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Suns can’t finish comeback, lose to the Trailblazers 124-121

Wild game, wild finish, another loss.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

I’d like to take credit for uncovering key predictors in tonight’s game, such as three-point shooting and guard play. However, that’s more an observation of Portland’s overall style than any cunning analysis on my part.

First Quarter

C.J. McCollum came out firing, taking advantage of a rough defensive showing by Devin Booker early on to the tune of 18 points and 3 assists on a 7/8 shooting. Ouch.

Brandon Knight shot 1/4 and turned the ball over twice in the opening frame, and it had the feeling of those nights where momentum turns tangible, numbers be damned...

Second Quarter

... And then the Suns came back! After citing bench play as a secondary reason for the insertion of Marquese Chriss into the starting lineup, the Jared Dudley-led group roared to life in the second, reducing the Blazers’ lead back to single digits at times.

In particular, savvy shooting from Dragan Bender and typical P.J. Tucker hustle keyed this stretch for the visiting Phoenicians. Scrappy, spread-out play on both sides ended up favoring the Suns, as several open shots resulted from live ball scrambles or broken sets.

Third Quarter

The sloppiness tonight wasn’t just a result of Brandon Knight’s poor first quarter play. The Suns turned the ball over 6 times in the third quarter, and while the Blazers didn’t necessarily capitalize in the traditional way (fast-break points), the clumsiness was a noticeable hiccup in the Suns’ half-court offense.

As a result of this looseness with the ball, the game took on a vibe that will become all too comfortable for Suns fans this season. We’ve all seen it: every loose ball becomes a war, physicality feels out of control and awkward, and experience triumphs tentativeness. That was tonight’s third quarter; the Suns were outmatched by a Blazers team that has been here too often to let a lead slip away so easily.

Fourth Quarter

Tonight’s final period was like the episodes of your favorite syndicated TV show that are never re-run on daytime cable. When you finally get to see them, you remember what made you fall in love, and just mostly wish they’d air them more often. It’s easy to feel this way about the Eric Bled-Show.

17 (!) points, 3 rebounds, and only a single missed shot. Many of you in the comment section of tonight’s GameThread were very unimpressed with Bledsoe’s early-season performance. It’s almost like he heard you; after T.J. Warren and Devin Booker led the team through the first two weeks, Bledsoe took it upon himself to keep the Suns in this one late.

Alas, Confident Damian Lillard reared his head, putting on his best Steph Curry impression and burying the Phoenix Suns. Dame went punch for punch with Bled, parlaying several late-game free throw opportunities into a 22-point final frame. Another area where mere experience and craftiness defined the game.

Even in a close game, Earl Watson was wise to keep the minutes low for the whole rotation. No one played more than Booker and Warren’s 31:10 each. The Suns return home tomorrow night to face the Detroit Pistons, who present very different challenges than Portland and will require another physical performance up and down the roster.

Tonight’s loss was fun, interesting, and promising. All you can ask for.

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