Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena; Phoenix, AZ
When: 7:00 pm AZ time (10:00 p.m. EST)
Watch/Listen: Fox Sports AZ / Arizona Sports 98.7 FM (Locally)
Tonight, the Phoenix Suns will take on the Portland Trail Blazers at home after losing a game they simply couldn't afford to drop against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night. The Suns are still three games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder with 10 games remaining. The overwhelming odds are that it is already too late for the Suns to make the playoffs, but a win tonight and against the Thunder on Sunday night could potentially put them back in the discussion, depending on how the Thunder fare against the Utah Jazz on Saturday as well.
Simply put, this is a must win game for the Suns, as is every game from here on out, if they are going to have any hope at all of getting back to the playoffs this season.
Tale of the Tape:
Probable Starting Lineups:
Eric Bledsoe vs. Damian Lillard
Brandon Knight vs. Arron Afflalo
P.J. Tucker vs. Nicolas Batum
Markieff Morris vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
Alex Len vs. Robin Lopez
Injuries - Portland: Chris Kaman (Questionable), Wesley Matthews (Out). PHX: Brandon Knight (questionable)
What To Watch For:
- Now or Never - The Suns have to realize that they have no more room for error, and a loss tonight would effectively end their season. I expect the Suns to come out playing inspired and reflecting a sense of urgency that should be apparent at this point. If the Suns come out with anything less than the energy and intensity you would expect to reflect the gravity of tonight's game, you will know they have already given up.
- Next Man Up! - Speaking to Chris Lucia over at Blazersedge, he mentioned the back-court play of Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas in the past as being key reasons for the Suns' success and tough match-up for Portland. With those two now off to other teams in the midst of their own playoff hunt, that leaves Bledsoe to shoulder the back-court load. But he can't do it alone. He'll need help from his teammates if the Suns are going to have a chance to keep their playoff hopes alive. In addition to Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker, I'm hoping for meaningful contributions from...
- The Archie and T.J. Show - Archie Goodwin has been terrific since being inserted into the regular rotation, and is only getting better. In fact, over the last four game, he is averaging over 10 points in each. T.J. Warren has been a little less consistent, but he has also shown the ability to get hot and change the dynamic of the game with his cutting through the lane, and his nose for the ball...especially when it comes to offensive rebounds and tip-ins. The Suns need all of the help they can get, and a solid showing from the two Suns' youngsters would go a long way in helping the team get a needed win tonight.
The Suns likely understand that their post-season hopes this year are a long shot, at best. Still, Brandon Knight should be back in the starting line-up tonight to give the Suns more offense, and Phoenix has given the Blazers problems over the past few seasons due to favorable match-ups.
But the Blazers are in a playoff race of their own. Not with making the post-season, as they currently hold the fourth spot in the Western Conference standings, but with their seeding, as the 4th-7th spots are separated only by a game at the moment. Portland will be doing everything in their power to hold onto their position and the home-court advantage that they can ensure, at least in the first round.
However, with their backs against the wall, I can see the Suns coming out swinging tonight, and they'd better, knowing that one more loss essentially ends their season.
Tonight, I think the Suns will be reinvigorated with a healthy roster, and a must win game at home, enough so that they will be able to get the huge win that they need to stay alive in the playoff chase...at least for now.
With that, I'll predict that the Suns win a close one, 112-108
For more Suns vs. Blazers coverage, be sure to check out our friends from the Pacific North West over at Blazersedge.com