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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Phoenix Suns Preview

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Portland needs a win, but they’ll have to do it even more short-handed.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (14-19) vs. Phoenix Suns (12-20)

December 30, 2019 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Skal Labissiere (out), Mario Hezonja (questionable)
Suns injuries: Deandre Ayton (questionable), Frank Kaminsky (probable)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA TV
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Bright Side of the Sun

The good vibes the Portland Trail Blazers were feeling a little over a week ago have largely dried up, a function of three losses in a row and yet another injury to a big man. Fortunately for the Blazers, the Phoenix Suns are in town. Additionally, although the Blazers lost their last game 128-120 to the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland played reasonably well and fought to the end, a promising sign that perhaps yet another key injury can’t keep the Blazers completely down.

The Phoenix Suns don’t have a lot of promising signs to hang their hats on right now. Losers of eight of their last nine games, the Suns have already started to shake their heads and are asking where it all went wrong. If there is a ray of hope shining down on the desert, the Suns did win their last game, 112-110 over the Sacramento Kings. Can the Suns win two in a row? Probably not, but with the Blazers short-handed and rather short-statured, anything can happen.

What to watch for

  • Next man up. With Skal Labissiere watching this one from home, the Blazers’ thin lineup got even thinner. Over the last few weeks Skal has regularly been getting 20 minutes or more per game. Who is going to pick up the slack? Anthony Tolliver would seem to be the logical choice, but he’s already getting close to 20 minutes per game. Carmelo Anthony is playing over 30 minutes most games, so it seems unlikely that he’ll be taking on even more minutes. Mario Hezonja’s bad back and bad play seems to rule him out of taking too many of Skal’s minutes. Who does that leave? Welcome back to town, Moses Brown! Don’t be surprised to see Moses getting some real minutes, ready or not.
  • Points. Both of these teams can score. Neither team can stop anybody. Portland gives up 113.7 points per game while Phoenix leaks 115 per game. On the other hand, the Suns have gone three games in a row giving up less than 115 points. Perhaps this won’t be such a high-scoring game after all? Nah, both teams are going to score a ton.
  • Assists from the Suns. Phoenix isn’t very good statistically in most categories, but they do lead the NBA in assists at 28.3 per game. The Suns like to spread the ball around and get lots of players involved. In fact, Phoenix has seven players averaging double-figures, compared to just four active players for the Blazers. Ricky Rubio is the main provider, averaging 9.2 assists per game. At the other end of the spectrum is the Blazers, worst in the Association at 19.7 per game. What does it all mean? Not much, really. Portland has shown it can win without many assists if their stars are shooting well. While more Portland assists would be welcome, matching the Suns on the night probably isn’t in the cards. Enjoy the contrast in styles, but assists aren’t going to decide this game.

What they’re saying

How is the Suns’ season going? Let’s check in with Adam Maynes at Valley of the Sun:

First off, if you believe otherwise, or if you think that it is too negative to think otherwise, I want you to grow up, stop lying to yourself, and accept the truth:

This. Team. Is. Not. Good.

Read it again.

This. Team. Is. Not. Good.

Now I want you to say it out loud:

This. Team. Is. Not. Good.

I am sure you’ll agree that what we really need is more Kevin Love trade talk. This time, it doesn’t involve Portland! Jeremy Cluff of the Arizona Republic has a round-up of folks around the NBA talking about the possibility of Love being traded to the desert:

One of the team’s most talked about in relation to the Cleveland Cavaliers forward? The Phoenix Suns.

The NBA franchise continues to come up in speculation surrounding the former All-Star, who is 31.

Phoenix fans would really love Devin Booker to be an All-Star, but Samuel Cooper of Bright Side of the Sun writes that it isn’t terribly likely:

On paper, Devin Booker should be an All-Star. He’s averaging close to 25 points and 6 assists on a career high 62% true shooting. His advanced metrics are better than they’ve ever been. His team is better than it’s ever been. But this is the Western Conference. So as obvious as it seemed 10 games ago that Booker would finally make his first All-Star appearance in February, now things don’t seem so certain.