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Blazers vs. Suns Preview: Turner Out

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The Blazers look to get a win against a surging Suns squad.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (39-26) vs. Phoenix Suns (15-51)

Saturday, March 9th - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Evan Turner (out)
Suns injuries: T.J. Warren (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 Portland Trail Blazers take on the Phoenix Suns following an overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder 129-121. The Blazers, just home from a 15-day road trip, could not close out the win despite a 51-point performance from Damian Lillard. Jusuf Nurkic managed 13 points along with 17 rebounds. The chippy game came to an unbelievable end in regulation as Nurkic was ejected following a second technical foul. After two losses, the Blazers look to bounce back in front of the home crowd.

The Phoenix Suns come to Portland off of a decisive victory over the New York Knicks 107-96. In the game against the Knicks, Devin Booker had a season-high 41 points (shooting 60% from beyond the arc). Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tyler Johnson contributed 18 and 14 points in that game, respectively. The hot shooting allowed the Suns to get out in front of the Knicks, along with some key defensive stops. Coming off of Booker’s great night and a needed win, the Suns could be a reinvigorated squad.

What to watch for

  • Bench scoring. The Blazers’ bench has all but disappeared in the last two losses. This does not bode well for Saturday night, when they face a Suns second unit that has had some recent success on defense. Richaun Holmes, Josh Jackson, and Mikal Bridges have all been performing well lately, and they could pose a problem for the Blazers’ second unit.
  • Turnovers. In recent losses, turnovers have been a contributing factor: 16 versus Toronto, 20 at Memphis, and 14 against Oklahoma City. In games where the Blazers keep turnovers low, they see more success: 13 or fewer appears to be the magic number.
  • The shifting Suns. With the contributions of Kelly Oubre Jr., the Suns have been reinvigorated after the All-Star break. The team has won three in a row at home, including a victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. Oubre provides a one-two punch alongside Devin Booker, and his addition makes the Suns a dangerous opponent — even if they are purportedly tanking.

What they’re saying

Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic covers how Kelly Oubre Jr. has been an important addition to the Suns:

Since arriving in Phoenix after a December trade, Oubre is averaging a career-high 16.1 points per game and brought an aggressive mentality — and more — in helping the Suns to win three consecutive games and four of their last five.

“Unbelievable addition for us,” Devin Booker said.

Over at The Bright Side of the Sun, Dave King outlines what the Suns have coming up and whether their recent successes can continue:

Their remaining opponents have a collective 49.4% winning percentage, starting with Portland on Saturday night and the Warriors on Sunday with a combined 64% win rate. Then it’s the Jazz and Rockets after that. All but one on the road.

Could be a tough week ahead, but these Suns have been fun to watch lately and why not maybe they can keep winning at more than the 20% rate they’ve been feeding us for more than a year.

Kellan Olsen of Arizona Sports examines how Tyler Johnson’s play on-ball has helped open up the Suns’ offense:

Boy, having a player who is just rock-solid and can make the right play does wonders for a team like the Suns who, by default, don’t have many of those guys. Rookies like Mikal Bridges and De’Anthony Melton are on their way to being those types of players, but in their rookie year, that’s a lot to ask for.

Insert Tyler Johnson. While he’s only shooting 37.9 percent as a member of the Suns through 10 games, having another capable ball-handler who can both score and provide for others is immensely valuable to the Suns.