The Suns held out DeAndre Ayton, Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio. The Blazers were without Rodney Hood and Nassir Little. Portland increased the minutes for their starters. Easy win, right? Not so fast. The Blazers laid a preseason egg, looking all out of sorts, and making Phoenix look like they’re ready to compete for a playoff spot. Fans seemed nervous by the final buzzer, even while acknowledging the irrelevance of the 134-118 preseason loss.
So what happened? A few initial thoughts.
- It was CJ’s night. First, the good stuff. McCollum was hot from the opening tip, and personally kept the Blazers close to the Suns without getting singed. At one point, the shot clock was winding down, Lillard was blocked, and CJ calmly grabbed the ball and launched from 25 feet. Swish.
- Stotts is playing with the lineups. With Rodney Hood a late scratch, Portland’s coach switched things up, starting Kent Bazemore at SF and Anthony Tolliver at PF. As Portland struggled with their cohesion, the “mad scientist” preseason tinkering is useful to remember.
- There’s no reason to be nervous about Hassan yet. Whiteside still looks out of sync at both ends of the floor. But with a whole new team and system, some growing pains are to be expected, and you’d expect him to settle in over the start of the season. Hold on, some Miami Heat fans are knocking on the door.
- There’s no reason to be nervous about Portland’s defense yet. With the Suns missing most of their core (Ayton, Booker, and Rubio), Phoenix has no problem finding open shots outside of the key. If they got close to the hoop, Whiteside and Zach Collins said hello with their hands. But that didn’t matter to the Suns, who simply kept launching open threes. They hit 24 of them and shot over 50%. Yes, the Suns. Yes, without Booker.
Portland gets a few days to practice, then they head to Utah for a preseason game with the Jazz Wednesday.
Stay tuned tonight, Nate Mann returns to his game night analysis duties this evening, with plenty to talk about.