second unit. They were active in free agency looking to upgrade the bench during the offseason and the results have been pretty good so far with Mo Williams and Dorell Wright both making significant contributions.
Since the season opening loss to Phoenix, the Blazers have been on a roll, winning five games and losing only to the Houston Rockets.
- PG: Eric Bledsoe - Damian Lillard
- SG: Gerald Green - Wesley Matthews
- SF: P.J. Tucker - Nicolas Batum
- PF: Channing Frye - LaMarcus Aldridge
- C: Miles Plumlee - Robin Lopez
Goran Dragic could start ahead of Green, but the team has played well with the starting lineup above and Dragic coming in off the bench.
Match-Ups to Watch
Aldridge vs. Markieff Morris: Keef has had an outstanding last four games, averaging 22 and 8. Meanwhile, Aldridge has basically averaged that over the whole season. I'm not expecting Morris to outplay Aldridge, who is a bona fide All Star. However, if he can continue his strong, efficient play and cancel out at least some of Aldridge's production, the Suns will have a great chance to win.
Bledsoe vs. Lillard: Lillard is the driving force behind the Blazers' attack, and it's going to be up to Bledsoe to slow him down. If Bledsoe can continue his current production while also preventing Lillard from getting his teammates involved or going off. If Bledsoe can hold Lillard to low 20s in points and less than five assists, that will give the Suns supporting cast a chance to win the game.