The Suns completed their preseason schedule with an ugly 116-83 loss to the Blazers. Phoenix’s porous defense allowed Portland to explode for 38 points in the first quarter. The Suns never recovered, and faced a double-digit deficit throughout the contest.
Despite the defeat, tonight’s game did provide a few bright spots. Deandre Ayton’s midrange shot was sharp, and Shaquille Harrison was one of the few players who played consistent defense.
Blazer’s Edge contributor Steve Dewald provided tonight’s recap. Instead of gushing over Jake Layman’s 28-point outburst, he provided an outsider’s evaluation of Phoenix’s young talent.
The Suns’ defense was spectacularly poor in the first quarter. The Blazers attacked flat-footed opponents early, and opened up a 21 point lead. Phoenix struggled to match Portland’s pace throughout the contest. Anytime the Blazers got out in transition, the deficit increased. Portland shot 60 percent from the field and didn’t commit a single turnover in the opening period.
Despite being pinned behind a double-digit margin for most of the game, there were some positives on defense. Shaquille Harrison is aggressive. His game needs some fine-tuning, but he did the best job of defending Seth Curry. Harrison pursued close-outs with purpose, and fought through screens better than any of his other teammates.
The Big Fella’s Soft Touch
DeAndre Ayton’s impressive presence in the paint is matched by his soft touch on midrange jumpers. He successfully found space outside the paint, and even hit a few shots over Jusuf Nurkic’s long arms.
Josh Jackson and Ayton showed a glimpse of what a pick-and-roll set would look like between them. Jackson is a force when he moves towards the basket, which will pair nicely with Ayton’s jump shot. The duo will need time to develop, but it is something Suns’ fans should be excited about.
Defensively, Ayton held his own. Nurkic did get a basket over Ayton in the post, but the No. 1 overall pick positioned himself perfectly on the play. It is tough to put too much blame on Ayton for Phoenix’s performance.
Ayton converted three of his four attempts from the field for nine points.
The Dragan Bender Experience
Bender produced a handful of cringe-worthy and solid plays against he Blazers. Allowing offensive rebounds, putting the ball on the floor unnecessarily in the post, and losing his man on defense represent the bad side of Bender. On the plus side, he was able to convert a gorgeous catch-and-shoot three-pointer late in the second quarter.
Bender finished with 7 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 36 minutes of action.
Odds & Ends
Elie Okobo might lack polish, but he doesn’t lack confidence. The rookie guard looked for soft spots in Portland’s defense throughout the game. Unfortunately for Phoenix, Okobo only connected on one of his four shots from the field.
If Troy Daniels is still on the Suns’ roster when the rebuild nears its completion, he could compete for Sixth Man of the Year honors. He is a classic score-first guard that can create his own shot from multiple areas of the court. When Phoenix’s offense stagnated, Daniels kept up his offensive attack. Sadly, his production runs the risk of going unnoticed in Phoenix.
With tonight’s loss, Phoenix finished its preseason slate of games with a 2-3 record. The Suns will open the regular season against the Mavericks on October 17.