The Portland Trail Blazers overcame being down by as much as 16 points to take down the Phoenix Suns 111-110 at Talking Stick Resort Arena tonight. It was an ugly start, but it’s not how you start; it’s how you finish. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum scored 27 and 30 points respectively while Carmelo Anthony put up another 23 points, 10 of those coming in the fourth quarter. Ricky Rubio had a triple-double for Phoenix with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists while Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 24 points, including an almost-decisive three-pointer in the fourth quarter.
This game couldn’t have started much worse for Portland. The Blazers started 1-of-8 from the field, the lone bucket coming off a Carmelo Anthony three. Every shot came easy for Phoenix, with quick passing leading to easy buckets at the rim. 10 of the first 13 points for Phoenix came in the paint. The refs were unafraid to blow their whistles, calling early fouls on Portland, including two early ones on Hassan Whiteside. A 9-0 run eventually got Portland back on track, but good offense doesn’t mean good defense. Phoenix ended the quarter shooting 57% from the field, with seven different players scoring for them. Damian Lillard also drew three early fouls and had to go to the bench early, leaving Portland with an uphill climb as they trailed 33-25 at the end of the first.
The Blazers switched to a zone in hopes of thwarting the easy penetration the Suns were enjoying. Unfortunately, Phoenix had no problem generating shots for themselves, with Ricky Rubio orchestrating the offense and helping his teammates get open looks. Phoenix continued to exploit mismatches as much as possible. Points in the paint were all too common, whether they came from Kelly Oubre alley-oops or strange Frank Kaminsky and Dario Saric contested layups. The refs continued to call it tight against Portland, calling 16 fouls on them. CJ McCollum was doing everything he could to keep Portland in it with 18 points in the first half, and the Blazers actually played well offensively towards the end of the second, shooting 50% from the field. Unfortunately, the half ended right as they gained momentum. They trailed 67-59 going into the break
The start in the third was not slow. Damian Lillard hit back to back threes to get the second half started and put together a classic Lillard third quarter. CJ McCollum continued his offensive onslaught. The Blazers were finally able to push back against Phoenix and make the Suns uncomfortable. They finally took their first lead of the game with just under four minutes left in the third and forced a Suns timeout thanks to a Kent Bazemore three, giving Portland a 85-83 lead. Portland’s dynamic backcourt duo helped Portland hold a 90-88 lead going into the final quarter.
Phoenix was not about to go down without a fight. The two teams traded buckets and leads to start the fourth and it would stay that way for the rest of the game. Anthony came up big in the fourth, scoring eight points in the first six minutes of the quarter to keep the offense going and 10 points total. Melo was also important defensively, with several key plays including a big block with four minutes left that led to a score for Whiteside on the other end. . A killer three along with a foul shot from Kelly Oubre threatened to end the Blazers’ comeback, giving the Suns the lead 110-108 with 32 seconds left. Dame was not going to let that settle it, as he drove to the lane and drew the foul while making the shot, giving the Blazers a one-point lead. Rubio missed the three that would have given Phoenix the win. Instead, it ended with a big 111-110 road win for Portland.
Dame and CJ do it again
This looked like it was going to be a strictly CJ game. Lillard had three fouls in the first and struggled to find his shot while McCollum torched the Suns for 18 in the first half. Then Lillard did what he does oh so often does while McCollum continued to play great. They combined for 57 points and this one, with Lillard scoring the game-winning bucket with a and-one layup that gave them the lead. It was a vintage Dame-CJ outing.
Without Carmelo Anthony’s big fourth quarter, the Blazers lose this game. His 10 points in the fourth quarter was much needed in a scrappy fourth quarter. Even though he’s largely been a negative defensively, his activity in the paint was more than welcome here. He was the late-game offense when Lillard and McCollum weren’t doing it. Without Anthony, this game doesn’t end so well for Portland.
The Blazers will face off against the Golden State Warriors next on Wednesday at 7 p.m. PT.