Time: 7 pm (Phoenix time)
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM
Welcome to another installment of Holidays with Deadpoolio! Today we recognize National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month, which is observed during the month of October. Your Phoenix Suns are doing their part, naming Jay “The Defibrillator” Triano as interim head coach to turn #TheFlatline into something with a few more QRS complexes on the EKG.
The Phoenix Suns (2-3) have packed their suitcases and begin a five-game road swing tonight in the Northwest against the Portland Trail Blazers (3-2).
The Blazers are coming off a heartbreaking 104-103 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday that saw Blake Griffin win the game with a 3-pointer at the buzzer over Al-Farouq Aminu after Portland had mounted a second-half comeback. They are currently two games into a stretch that sees them play 10 of 11 games at home.
After missing the season opener due to suspension, C.J. McCollum is back with a vengeance. He’s leading the Blazers in scoring with 25 points per game and is shooting 52.2 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from 3. That’s tough when the other guard in Portland’s backcourt is Damian Lillard, who is averaging 21.8 points himself, albeit on 38.4-percent shooting. Lillard does lead the Blazers in assists with 5.8. Jusuf Nurkic is trying to find his rhythm with the team, averaging double figures points but doing so while shooting under 40 percent. However, his field goal percentage has risen every game this season. Aminu and Maurice Harkless round out the starting five, with Evan Turner, Ed Davis, and Pat Connaughton providing solid minutes off the bench.
Portland is the NBA’s top offensive rebounding team (14.6) and sixth-best defensive rebounding team (36.8). That translates into the NBA’s leading rebounding average of 51.4 boards per game. To go along with their work on the glass, Portland also has one of the stingiest defenses in this early NBA season, allowing just 96.4 points per game while holding opponents to 42.8-percent shooting from the field and 29.8-percent shooting from 3.
Points: C.J. McCollum (25.0)
Rebounds: Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis (9.4)
Assists: Damian Lillard (5.8)
The Suns are coming off back-to-back wins over the Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz with Jay Triano as interim head coach after starting 0-3 under Earl Watson. They are also 2-0 with Ann Meyers-Drysdale calling games alongside Kevin Ray after going 0-3 with Eddie Johnson. Just sayin’.
Devin Booker is presently the team’s best player, but he has struggled to find his shooting eye early in the season, with his percentages down across the board. T.J. Warren posted a season-high 27 points in his previous game against the Jazz to bounce back from an off night against Sacramento, and the center combination of Tyson Chandler and Alex Len has been doing solid work, averaging 17.4 points and 18.5 rebounds on 56.5-percent shooting. Tyler Ulis has also played well, averaging 12 points and four assists off the bench in his last two games. Marquese Chriss left the last game with a sprained left ankle. If he is unable to go, either burgeoning defender Dragan Bender or rookie Josh Jackson would likely start in his place.
Defensively over the last two wins, the Suns have held opponents to 42.6 percent from the field and 31.9 percent from 3. The first three games saw their opponents shoot 51.5 percent and 50 percent respectively.
Points: Devin Booker (17.8)
Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (10.0)
Assists: Devin Booker (4.0)
Marquese Chriss (Suns): sprained left ankle (QUESTIONABLE)
Eric Bledsoe (Suns): shot himself in the foot at the salon (OUT)*
Brandon Knight (Suns): torn left ACL (OUT)
Davon Reed (Suns): torn left meniscus (OUT)
Alan Williams (Suns): torn right meniscus (OUT)
Wade Baldwin IV (Blazers): right thumb surgery (OUT)
Meyers Leonard (Blazers): right ankle sprain (OUT)
Noah Vonleh (Blazers): right shoulder strain (OUT)
C.J. Wilcox (Blazers): right knee surgery (OUT)
*figuratively, not literally
The Suns are feeling good as they head into Portland riding a modest two-game winning streak. The Blazers, on the other hand, have to be looking for redemption after a difficult last-second loss to the Clippers. Phoenix’s improved effort on defense will face its toughest test yet against the dynamic backcourt of Lillard and McCollum, and Booker, Ulis, Troy Daniels, and Mike James will need to be ready for them. Similarly, the Suns have averaged 50 rebounds per game since the coaching change but will face the NBA’s best rebounding team. Limiting the second-chance opportunities that Nurkic, Davis, Aminu, Caleb Swanigan, and others provide will be vital if the Suns want to start the road trip off right and improve to .500 on the season.
Devin Booker vs. C.J. McCollum
Both Booker and McCollum are known for their offense, but so far this season, both have played surprising defense as well. McCollum is holding his matchup to 40.5-percent shooting from the field while Booker is holding his to a staggering 15.8 percent over the last two games. The player who wins this head-to-head battle will give his team a good chance at coming away with the victory.
Deadpoolio’s Neat-o Stat of the Game Preview (brought to you by basketball-reference.com)
The Suns record for most consecutive wins after an in-season coaching change is four by Scott Skiles in 1999-00.