USA TODAY Sports
In a game of runs, the Portland Trail Blazers held off the Phoenix Suns to move over .500 for the season.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard with 25 points, 7 assists, and some huge shots late. Nicolas Batum (13 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists) and JJ Hickson (19 points, 15 rebounds for his seventh straight double-double) also had great nights, and LaMarcus Aldridge (17 points, 9 rebounds) was his usual solid self in his return from an ankle injury. Victor Claver had a new career-high with 7 points. But the Blazers lost Wesley Matthews early, who had a flare-up in his hip.
First Quarter: A nice start for the Blazers gave them an early 10-5 lead. They led through most of the quarter, as the Suns ignored Hickson, to their own peril. He burned them repeatedly, nearly completing a double-double before the horn. However, sloppy play got the best of them late, and the hot-shooting Suns finished the quarter with a 2 point lead.
Between quarters, Matthews requested to leave the game, likely due to pain in his hip.
I have to admit it, it just seems like JJ is getting better every week.
Second Quarter: The Blazer bench (plus Batum) started the quarter, and looked surprisingly effective early. On offense, at least. At the defensive end, Phoenix was finding open looks. And their hot shooting from three continued, hitting two in a row for a 6 point lead halfway through the quarter. After a timeout, the Blazers promptly turned it over. That as the start of an awful, awful stretch where the Blazers fell apart, committed 8 turnovers, and the Suns lead bumped into double digits. The Blazers made a run, but two late Suns jumpers helped them maintain a 9 point lead at the buzzer.
The bummer of LMA is that he does so many things really well, but he certainly gets defined by the thingies he don’t.
Third Quarter: The Blazers returned to Hickson on offense after forgetting him for a a quarter. Phoenix's shooting continued to sizzle, but Portland radiated some heat of their own. Aldridge, Lillard and Claver (who hit a three!) combined to rattle the Suns' D, forcing a timeout when the deficit closed to three. Phoenix returned to their unstoppable force: Marcin Gortat, for whom the Blazers had no defensive options inside. His 10 points, combined with a few Blazer turnovers, gave the Suns a 10 point lead again. Game over? No way. The energized Blazers closed the quarter on a 12-2 run, tying the game heading into the fourth.
Every game people are like "DAME'S WORSE GAME!".
Then by the end of it he has a completely respectable stat-line.
Fourth Quarter: An amazing set of passes led to a dunk +1 by Hickson to start the quarter. The game stayed close through the first few minutes, but the "yips" returned for Portland, with more poor plays and more turnovers. Plus a bad night for Ronnie Price. Phoenix couldn't pull away though, as their shooting percentage drifted downward, and back-to-back Pavlovic and Lillard threes gave the Blazers a 7 point lead with 4 minutes left. After a few errors by Portland, Phoenix took advantage, cutting the lead to 3 with 1:20 left. A physical Blazer team stopped the Suns, and at the other end, Lillard took a step-back jumper from the elbow. Swish. A little more strong Blazer defense late, and it was goodnight Suns, hello above-.500 team on National TV. (Hi Jeff!)
Stay tuned for Dave's analysis and Ben's Media Row Report. The next game is tomorrow night, in Sacramento. -- Tim