The Forgotten Rivalry Between The Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers

When you think about classic NBA Phoenix Suns rivalries which ones come to mind first? The Lakers, Mavericks, or in my opinion, the most hated of all time San Antonio Spurs. But what about the Portland Trail Blazers? You might find yourself wondering what history these two teams have in the playoffs against each other but there is more than you might remember.

The Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers have met a total of six times in the playoffs throughout their franchise histories. The Blazers lead the overall playoff series at a very close 13 to 11 games won. They are tied 3 -3 for overall series victories, and have both swept a series 3 – 0 against each other.

1978 – 1979 First Round of Western Conference Playoffs

  • This was the first time the Suns and Blazers had ever met in the playoffs in both of their franchises history.
  • The Suns entered the playoffs as the second seed in the west coming off of a strong 50 game win season. The Suns were led by stars Alvan Adams, Walter Davis, Paul Westphal, and Truck Robinson who they acquired in a midseason trade.
  • This was a tough Phoenix Suns team that believe it or not, was the #1 ranked defensive team in the league at that time.
  • The Blazers were struggling without their star player Bill Walton, who suffered a stress fracture in his foot and was out for the season. When these two teams originally met it was still a best of three game series to advance.
  • The Phoenix Suns trailed by 12 points late in the 3rd quarter of game 3 but were able to claw back through tough defense.
  • The Phoenix Suns defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in a best of 3 game series 2 -1. The Suns won games 1 and 3 to move on to the next round claiming the first victory in playoff matchup between these two teams.

1983 – 1984 First Round of Western Conference Playoffs

  • The Suns and Blazers again met in the 1984 playoffs several years later. This was a hard fought series with both teams battling back and forth for wins. The Suns were again led by Alvan Adams, Walter Davis, Paul Westphal, and second year forward / center Larry Nance.
  • The Blazers came into this series as one of the hottest teams in west and the second seed in the Western Conference. They were the 4th highest rated offensive team led by Jim Paxson, and Kenny Carr.
  • Even though the Suns did not have home court advantage in this series, they were still able to defeat the Blazers on their home floor in game 5 in a stunning upset for the home crowd to witness.
  • The Suns won games 1, 3, and 5 to win the series. This was the first game that sparked a rivalry between the franchises after the upset. The Blazer were left very disappointed with this first round exit after high expectations closed out their season.

1989 – 1990 Western Conference Finals

  • Several years later the Suns and Blazers met for a third time in the 1990 Western Conference Finals.
  • The Suns were coming off of a three year playoff drought entering this series. They were coached by the loved Cotton Fitzsimmons and had the youngest team in the league. They were led by high scoring forward Tom Chambers and strong rebounding and defense executed by Armon Gilliam and Mark West.
  • The Suns had newly acquired Kevin Johnson who was quickly showing he would become one of the top point guards in the league at that time. They also had expert sharp shooter and true fan favorite Jeff Hornacek to spread the floor from long range.
  • This team also include rookie Dan Majerle, Steve Kerr, and Eddie Johnson who all contributed at different times throughout the year.
  • The Blazers were led by one of the best guard combo’s in the west in former Suns coach Terry Porter and Clyde Drexler. Their front line consisted of Kevin Duckworth, Jerome Kersey, Buck Williams, and future short lived Sun Cliff Robinson. This was a tough defensive team that made quick work of the Phoenix Suns.
  • The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Phoenix Suns 4 – 2 by taking games 1, 2, 5, and 6 to advance to the NBA finals.
  • The Suns had worked so hard to make it to the conference finals despite the leagues expectations for them and the loss of this series left a bitter taste in the mouths of the young Suns players who were eagerly awaiting a rematch.

1991 – 1992 Western Conference Semi Finals

  • In 1992 the Suns got that rematch against the Blazers at the peak of their rivalry. The Suns had a strong season going into this matchup posting a 53 – 29 overall record. The Blazers were again ranked as one of the toughest defensive teams and had an overall record of 57 – 25 which was just slightly better than the Suns.
  • The Suns quickly fell behind in the series and found themselves in a must win situation for game 3. Nobody knew that this game would go down as one of the best Suns playoff games of all times.
  • The game went into an almost endless double overtime. This was an amazing battle that had the Suns and Blazers trading back and forth throughout the overtime periods. Dan Majerle eventually missed the final shot of the game leaving the Suns with another elimination at the hands of the Blazers.
  • Portland went on to win games 1, 2, 4, and 5 to again defeat the Suns and send them out of the playoffs for the second time in three years. At this point a rivalry between the teams had strong emotions from both sides. The Blazers were a tough defensive team with high offensive power and the Suns just could not seem to get past them in the playoffs over the past few years.

1994 – 1995 First Round of the Western Conference Playoffs

  • Then a few years later the Suns finally got their payback against the Blazers. Despite numerous injuries throughout the season from Kevin Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Danny Manning the Suns struggled through and were able to post a record of 59 -23. This team had high expectations at the beginning of the season and most thought they had a legitimate chance at finally capturing a championship before all the injuries.
  • Clyde Drexler, Clifford Robinson, and point guard Rod Strickland carried the Blazers to a decent record of 44 – 38. They were still one of the top 10 defensive teams in the league and 6th overall offensively.
  • However, after several season of playoff defeat by the Blazers the Suns finally executed their revenge and defeated them 3 – 0. Their high-powered offense proved to be too much for the Blazers.

1998 – 1999 First Round of the Western Conference Playoffs

  • The last playoff matchup between the Suns and the Blazers was in 1999. This was an awful year that featured only 40 games and the dreaded lockout. This was a tough year for the Suns and they struggled to post a record of 27 – 23. Jason Kidd was the lone bright star for the Suns that year putting up league leading numbers in assists and was arguably one of the top point guards already at that time.
  • The Blazers were 35 – 15 and an overall much stronger all around team. They were much stronger defensively and their leading scorers Isaiah Rider, Damon Stoudamire, and Rasheed Wallace carried them through the series. This team was too much for the Suns to handle and made quick work of them in a 3 – 0 sweep.

2009 – 2010 First Round of the Western Conference Playoffs

  • So after all of this Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers history it brings us to Sunday. The Phoenix Suns are coming off an unbelievable year that originally had absolutely no expectations. However, after an amazing year and a complete turnaround by league MVP candidate Amare Stoudemire, the Suns are on a roll with major momentum headed into the playoffs as the third seed.
  • The Portland Trail Blazers have been fighting to keep their heads above water all year long. They might be the unluckiest team in the NBA when it comes to injuries. Injuries suffered to Prizbilla and Oden have made it extremely difficult for this team to live up to its expectations.

Now with Blazers all-star shooting guard Brandon Roy out for the playoffs, the Suns should show the rest of the league the dominating force that they are this year by eliminating the Blazers. This victory should give the Suns the lead in the overall series of franchise wins four to three and continue the "somewhat" rivalry between these two teams. Go Suns!