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Game Preview: Suns looking to avenge December 19 loss to the Trail Blazers, will do so without Durant

It was a hard pill to swallow when Phoenix lost 109-104 two weeks ago

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

Who: Phoenix Suns (17-15) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (9-22)

When: 7:00pm AZ Time

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ

Watch: 3TV and Arizona’s Family Sports

Listen: KMVP 98.7 FM


Happy New Year Suns fans!

The 2024 calendar kicks off with a game against a team that has struggled all season in the Portland Trail Blazers. They have won just nine games this season, but one of those games was a victory over the Phoenix Suns two weeks ago. It was a game in which the discombobulation of the Suns on offense was amplified by miscommunication on defense. it was a disappointing loss to say the very least.

Just two weeks later, however, Phoenix finds themselves on a three-game winning streak after defeating a talented young Orlando Magic team on New Year’s Eve. The Big Three is playing together and, quite simply, looking pretty darn good.

On the other side of the ball, the Trail Blazers are hampered by injuries. One of the most notable is that of $32 million-a-year center Deandre Ayton, who has been ruled out for this game. In turn, the team has had to play Toumani Camara, the 52nd overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft by the Suns. Toumani has played in 31 games, starting 22, and averaged 7 points and 4.8 rebounds.

Currently, the season series is tied between Phoenix and Portland at 1-1, and the teams will meet for a final time on January 14.

Kevin Durant was a late scratch for this game, which The Atheltic’s Shams Charania let us know that he would be out with hamstring soreness.

Kevin Durant will miss his fifth game of the season as he rests up. Is this something the Suns should be concerned with? Preliminary reasoning says no. Portland will be without numerous players and, seeing as Phoenix is coming off of a back-to-back, this is an ideal rest day for the 35 year old forward.

Probable Starters

Injury Report

Suns:

  • Eric Gordon - QUESTIONABLE (Right Calf Soreness)
  • Kevin Durant - OUT (Right Hamstring Soreness)
  • Nassir Little - OUT (Left Knee Soreness)
  • Damion Lee - OUT (Right Meniscus Surgery)

Trail Blazers:

  • Duop Reath - DOUBTFUL (Back)
  • Shaedon Sharpe - QUESTIONABLE (Abductor)
  • Toumani Camara - QUESTIONABLE
  • Anfernee Simons - OUT (Illness)
  • Deandre Ayton - OUT (Knee)
  • Robert Williams - OUT (Knee)

Uniform Matchup

What to Watch For

Keep your eye on Jerami Grant. In six of his last eight games against the Suns, he has logged at least 21 points. Given how depleted this team is offensively, he will most likely be the offensive catalyst for the Trail Blazers, and he can heat up quickly.

Phoenix needs to focus on their perimeter defense. Portland isn’t the best from beyond the arc — they enter shooting 35.8% from deep — but that doesn’t matter when you play the Suns. Someone will get hot if you do not protect the three-point line. Desperate teams begin chucking, and if you aren’t there to disrupt their rhythm, they start falling. See: the Suns gave up 119 points and 23 threes to the Hornets!

Key to a Suns Win

You don't want to overly simplify things but to defeat the Trail Blazers you must. Be you. Be the team you are supposed to be. Avoid playing to the level of the competition, of playing complacent basketball, of thinking you are better than them and therefore not playing with the edge or effort you need to win.

Phoenix is the better team. Portland is banged up, bruised, and down. Keep them there through engaged basketball.

Prediction

Portland has lost their last four road games. Let’s make it five.

Suns 125, Trail Blazers 115

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