All-Star Weekend is a distant memory, the Portland Trail Blazers are back in their own uniforms (home white, to boot), and they're scheduled to take on the Phoenix Suns tonight in a game that begins at 7:00 p.m. to be televised on CSNNW.
The Suns had a four-game win streak between December 12th and December 19th, 2012. Other than that they have not won more than two in a row the entire season and they've only accomplished that modest feat thrice. That adds up to a lot of losing, as their 17-36 record indicates. They currently own a four-game losing streak and have dropped 8 of their last 10...not exactly a sterling resumé.
Like so many lower-level NBA teams these days, the Suns are stocked with decent players but lack a true star. Point guard Goran Dragic is Exhibit A. He leads the team in scoring but only averages 14 per game with 6 assists. Luis Scola still has good games but he's salting in more and more off-nights as he ages. Marcin Gortat is even more inconsistent, alternating between "All-World" and "What In the World?" Jared Dudley...OK. Michael Beasley...not so OK. Markieff Morris: bright young hope. Jermaine O'Neal: clinging to hope. Shannon Brown...meh.
You can find things to like about any of these players. But that's exactly the problem. You have to find things to like about any given Suns player. Nobody leaps off the page (or court) and grabs you. With every one of them you're saying, "He'd be a good get if he didn't have to shoulder as much responsibility as Phoenix is trying to give him."
As one might expect from a lineup that peaks at 14 ppg and dribbles down from there, Phoenix's offense is nothing to write home about. They're right around 95 ppg off of the 27th most efficient offense in the league. Their overall percentage from the floor is fine but they're atrocious from the three-point arc and don't draw fouls...the classic case of the nice guy who's never going to get the girl because he can't score enough extra points. Strong offensive rebounding might make up for their ills but here again they're only average.
The funny thing is, most of the Suns players are known for their occasional big offensive outbursts (which they can do, they just don't do it enough) than for their defensive prowess. Phoenix allows 5 more points per game than they score. The don't have much interior defense and they're downright horrible defending the three.
In other words, Phoenix is scoring in the middle ground, inside the arc but not at the rim. They're allowing opponents to score at the cup and from three, which as every video-game or playground enthusiast knows is the only way to score. That combination is not a recipe for success.
The Suns have been a little krypotnite-ish for the Blazers this year, though. The two teams have split two games with Portland's win coming narrowly and the loss coming hard. Gortat can be a handful and Dragic seems to like facing Damian Lillard. The pre-ASG road trip revealed once again that there's no team in the league the Blazers can take lightly. Nevertheless if this turns out to be a loss for Portland, it'll be another indicator that the heady first-half run this season is long gone. Did we mention the Suns have 5-23 road record? The Blazers should take this game and take it easily.
We're going to talk about this more tomorrow, but a heads up that we have about a month to purchase the rest of the 700 or so tickets we're giving away to underprivileged kids for Blazer's Edge Night, April 17th versus the Warriors. You can help by purchasing a ticket or two to donate. It's easier than ever this year. Simply CLICK HERE for details.
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