The Suns blew out Portland on Monday night at home as Devin Booker out-dueled Damian Lillard and Phoenix’s defense clamped down to hand the Suns a third straight win, 132-100.
To start things out, Portland made the peculiar decision to have Lillard defend Booker, and it definitely was reminiscent of when Brad Stevens put Carsen Edwards out there to get chewed up. Booker started out 4-5 from the field for eight points.
Defensively against Lillard, the Suns deployed Mikal Bridges, who did a good job early making life hard on the MVP candidate. The Suns also blitzed Lillard on the perimeter, using the foot speed of Deandre Ayton to get the ball out of Lillard’s hands. Lillard missed three of his first five shots and coughed up an early turnover.
Devin Booker 6, Damian Lillard 2. pic.twitter.com/GwmC3PEZIa— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) February 23, 2021
At the first timeout, the Suns were up, 13-10.
Booker stayed hot for the remainder of the first quarter, and the Suns needed every point. Even without CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, Portland’s offense is strong.
At the end of one, Booker had 17 points on 6-8 shooting from the field.
As the first wrapped up, Robert Covington hit the bench grabbing his face after getting tangled up with Dario Saric, then Lillard banged knees with Cameron Johnson and labored up and down the floor for a few moments.
The Suns were up 32-26 after one.
The start of the second was a little ugly, with both Lillard and Booker off the floor. Portland went on a 7-0 run. That’s when the Suns started to heat up on their jumpers, culminating when Johnson hit a three with 4:34 left in the period that gave the Suns a six-point lead and forced a Terry Stotts timeout.
They missed a bunch of layups after that stoppage, but Booker responded big time, getting to the basket for an and-1 finish at the 2:22 mark that got the arena rocking.
Booker also hit a baseline jumper going into halftime to give him 22 in the half.
Both teams played to a draw to start the second half, tying 11-11 in the period by the time Monty Williams called a timeout with 6:30 to go.
As he often tends to, Ayton had a great third quarter. He crashed the boards, fought hard against Enes Kanter underneath the rim, and even swatted Kanter’s putback attempt. In the past, stronger guys like Kanter could push Ayton around. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.
Devin Booker highly approves of Aggressive Ayton pic.twitter.com/KxNsQjsLR9— Matt Petersen (@TheMattPetersen) February 23, 2021
The game started to turn into a blowout late in the third. Whether because of Lillard’s early knee bump or the Suns just flat-out being better, Portland couldn’t keep up. Lillard struggled from deep and piled up more turnovers than usual for him, and nobody else on the Trail Blazers picked up his slack. Carmelo Anthony was the only other Blazer in double digits heading into the fourth quarter, while the team went cold from deep and got nothing out of Gary Trent Jr.
On the other side, Booker kept his foot on the gas and the threes did fall for the Suns.
With 1:14 to go, Lillard and Crowder collided, Crowder got called for a foul, then Anthony reacted to all of it and was ultimately called for a technical foul of his own. Booker made the technical free throw and the Suns kept their 20-point lead.
That free throw spurred a nine-point flurry from the Suns in the final minute-plus of the period, including a bonkers pull-up three from Booker as well as a corner three from Johnson. The Booker-only minutes with no Paul continue to be incredible for the Suns lately.
The fourth quarter included an Abdel Nader sighting, a CJ Elleby sighting, and just flat-out way too much Nassir Little. That’s called garbage time, folks. It means the Suns are rounding into form.