The Phoenix Suns and the Portland Trail Blazers squared off on Friday night, both seeking a 2-0 start to the young NBA season. The Suns, the team with the best road record in the NBA last season, loss it’s first road game this season.
The game went to OT, and behind the effort of a healthy Damian Lillard, they ended the game on a 7-0 run. Phoenix had a chance to win it at the end, but a missed FT by Ayton — who scored 26 points — and missed putback by Jock Landale ultimately ended the Suns’ perfect season.
The game opened with the Suns starters, playing well as a cohesive unit. Deandre Ayton scored seven of the Suns’ first nine points, including a spot up three-pointer. Devin Booker added 7 points in the quarter as well and Chris Paul seemed much more engaged, dishing out two assists and snagging two steals.
Portland countered with their two primary offensive weapons, one of them being Dame Lillard, who scored 14 points in the first quarter on 4-of-7 shooting. The other is the newly acquired Jerami Grant. He is long and he is athletic, and while Lillard was attacking from the perimeter, Grant attacked the interior.
For the second consecutive game to start the season, the Suns found themselves having foul trouble from their bigs. A couple questionable calls hit Deandre Ayton, and he found himself benched early. Jock Landale entered the game, and he too quickly picked up two quick fouls.
Yes, it felt like this was going to be an officials game.
Cameron Payne displayed quickness once again early, which is a good sign for him. He was often injured last season with leg injuries, which took away his strength: his speed. He had 5 points off of the bench.
After one, the Phoenix Suns, led by three, 28-25.
Phoenix opened the second quarter with a defensive minded lineup as Chris Paul, Damion, Lee, Josh Okogie, Cameron Johnson, and Jock Landale pestered and disrupted the Portland offense. When Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker are on the bench, this is the mindset the Suns must have this season to be successful. They don’t have to outscore the opposition’s bench, they just need to wear them down and frustrate them.
That’s what they did.
Chris Paul might be 37 years old, but he stood in there and was taking charges. This mentality will do nothing but benefit this team if they can maintain their second team defensive mentality. The Trail Blazers had 10 turnovers in the second quarter leading to 13 Suns’ points.
The Suns built their lead on the back of Deandre Ayton. He is looking fantastic to start the season, as he had a stellar first half – 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting – and did so in a plethora of ways.
Ayton shot 7-for-10 in the first half, and no one shot was like another. The Pelicans series really flashed his potential as a versatile and near-guaranteed bucket, especially within 16 feet. He AND Phoenix are testing those waters now. Huge development. pic.twitter.com/QYjAKE64JH— Matt Petersen (@TheMattPetersen) October 22, 2022
It was Dame Time to close the first half as Lillard got into one of his unconscious zones. He was 4-of-7 from deep in the first half, scoring 28 points on 12 shots. We’ve seen this from him before, and when he get that hot, you just sit back and hold on.
Despite his flamethrower-like shooting, the Blazers trailed entering the half, 53-47.
Cameron Johnson was no where to be seen to start the second half as it appeared that a charge he took earlier in the game affected him enough to where he needed further evaluation.
Official: Cam Johnson is being evaluated for the hit he took on the charge.— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) October 22, 2022
Torrey Craig is starting the 2nd half for him. #Suns
He did return with 6:06 left in the third, as both the Suns and Blazers had scored 14 points in the quarter to that point.
Mikal Bridges has looked great in transition thus far this early season. He is attacking the cylinder, and beefed up just a tad, which allows him to finish. He went 3-of-4 in the quarter for 6 points.
The Phoenix defense continued to annoy the Trail Blazers as they forced more Portland turnovers. The Blazers shot well in the quarter — 11-of-22 (50%) — but the Suns capitalized on the extra opportunities.
The third quarter was a back-and-forth affair with neither team giving up much ground. Portland outscored Phoenix 28 to 26 in the period, and the Suns held a 79-75 lead heading into the fourth.
Portland did not lead the entire game, that is, until 10:27 left in the final period as Anfernee Simons hit a take-foul free throw to go up 80-79. What is clear early this season is, in true NBA fashion, players are taking advantage of the take foul. Players are bouncing off of players in transition, and the officials are too stupid to call it what it is. Flopping.
That's a take foul now? What?— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) October 22, 2022
With 8:44 left, Monty Williams put his starters back in with the game tied 84-84. With 7:35 left, Portland was in the bonus. They had been attacking the paint all night, and with the benefit of some friendly whistles, the mid-way point of the final period would be interesting for the Suns to navigate.
The Blazers continued to attack.
Ayton not getting back as Nurkic gets on offensive glass after transition miss. Foul on Paul, his fourth. #Suns timeout. Down four.— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) October 22, 2022
Suns tied the game with 4:05 at 95-95 with a nice alley oop from CP3 to DA. Their chemistry once again looks solid, as we witnessed a their connection numerous times on the evening. Chris Paul was maneuvering and manipulating the defense in an effort get mismatches for Ayton to take advantage of, which he obliged.
Welcome to Clutch Time, an area that Phoenix thrived in last season,
Deandre Ayton had a monstrous block on a driving Dame Lillard with 1:39 left, which led to a transition bucket for Booker...which should have been an and-1. A three-ball Simons put the Blazers up 1, 100-99. Chris Paul responded with a driving layup, and on the next possession, Paul committed his fourth foul.
This put Yusuf Nurkic on the line. He hit both. 102-101, Portland.
Mikal Bridges slipped into the paint and drew a foul on Nurkic, 1-of-2, to tie the game with 37.1 left.
Ayton stole a Lillard pass, Book missed a three, so did Dame and...OT.
Nurkic exerted his interior dominance early in OT, making two shots at the rim, one on a put back. Ayton played well against him all night...as well as he could. Nurk has owned the stats against DA in their 4 previous matchups this season, winning 3 of them, with a +49. He ended with 20 points and 17 rebounds, including 4 on the offensive end.
Booker had back-to-back buckets to push the Suns to a 109-106 lead with 2:46 left in OT, causing the Trail Blazers to take a timeout.
The Suns returned to the court with defensive intensity, have two consecutive team defense sequences that netted the Blazer no points. A missed shot and a turnover later, Portland had the ball down 2.
Dame Lillard hit two with 33.9 left in OT to tie the game at 111. It put him at 41 points on the night.
Booker missed a driving layup, Anfernee Simons hit a running hook, and the Suns had the ball with 7.2 seconds. It was a 7-0 run for Portland.
With 1.2 left, Ayton was fouled by Nurkic and put on the line. He missed the first one. Josh Landale grabbed the offensive rebound on DA’s missed free throw.
The Suns head to Los Angeles to play the Clippers, 7:00pm on Sunday night. It will be an exciting matchup between two teams projected to win 52.5 games this season and will be on NBATV.
See you then Bright Siders!