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Game Preview: Suns visit Portland aiming to build after beating LA

Phoenix looks to keep Billups from getting his first win as a head-coach in the NBA.

NBA: Preseason-Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (0-1) @ Portland Trail-Blazers (0-1)

When: 7:00 p.m. AZ Time

Where: Moda Center

Watch: Bally Sports Arizona / NBA TV

Listen: 98.7 FM


After a less than normal afternoon of news around the organization, it was nice to have such a routine victorious visit to Los Angeles. Now the Phoenix Suns look to follow their first win of the season on the second night of a back-to-back in Portland while the Blazers try to find their footing after a tough loss on their opener.

Last night’s game felt a bit like a nostalgia trip to the round 1 of last year’s playoffs for the Suns, with a big lead, fiery chats to the bench and LeBron James giving up on his team a couple of times in the third quarter. The Suns should feel good after that win, even after the Lakers late push, but will have to quickly move forward and focus on a Billups-led Portland team, in order to move above .500 for the first time this season.

Dame and his teammates will look to make it hard on them, exploring a significant rest and home court advantage as they look for their own first win of the season and Chauncey Billups’ first career win as head coach in the NBA, after a disappointing home loss to Sacramento on Wednesday.


Projected Starting Lineups

Suns:

  • Chris Paul
  • Devin Booker
  • Mikal Bridges
  • Jae Crowder
  • Deandre Ayton

Blazers:

  • Damian Lillard
  • CJ McCollum
  • Norman Powell
  • Robert Covington
  • Jusuf Nurkic

Injury Report

Suns:

Dario Saric (out);

Cameron Payne (out)

Blazers:

N/A


Suns Report

The Suns had the game under control for most of the night in LA, but at no point it seemed to be a relaxed win for Phoenix. Even after being up by as much as 32, we still could not rest our starters at the end of the fourth. Now, after a tense, physical game just last night, the Phoenix squad looks to shift their focus to a Blazers team that has been struggling since last year.

Booker seemed to bounce back after a tough start to the season as he is clearly still getting his conditioning and rhythm back. Bridges had a great game on both ends of the floor, and the whole team seemed to be clicking as they were last season, with ball movement playing a big part on their win. The team should be able to keep this up, as the Blazers defense will likely allow it.

Speaking of defense, Bridges will move from guarding LeBron James to being the man responsible for keeping tabs on Damian Lillard, while he looks to keep up his offensive production after an effective 21 point effort.

Ayton, on the other hand, should look to exploit Nurkic (lack of) defensive prowess. He has been his usual inconsistent self so far this season, so after two mediocre games, he should be due a big one soon. Crowder is also due a big shooting night, as he is now 1-11 from 3 in the first two games of the season.

Finally, it will be interesting to see Monty’s response to a possible small ball line-up from the Blazers, as he has already tinkered with a Nader-Crowder-Johnson frontcourt for a short stint of the game with the Lakers.


Blazers Report

Portland is coming off a home loss to the Kings 124-121 on their season opener, and the three point deficit makes it seem like it was closer than it actually was. Lillard’s team trailed for most of the game and entered the fourth quarter down 15. They rallied back, yes, but could not close out the Kings, who rode a career night from Harrison Barnes (36 pts, 8 3FG) and had great contributions from Fox (27 pts) and former Sun Holmes (21 pts, 11 reb).

CJ McCollum (34 pts) was the bright spot for the Blazers, who seem to be struggling defensively just as much under Billups as they were under Terry Stotts. Lillard and Nurkic both added 20 points a piece, but Dame went 0-9 from 3 for the whole game. Expect him to come out firing against the Suns.

After a winless preseason where they lost by an average of 23.7 points, including a visit to the Valley where they lost to the Suns 119-79, the Blazers will look to capitalize on their home court advantage and their significant rest advantage to fight for their much needed first win of the season.


Prediction Time

A good start will be important, as the Blazer will be looking to bounce back and Dame will likely be looking for his shot, but Phoenix should be able to handle this Portland squad, even coming off a back-to-back. If the Suns can rely on their defense, Portland will allow the Suns offense to take control at one point or another.

Suns 122, Blazers 110

Let’s see if Monty and the Suns can keep Billups from his first win as a head coach.