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Game 40 Preview: Trail Blazers vs. Suns

Game Time: 7:30 p.m. TV: KGW and ESPN

At 16-21 the Phoenix Suns have joined the Portland Trail Blazers in the mushy middle of the league. Compared to the lofty heights they once occupied, it's not pretty. Mind you, they're still pretty good offensively. They're 3rd in points scored, 6th in offensive efficiency, 5th in shooting percentage, 11th in three-point percentage, and 4th in effective field goal percentage. If the Blazers had those numbers they'd have lost maybe three games all year. But given Phoenix's age, personnel, and style of play, they can't afford anything less than first or second in most of these categories if they want to win consistently. They just can't do it anymore.

Meanwhile they sport the worst defensive efficiency mark in the league, bar none. They're so-so getting back on "D" and awful at keeping people out of the paint. Only Toronto allows a higher field goal percentage. They're lousy rebounders too.

When you look at it, though, this is exactly how you'd expect a lineup featuring Steve Nash, Vince Carter (playing the role of Jason Richardson), and Grant Hill to play. And where's the help? Channing Frye? Hakim Warrick? Robin Lopez's jersey title should be officially changed to "Not Brook". Marcin Gortat? Josh Childress?

Perhaps this is why the Suns have a dowdy 5-9 record since the last time they played the Blazers. Perhaps this is also why the Suns' results against Portland this year read like Linda Lovelace's monogram. It makes sense, because against Portland they blow.

Phoenix's best shot tonight is strong games from their perennial Blazer-killers. Nash and Hill have posted prodigious games against the Blazers and Frye and Carter are always dangerous. Much like we saw against the Knicks, if this team clicks on multiple cylinders Portland just can't score enough to keep up. The more they try, the more they tighten up. On the other hand, the Blazers should be able to score easily if they remember that Phoenix is comparatively good at defending the three. Forget the long ball, just get inside. The Blazers cruise against bad rebounding squads, an advantage they should press. Gone are the days when Portland could be stymied by a simple pick and roll. The mobile Blazer wing corps matches up well with Phoenix. Stay in front of them, make them shoot with a hand in their faces, then rebound.

See the proceedings at Bright Side Of The Sun.

Enter tonight's Jersey Contest form here.

--Dave (