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Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns Preview

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The Blazers travel to Arizona to face the injury-stricken Suns.

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

Portland Trail Blazers (28-35) at Phoenix Suns (27-26)

March 6, 2020 - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out)
Suns injuries: Kelly Oubre Jr. (out), Cameron Johnson (out), Frank Kaminsky (out), Deandre Ayton (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Bright Side of the Sun

The Portland Trail Blazers travel to take on the Phoenix Suns following a win over the Washington Wizards 125-104. Damian Lillard returned from a groin injury to score 22 points, while CJ McCollum also contributed 22 points, and Carmelo Anthony led the scoring with 25. Hassan Whiteside came close behind with 24 points alongside 16 rebounds and four blocks for a double-double, his 48th of the season.

The Phoenix Suns face the Blazers after a loss to the Toronto Raptors 123-114. Devin Booker notched 22 points as the highest scorer for the Suns, alongside 10 assists for a double-double. Rookie Cameron Johnson came off the bench for a career-high 21 points, and Deandre Ayton managed 13 points and 14 rebounds before leaving the game with an ankle injury.

What to watch for

Elevate the game. Damian Lillard seemed to be able to bring out the best in everyone against the Wizards by simply being on the floor. While the Blazers leaned hard on CJ McCollum in Lillard’s absence, it is clear that his leadership makes an enormous difference for this team. His return after missing six games with a groin injury provides a source of optimism for the struggling Blazers.

It’s a trap! On the other hand, facing the injury-depleted Suns has all of the hallmarks of a classic trap game. Perhaps Devin Booker, who took Lillard’s place in the All-Star Game, will dominate. Perhaps the Blazers will suffer another meltdown, despite the return of their leader. At this point, it’s hard to say what could happen, but counting on the Suns to be completely down and out is foolhardy.

Defense. Trevor Ariza and Gary Trent Jr. have both turned in some remarkable defensive performances of late. Ariza is chippy, bringing a veteran’s assertiveness to the floor when it is called for. Trent Jr. is pesky, poking and prodding at every opportunity that presents itself. Regardless of the outcome, they are fun to watch.

What they’re saying

Michael Pina of SB Nation suggests that the Phoenix Suns are finally starting to coalesce.

Devin Booker is 23 years old and already one of the league’s 10 most reliable offensive engines. In just his second season, Deandre Ayton looks more like a two-way franchise center every week. Last year, the Suns performed like a 21-win team with Ayton on the court. Today they’re up to 43, per Cleaning the Glass. Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Oubre are a complementary young wing trio who will alter the entire franchise’s trajectory if their three-point shooting is real. Ricky Rubio is the stabilizing connective tissue the Suns have desperately needed for years, and when he shares the floor with Ayton and Booker they have the same net rating as the Los Angeles Lakers. This is a pretty big deal.