When: 7:00 PM AZ time
Where: Moda Center, Portland OR
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
What a weekend for the Phoenix Suns, after losing Kelly Oubre Jr. for the season and Deandre Ayton suffering another injury, it looked like the Suns would sink. Instead, they simple came out and picked up two amazing wins, one of which was against the Portland Trail Blazers. With the season reaching its home-stretch, the Suns have a chance to finish on a high note and under-cut the playoff chances of Portland.
Portland Trail Blazers
Points: Damian Lillard (29 points per game) Assists: Damian Lillard (7.8 assists per game) Rebounds: Hassan Whiteside (14.3 rebounds per game)
It has been quite the disappointing season for the Trail Blazers. A team that was in the Conference Finals last year is 3.5 games out from the 8 seed. Injuries and changes to the lineup have affected the team but which team hasn’t faced injury issues this season. Lillard has been playing like an MVP though throughout this difficult season, scoring 29 points per game (fifth in the league) and 7.8 assists per game (6th). His co-star CJ McCollum has also played well offensively, averaging 22.5 points per game.
The team has a lot of offensive firepower with Carmelo Anthony and Hassan Whiteside being productive, placing them at 11th in offensive rating with 111.9. However, the team has been atrocious defensively and by looking at the lineup, you can see their flaws. Lillard, although willing to take the challenge, has never been an elite defender, and it would be a stretch to say above average. Whiteside has had his struggles defensively this year, Anthony is notoriously a one side player and these last few years have made that clear. Even CJ McCollum isn’t that great and you could argue he’s the best one out of the starting lineup due to Ariza getting up their in age. The team’s 27th defensive rating (113.7) has crippled this season but with 17 games left, the Blazers can still make the dance.
Points: Devin Booker (26.1 points per game) Assists: Ricky Rubio (8.9 assists per game) Rebounds: Kelly Oubre (6.4 rebounds per game)
It has been a consistently inconsistent season for the Phoenix Suns. The Suns looked like their season was dead before it started with Ayton’s suspension, yet they still played extremely well during that period. Injuries however, along with inconsistent play from everyone not named Booker have left the Suns on the outside looking in for the eight seed.
Even with the major injuries the team has suffered recently, there’s a lot to like with this squad. Mikal Bridges has played well these last few games, offensively and defensively. Aron Baynes played like Ray Allen possessed his soul against Portland Friday, and Rubio is still racking up assists. Booker obviously has been elite this season, scoring from practically anywhere and not requiring 50 shots to do so. With mediocre ratings on both sides of the ball (16th in offensive rating at 110.3 and 19th with defensive at 111.1), the team is significantly better than their last few years, providing the team with the foundation to relevancy this team desperately needs. Though their playoff dreams are faint, a win here not only cripples the Blazers, but gives the Suns another chance to push forward for it.
The Trail Blazers are less injured than the Suns, they’re on their home court and a loss here cripples their faint playoff dreams. As much I want to pick the Suns, I just can’t see the Blazers losing this game. It’ll be close but I pick the Blazers 115-110.