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Suns look to close out 2019 with win over Trail Blazers

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Despite just ending an eight game losing streak Phoenix trails Portland by only 1.5 games for eighth place in the Western Conference.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (12-20) at Portland Trail Blazers (14-19)

When: 8:00 p.m. AZ

Where: Moda Center, Portland, OR

Watch: NBATV, Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


Injuries: Suns - DeAndre Ayton (out) ankle, Frank Kaminsky (probable) knee

Portland - Zach Collins (out) left shoulder dislocation, Mario Hezonja (day to day) back, Rodney Hood (out) torn left Achilles, Skal Labissiere (day to day) knee, Jusuf Nurkic (out) leg fracture


Once.

One time this season the Phoenix Suns have strung together multiple victories.

The Suns won three straight from 10/30 – 11/4 against the Golden St. Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers. That’s right, the Suns last (and only) winning streak this season ended on November 4th.

It is now December 30th.

The upstart Suns were 5-2 at the end of that stretch. Those were halcyon times. Since then Phoenix has stumbled along to the tune of 7-18.

All this means the Suns (12-20) will be trying for just their second winning streak of the season tonight as they face off against the Portland Trail Blazers (14-18) in their last game of 2019.

Phoenix ended an eight game losing streak on Saturday night in Sacramento against the Kings. Phoenix came away with a 112-110 victory after Harrison Barnes missed a WIDE open three point attempt as time expired. Let’s think of it as a late Christmas present.

Devin Booker led the Suns with 32 points and 10 rebounds, while Kelly Oubre Jr. chipped in 20 points and pulled down a season high 16 rebounds. Buddy Hield led the Kings with 23 points and Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 22 off the bench including five three pointers.

It was the Suns first win since a 125-109 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 9th... a stretch of 19 days between wins.

A litany of minor injuries, illnesses and suspensions have all contributed to the recent struggles, and once again the Suns will still not be at full strength with DeAndre Ayton missing his 31st game out of 33 total on the season.

I’m guessing I’m not the only person who is pretty frustrated about that whole situation...

**Update: Ayton’s status has been upgraded to questionable since this story published**

Portland probably doesn’t want to hear about it. Their injury situation trumps the Suns.

Zach Collins (left shoulder dislocation) played in 77 games for the Blazers last season. Rodney Hood started the first 21 games this season before tearing his left Achilles. Jusuf Nurkic was a key component for the Blazers last season, averaging 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds in 72 starts, before fracturing his left leg. Even Labisserie, one of four Blazers to appear in all 33 games this season, and Hezonja are working through minor injuries.

Portland still has plenty of firepower. Four time All-Star Damian Lillard is averaging career highs in scoring (27.0) and assists (7.6). C.J. McCollum joins him in the backcourt averaging 22.3 points per game. Hassan Whiteside provides muscle inside and is pulling down 13.3 rebounds a game. Carmelo Anthony is also still starting on an NBA roster.

The Blazers have lost three straight games after winning four straight before that. Their most recent defeat came Saturday night to the Lakers 128-120. Labissiere started, but left the game after just two minutes after hurting his knee.

Portland and Phoenix faced off on December 16th with the Blazers coming away with the 111-110 victory. Lillard made a driving layup and made the free throw after being fouled to put Portland up with 26 seconds to go, then Ricky Rubio missed a three point attempt at the buzzer that would have given the Suns the win. Booker did not dress that game. Oubre led the Suns with 24 points and Rubio dished out 14 assists. McCollum led all scorers with 30.

Booker leads the Suns in scoring this season with 24.7 points per game. His efficiency has increased slightly, but that is down from 26.6 last season. He is also averaging 6.4 assists per game, down from 6.8 last season (which makes sense with the addition of Rubio). Between the fairly stagnant numbers and the Suns record he will need to make a big push to have a chance at his first All-Star appearance. That push probably needs to start right now.

Oubre is second on the team in scoring at 17.4 per game and Rubio is second in the league in assists per game (9.2)

The Suns recent struggles have made this a game Phoenix really NEEDS to win. A week from now the Suns could be in 8th place or 14th depending on how things shake out. Eventually one of these teams in the bottom half of the conference is going to get hot and get to .500 or better. 12-20 isn’t getting it done and the Suns can’t afford to lose more ground if they plan on keeping things interesting in March.

The Suns finish their four game road trip against the Lakers in Los Angeles (24-7) on New Year’s Day before returning home for five straight games against teams with losing records.