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Game Preview: Top two Western Conference teams square off as Suns play Trail Blazers

Ayton looks to return to redeem early season loss.

Phoenix Suns v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns (6-1) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (5-2)

When: 7:00 p.m. AZ Time

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona

Watch: Bally Sports AZ

Listen: 98.7 FM

DraftKings Betting Lines: Suns -11, O/U 219, Suns Moneyline -540

The Suns enter their matchup against the Blazers having lost only one time thus far this season and finding themselves in a familiar spot: #1 in the Western Conference. That loss? It came at the hands of Portland in the second game of the year. In overtime. With Deandre Ayton at the line, missing a pair of game-tying free-throws. And Jock Landale missed a putback layup.

That’s it for Phoenix.

Since that performance, they have looked crisp, energized, deep, and focused. They have the best offensive and best rating in the league. Phoenix takes all of that and welcomes the Portland Trail Blazers for two games in two nights.

Portland has been one of many surprises early this NBA season. They’ve punched above their weight class and find themselves in the second seed in the Western Conference. They are coming off of a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and will once again be without 6-time All-Star Damian Lillard as he nurses a calf strain injury. This is probably why the Suns are so heavily favored against the Trail Blazers.

But don’t put this team on ice just yet. Anfernee Simmons is proven to be quite the effective replacement for the minutes vacated post-CJ McCollum. He’s averaging 21.6 points-per-game on 43.7/37.1/90 splits thus far this year. He’s coming off of back-to-back 30+ point performances.

Starting Lineups



  • Deandre Ayton (ankle) is PROBABLE
  • Torrey Craig (heel) is PROBABLE
  • Cam Payne (left foot soreness) is QUESTIONABLE
  • Ish Wainright (personal) is OUT
  • Jae Crowder (making burner accounts) is NOT WITH TEAM


  • Trendon Wafford (hip) is DOUBTFUL
  • Anfernee Simons (left foot) is QUESTIONABLE
  • Damian Lillard (right calf) is OUT
  • Gary Payton II (return to competition for reconditioning) is OUT
  • Olivier Sarr (right wrist) is OUT

Uniform Matchup

Both team will be sporting their Statement Edition uniforms.

What to Watch For

Deandre Ayton appears to be healthy enough to start this game. He has been practicing in full this week and will most likely get the nod from head coach Monty Williams.

His matchup against Jusuf Nurkic will be a point of emphasis. Devin Booker versus Anfernee Simons will be another.

Simon has been impressive early this season and has taken advantage of Dame’s absence. Booker, who went for 33 against Portland on October 21, has been stellar as well. Their back-and-forth matchup in this game will be fun to watch.

Fun Fact

When was the last time Phoenix held the #1 seed and Portland held the #2 seed in the Western Conference? November 15, 2009.

Keys to a Suns Win

Ayton’s matchup against Nurkic is always the point of emphasis when you play Portland. Phoenix can match their guard play, they can match their wing play, so the x-factor becomes the matchup between DA and Jusuf Nurkic. Ayton hasn’t had much success against him. Nurk’s size and physicality have overpowered him in the past. Perhaps coming off of some rest, DA can change that narrative.

He doesn’t need to dominate him, he just needs to neutralize him. If he can keep Nurkic off of the offensive glass, clearing space for his teammates to grab boards, that is the definition of neutralization.

If DA goes out and gets 18 points and 9 rebounds, that is a huge win for the Phoenix Suns. The guards of the wings can take care of the rest.


It is of note that this is the second time I have covered a game for Bright Side this season. My first game? Portland. So I’m 0-1. Hopefully Phoenix can pull this one out or David King will never let me cover another game again. At least against the Trail Blazers.

My prediction is the Suns will push their winning streak to six consecutive games, downing Portland at home on the first night of a back-to-back against the same team. Booker has his first 40+ point game, and Landry Shamet will hit three three-pointers.

Suns 122, Blazers 111

When the game is over, join the Suns JAM Session Podcast as we discuss the game live on YouTube:

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