When: 8 p.m. AZ time
Where: Moda Center, Portland, OR
Watch: AZ Family 3TV
Listen: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM
A familiar matchup with familiar faces, this time it’s Jusuf Nurkic and Nassir Little making their homecoming returns. This is the first time in the regular season that those two are making appearances in Portland.
In the preseason, they each played well in a Suns win. Nurkic finished with 17 points and eight rebounds in limited minutes while Little provided a couple of steals in spite of the five points he scored.
Phoenix is looking to start its third win streak of the season while Portland is trying to end its own losing streak.
Suns: Devin Booker, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little, Kevin Durant, Jusuf Nurkic
Blazers: Anfernee Simons, Shaedon Sharpe, Jerami Grant, Toumani Camara, Deandre Ayton
Suns: Bradley Beal (ankle), Damion Lee (meniscus) and Josh Okogie (hip) are OUT. Nassir Little (orbital fracture) is AVAILABLE and Grayson Allen (hamstring) is PROBABLE.
Blazers: Ibou Badji (G League), Justin Minaya (G League), Rayan Rupert (G League) and Robert Williams III (knee) are OUT. Shaedon Sharpe (adductor) is QUESTIONABLE.
Portland is coming off a seventh straight loss, and they’re 3-16 since starting the season 3-3. Through about a quarter of the season, they’re 25th in net rating (-7.0), just outside the bottom five in the league.
Over his first 18 games of the season, Ayton had just four games of single-digit scoring. In three games since returning from an ankle injury that sidelined him for three games, he’s only reached double-digits once, averaging a hair under 10 points per game.
Scoot Henderson, Portland’s top-3 rookie, is starting to find himself, shooting 43.8% on 4.0 3PA over his last four games after a two-game stretch where he came up empty, shooting 0-for-9 from distance. He didn’t play in the first matchup with Phoenix, but he has scored double-digits in five straight.
Phoenix and Portland are at the bottom of the league in fourth quarter scoring, 29th and 30th respectively. The Suns are scoring just 25.0 points per fourth quarter, and that’s after Sunday’s 32 points against the Washington Wizards.
It could be nothing, but the late-game, emphatic dunk from Kevin Durant could be a sign of an “I’ve had enough of this” mentality. It was the 27th dunk of the season (21 games) from the near-seven-footer.
- Jerami Grant is off to a career year so far, averaging 22.7 points with 3P% at 40.2%, each of which would be career highs. Given his length and self-creation, this may be a task for Kevin Durant, who’s been underrated on that end for the 16th year in a row.
- Ayton is underwhelming on defense again this year, boiling over at times for a frustrated Chauncey Billups.
Chauncey Billups immediately called timeout after Deandre Ayton allowed another made basket from Luka Doncic in drop coverage on the first possession of the second half.— Grant Afseth (@GrantAfseth) December 17, 2023
Ayton didn’t give Billups eye contact on the sideline as he spoke with him for a second time in the timeout. pic.twitter.com/io0A7IUTZE
- Blazers have one of the best point guards off the bench in Malcolm Brogdon. He was one of the main catalysts in helping Portland win the first matchup, scoring 20 points (four made 3s) and dishing out five assists. He must be limited in order to secure a Suns win.
Suns come out with a fire, starting two former Blazers, and what little depth Portland has is unable to keep up over the course of the game.
I think we see an especially precise performance from Booker and Durant, calculated and lethal. Booker, especially, has to make good on a poor eight-assist, five-turnover night against the Wizards.
Suns win, 123-107