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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Phoenix Suns Preview

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The Blazers continue a home-heavy stretch of games when the Phoenix Suns come to town tonight.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (3-2) vs. Phoenix Suns (2-3)

Saturday, October 28th - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Noah Vonleh (out), Meyers Leonard (out)
Suns injuries: Marquese Chriss (day-to-day), Eric Bledsoe (team suspension), Alan Williams (out), Davon Reed (out), Brandon Knight (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Bright Side of the Sun

The Trail Blazers host the Suns tonight at the Moda Center just 11 days after Portland opened its season by beating the brakes off Phoenix in historic fashion.

A lot can change in a week, however.

Since the Blazers walloped the Suns by 48 points last week, they’ve had some drama down in the desert. Let’s recap:

  1. Coach Earl Watson was fired after three games.
  2. Eric Bledsoe and GM Ryan McDonough have been feuding for days, resulting in the unhappy guard’s indefinite suspension.
  3. Rookie Josh Jackson got fined $35,000 for making a menacing gesture at fans.

Still, with former Blazers assistant Jay Triano taking over for Watson earlier this week, Phoenix has ripped off a two-game win streak. In that time, the Suns have seemed like a different team than the one that got spanked on opening night. Don’t get it twisted, though; although talented and playing better lately, they’re still a developing squad with their hopes pinned to a handful of players—Devon Booker, Marquese Chriss, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, T.J. Warren, Tyler Ulis, et al.—who weren’t even born yet when Phoenix made its last trip to the NBA Finals in 1993.

What to watch

  • Phys. Ed gobbling up the boards. Blazers reserve big man Ed Davis is No. 2 in the NBA in offensive rebounding percentage, No. 8 in defensive rebounding percentage and No. 3 in overall rebounding percentage, according to NBA.com. The Suns are an average rebounding team, at best, while Portland is top-6 on the glass on both ends of the floor.
  • Ball movement...? The Suns were really bad at assisting teammates to start the year, and though improved, still rely on isolation scoring. The Blazers haven’t been much better at sharing the ball: through five games, their 19 assists per game ranks them No. 27 in the league.
  • Dame and CJ should score...a lot. The Blazers’ starting backcourt is averaging a combined 47 points per game this year and will be looking to put Thursday’s heartbreaking loss to the Clippers behind them. Booker should get his, too, but the home squad has the advantage tonight.
  • Will Jusuf Nurkic bounce back? The Bosnian Beast has come out somewhat flat this year relative to expectations, averaging 12.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and nearly four turnovers per game so far while shooting below 40 percent. He should eventually turn things around...will this be the night?

What they’re saying

Triano is channeling his inner Sarge as interim coach of the young Suns, reports azcentral.com’s Scott Bordrow:

If there’s one trait Triano has shown in his short time as the Suns head coach, it’s a willingness to hold his players accountable, to tell them things they don’t necessarily want to hear but need to hear. Chriss, for example, said after Monday’s shootaround that Triano told him he had been playing lackadaisical and without enough energy.

“He’s pretty blunt and straightforward,” Chriss said. “I think him telling me that made it real. That’s the way the world is. Not everything you hear is positive, but it can benefit you.”

Blazers coach Terry Stotts and Triano go way back, according to Craig Grialou from arizonasports.com:

Though he’s been back several times since, Triano is looking forward to his return to Portland, where for four seasons he was Terry Stotts’ lead assistant. Together, the two helped guide the Trail Blazers to three playoff appearances, including a pair of trips to the conference semi-finals.

In 2016, Triano left Portland to join Watson’s staff.

“Good memories. We’re still good friends,” Triano said, referring to Stotts. “He’s the first guy to congratulate me on the wins the last couple of days and also remind me that the streak will end at two.

“We have such a good relationship. It’s easy-going and it’s fun. I learned a lot from him. When you’re in battles with somebody everyday trying to figure out strategies for four years, you build a great bond and not just with Terry but with the rest of the staff in Portland.”