The Phoenix Suns will visit the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday night to try and snap their current four-game losing streak. Both teams are struggling right now, as the Blazers are also just 2-6 thus far in February.
When: Tuesday, February 19th, 2013, 8:00 PM local time
Where: Rose Garden, Portland, OR
Watch/Listen: TV: FSAZ, Radio: 620 KTAR
The first meeting between these two teams was on November 21st, and that game was a pleasant surprise for Suns fans. The Suns outscored Portland in every quarter and coasted to a 114-87 win, which was their first blowout win of the season. Marcin Gortat had 22 points and 7 rebounds, and Dragic had 15 points and 8 assists, but perhaps the biggest surprise of the night came from Markieff Morris, who put up 19 points and 7 rebounds in 25 minutes and started over Luis Scola.
As for Portland, rising star Damian Lillard scored 24 points but had 6 turnovers, and LaMarcus Aldridge shot just 5-of-15 from the field. For once, the Suns were the ones who held their opponent to poor shooting, not the other way around.
The second game was much closer, and the two teams battled down to the last minute. However, the Suns eventually lost in the fourth quarter, which has since become a common theme for the season. Damian Lillard scored nine points in the fourth quarter and led the Blazers on a 14-10 run to close out the game with a win, 96-93. Gortat had 18 points, but Dragic struggled the entire game, shooting 4-for-13 from the field to go along with just 10 points and 5 assists.
Portland: Eliot Williams (Out), Wesley Matthews (Questionable), Damian Lillard (Probable)
Phoenix: Channing Frye (Out)
Points per game: 96.7 Points allowed: 99.7 Full team statistics
The Trail Blazers may be on a five-game losing streak, but they still have plenty of talent. LaMarcus Aldridge leads the team in scoring (20.9), rebounding (8.8) and blocks (1.3), and is a force to be reckoned with down low. And of course, Damian Lillard is still the best rookie in the league. Despite his team's recent struggles, Lillard averages 18.3 points and 6.5 assists per game and projects to develop into one of the better point guards in the NBA.
On the other hand, Portland is in a slump that could just help the Suns pull out a win in this game. Nicolas Batum is in the middle of a severe cold spell in which he is averaging just 9.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in the past 10 games. J.J Hickson is still a threat for a double-double on any given night, but he's pulled down just 7.8 boards on average over his last 10 games. Also, Portland continues to have one of the weakest benches in the league, with no true sixth man who can explode for 15 or 20 points off the bench.
If the Suns can contain Lillard and/or Aldridge, winning shouldn't be a problem. After all, we're talking about a team that just lost to New Orleans last week 99-63. That's right, New Orleans.
Points per game: 94.7, Points allowed: 99.9 Full team statistics
Nothing new here in Phoenix, as the Suns are now 2-8 in their last 10 games after starting out 2-0 under head coach Lindsey Hunter. But right now, let's focus on the positives.
First of all, Michael Beasley is looking much better. He's still extremely inconsistent and you never know when he will score 25 points and when he will 5, but he is averaging 15.6 points and 5.7 rebounds over his last 10 games.
Kendall Marshall is now a regular part of the rotation, and he is also starting to show promise. He is averaging 4 points and 2.6 assists in 20 minutes a game since Hunter took over, and he has even shot 8-for-21 from behind the arc so far this season despite the fact that so many people criticized him for not having any mid-range game.
I suppose the biggest positive is that the trade deadline is two days from now. The Suns might make a big deal, and anyone could be moved right now, but at least all the chaos will be over in just 48 hours.
What To Watch For:
Dragic vs. Lillard: This will easily be the most anticipated matchup of the game, with the Slovenian point guard going up against the rookie phenom. However, this match definitely favors Lillard. Dragic is averaging 13.2 points over his last 10 games, and he has shot just 7-of-20 from the field in two games against Portland. Meanwhile, Lillard has 49 points on 14-of-26 shooting against Phoenix, and it's going to take some committed, lockdown defense from Dragic if he hopes to slow down the rookie out of Weber St.
Marcin Gortat: Blazers Killer? Gortat is clearly having a down season, but he has already had two great games against the Blazers this season, and he generally does have pretty good games against Portland. In five career games as a starter against the Trail Blazers, Gortat averages 16.0 points and 9.6 rebounds while shooting 65 percent from the field. Since Gortat's name continues to pop up in trade rumors, he may be fed the ball in the post an unusually high number of times tonight in an attempt to increase his trade value. Nothing is set in stone, but a big game for Gortat would not be the least bit surprising.
Sloppy Play From Both Sides: Turnovers have been a plague to both of these teams recently, and we may see more sloppy offense tonight. The Suns are averaging 18.8 turnovers in their last five games, and the Blazers also average 15 turnovers per game for the month of February. With that being said, maybe there will be a lot of fastbreak opportunities tonight as well.
The Suns are now one of the top five worst teams again, and they are just one game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fourth pick in the draft. The Lakers are still in position to hand Phoenix the 13th pick, but a win tonight could allow the Lakers to pass Portland in the standings. So if you want the win, root for the win. If you prefer the sight of more lottery balls, it might be a better idea to root for a Phoenix loss tonight.