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Preview: Suns start four game road trip against the Trail Blazers

The depleted Suns face a daunting challenge at the Moda Center.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns
Two guys trailing Lonzo Ball in All-Star voting.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (16-28) at Portland Trail Blazers (22-21)

When: 8:00 PM MST

Where: Moda Center Portland, OR

Watch/Listen: NBATV, FSNAZ, 98.7 FM

Injuries: Suns - Marquese Chriss hip flexor (out), T.J. Warren lower back (out) Trail Blazers - Shabazz Napier lower back (questionable)

Things were looking a little bit better for the Suns 9 days ago.

The Suns were coming off possibly their best game of the season, a 114-100 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and definitely the best game of Dragan Bender’s career (20 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks).

Reality seems to have set back in.

The Suns are now 2-5 in their past seven games with all five losses coming by double digits, including a pair by 23 against the Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers.

One of those two wins was a 104-103 comeback victory against the Atlanta Hawks after trailing by 12 at home in the fourth quarter to the team with the league’s worst record. The other came against the Thunder.

Now the Suns start a four-game road trip against four teams with winning records.

Tue 1/16 @ Portland Trail Blazers (22-21)

Fri 1/19 @ Denver Nuggets (22-21)

Mon 1/22 @ Milwaukee Bucks (23-20)

Wed 1/24 @ Indiana Pacers (23-20)

While none of these teams are destroyers of worlds, the Suns are a combined 0-5 against them this season.

That follows a trend of hapless results for the Suns, who are 4-21 overall against teams with winning records.

Damian Lillard is having another spectacular season despite trailing Lavar Ball’s son in Western Conference Guard All-Star voting. Lillard boasts averages of 24.8 points, 6.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game.

That compares pretty favorably to Devin Booker’s averages of 24.6/4.5/4.4 this season.

C.J. McCollum is also having another solid season, averaging 21.5 points per game on 41.9% from three point range.

The Blazers have hit a speed bump, losing their last three games on a road trip against the Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves. Portland has now fallen into a tie for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

A return home to play Phoenix is probably a welcome sight.

The Suns will once again be without the services of T.J. Warren (back) and Marquese Chriss (hip flexor). That was a recipe for disaster on Bright Side Night, when the Suns trailed by 30+ points in a game that was never competitive by any measure.

Bender followed two solid outings with his worst game of the season, going 0-7 from the field and finishing with zero points and three turnovers in 30 minutes.

Josh Jackson has gone from tyro to pyro since a recent DNP-CD. The rookie scored a career high 21 points against the Pacers and has been in double digits in four straight games.

Without their second leading scorer, Warren (19.7 ppg), the Suns have struggled offensively, scoring 97 points or less in three of their last four outings.

Advanced statistics predict the Suns are about to hit the skids. Phoenix is only one game up on the Memphis Grizzlies for the fourth worst record in the NBA... meaning an 0-4 road trip could place the Suns firmly in that spot by next Wednesday.

Given the injuries and uneven play I tend to agree with the advanced statistics until I see otherwise.

I’m not expecting a win, but I hope the Suns don’t get embarrassed again.

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