I am celebrating Hanukkah/Thanksgiving with friends in Phoenix, AZ and decided to go see the Portland Trail Blazers at the US Airways Center. Thought it would be cool to see the Trail blazers go for their 12th win in a row.
Well, it was a Happy Hanukkah for the Suns but Steve Smith's, "Ice up, Son. Ice Up!" for the Trail Blazers
Here are my 10 Observations in watching the 106-120 loss.
1. Goran Dragic just made Blazer guards his b*tches to a tune of 31 pts and 10 assists. He consistently got by Blazer guards and into the paint. This collapsed the defense and allowed the rest of the Suns to park out by the 3 pt line. I'm sorry but Damian Lillard has trouble with guards who are adept ball-handlers and good at getting penetration. This isn't the only game where I've observed this. I mean, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker make a lot of young point guards look silly but Dragic is a different story. He's good but not THAT good. Heck, Eric Bledsoe wasn't even playing in this game! Williams is bad at D as we all know, however, I would have liked to have seen Watson get more minutes and see if he could have done a better job against Dragic and maybe even initiated the offense a bit more cleanly than shoot 'em up Williams.
2. The US Airways Center is a fine arena with 300 level seats giving a great view of the court. However, the 300 level hallways were like a ghost town. Pretty empty until you hit a couple of concessions. Even the Rose Garden (Moda my Yoda) on its bad days were louder and more exciting than this haunted house. Also the outside entrance looks like a mall entrance. I honestly thought I was going to a city mall when I was walking up.
3. A lot of empty seats but the crowd that was there was pretty chirpy and loud when the Suns starting lighting up the Blazer Menorah. It was a good holiday atmosphere. For a Suns fan that is.
4. LaMarcus was just awesome. While, Dragic was killing the Blazers guards, LA was crushing the Suns' forwards. When LA decides he wants the ball and in the post, LA is nearly unstoppable. Not quite Dirk unstoppable but not that far off. I'd put him at least on equal level of Kevin Garnett when he was in his prime. LA's length and turn around jumper might be approaching Rasheed Wallace level. Because its definitely impossible to block. Lillard may be the future but LA is by far and away the best player on the team and maybe the best power forward in the game.
5. Mo Williams is a necessary evil for this Blazer team. The dude is going to either shoot you into games (like vs the Spurs) or simply look like erratic and selfish like in this game. I personally think Mo Williams is an explosive shooter who you need for an anemic bench. You might argue that Will Barton will one day be that player but he is not on any level close to Williams as a shooter.
6. Love the Morris twins. I think this Suns offense really fits their skill sets as stretch Power Forwards. The "good" Morris (Markieff) had a quieter night compared to the "bad but improving" Marcus Morris who had 25 pts. They handle the ball well and can both shoot it from the outside. They and Channing Frye made Robin Lopez like Sponge Bob soaking in cement.
7. Jeff Hornacek reminds me of Terry Stotts but without a bad track record. Hornacek may not have the physical post players that coaches tend to covet but he does have a lot of finesse power forwards and skill position players who are great outside shooters. Like Stotts, Hornacek plans offensively around his given personnel rather than forcing his players into a system. They are well coached and playing hard but you can easily see that they have no real desire or perhaps game plan in playing sound defense. This Suns team will need some better defenders before they can even sniff the playoffs.
8. Robin Lopez had one of the worst games I've seen him play. Despite his double-double, Lopez was ineffective on defense and made some key errors on offense when he was isolated one-on-one. Frankly, Lopez is limited athletically especially in foot speed. He was mis-matched vs every single Suns forward or center who popped out for a three. Even Plumlee did well against him. Its against teams like this that you do wish you had an Omer Asik and a Joakim Noah.
9. I really liked that Stotts put in his bench instead of leaving the Blazer starters in for the final five minutes. It was pretty obvious that the Suns were hot and were not cooling off. I thought Robinson played hard during his limited time. I think if he could just put it together and add some moves, the guy could be fun to watch. Alan Crabbe and Will Barton were ready to go. I'd like to see more of them. Feels like it might one day be the finale of Survivor Island for those two. They both play shooting guard and I think only one of them will be with the team in the next two years. Meyers was Leonard again. He looks skilled offensively but kinda like a tweeking rabid squirrel on defense. Dude falls for every pump fake possible.
10. Please read Dave's analysis for more details. He's pretty spot-on. The Suns are just the perfect mis-match for the Blazers. Better hope the Trailblazers don't face them in the playoffs. Overall, I enjoyed watching the game live in Phoenix and hopefully they play the Suns better next time.
BONUS OBSERVATION: There were some but not many Blazer fans. The band wagon hasn't really taken off like Paul Allen's OTHER team.