A late run wasn’t enough to push the Suns past the Trail Blazers as Phoenix’s win streak died at three in a 127-120 loss to Portland.
The Suns’ effort on the glass was the big story early against the long, physical Trail Blazers. Deandre Ayton grabbed three offensive rebounds early and Kelly Oubre Jr. grabbed two of his own, prolonging possessions and allowing the Suns to get 19 shots up in the first six minutes of the contest.
The problem was no one could hit a shot. Phoenix started 5-19 while Portland managed just a 4-15 start.
The Suns retook the league with 4:25 left in the period when Devin Booker drove and dished to the corner, where Tyler Johnson nailed a three. That chemistry has been huge driving the Suns’ win streak.
More importantly, in Jake Layman’s first three minutes, he didn’t score at all. Richaun Holmes was a big factor when the benches came in, Tasmanian Deviling his way into a nice block on Enes Kanter.
Portland led by just one after one, 24-23.
LAYMAN TIME. The high-flyer quickly finished an and-one attempt to start the period and the younger Curry grabbed Layman’s missed free throw to put the Blazers up five.
Timeout Igor Kokoskov.
Then, a quick Layman pull-up from midrange, followed by a heat check three. This guy really gets up for the Suns.
Meanwhile, Ayton’s new form is here to stay. The big man matched his totals from the Knicks game on Wednesday halfway through the second, with 10 and 6 against the bruising Jusuf Nurkic.
Speaking of Nurkic, the Bosnian Beast posterized Oubre with about five minutes left in what was seemingly a response to me typing that last part about Ayton bettering him.
A WHOLE LOTTA RAISING THE ROOF pic.twitter.com/QSPNfL2oOW— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) March 10, 2019
But the Suns kept battling, hitting the offensive glass and playing with energy.
Ayton and CJ McCollum traded buckets to close the period, each finishing the half as their team’s leading scorer, with 13 and 12 points respectively. McCollum’s teammates provided him better help and Portland went into the half up 19, 66-47, after Booker fouled Seth Curry on a corner three with the clock winding down.
Portland scored a whopping 42 points in the period after a cold start.
With the end game in their sights, the Trail Blazers took aim. Portland started taking wild jump shots but the Suns were unable to take advantage early. The Trail Blazers extended their lead with an early 14-9 run.
The home team’s execution on offense, as on most nights, was too much. Phoenix was playing hard on defense — Booker included — but the Blazers are hard to stop. Every offensive mistake was magnified as a result. Despite nice ball movement and electric scoring from Booker, the Suns couldn’t get the deficit below 20.
After Holmes and Jamal Crawford checked in late, the duo was unable to recreate the pick-and-roll magic that led to Crawford’s career-high in assists in December.
Portland waltzed into the fourth quarter with a 102-77 lead.
The biggest question entering the final period was when Portland would yank its starters. They started the quarter with McCollum at point guard and Curry at the two in a great floor-spacing lineup, building the lead to 29 in a hurry.
Thanks to some hot shooting from Crawford and Mikal Bridges late, the Suns inked this one in on the schedule with a score that will look a lot more acceptable in a couple years when people look back and forget this was supposed to be a blowout.
Yet Portland still won, as expected, 127-120.