CJ McCollum had 25 points, and Hassan Whiteside had 23 points, 20 rebounds, and 4 blocks, but the Portland Trail Blazers were cooked to perfection in Arizona, falling to the Phoenix Suns, 127-117 Friday night. Aron Baynes had a career-high 37 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Suns, who led by as many as 26 at one point. Damian Lillard rallied the team to within eight late in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough.
Here are tonight’s takeaways:
- Running Away: Both teams traded momentum on both ends of the pendulum, with the Suns starting the game hot, then Portland rallying in the second quarter with a 20-0 run at one point, only for Phoenix to come right back in the third quarter with another long run involving four Trail Blazer turnovers in six possessions over a stretch. Far too often the Blazers let one turnover or bad play compound into a second and a third, and it hurt them all night long. Overall, Portland had 15 turnovers, but many of them were unforced.
- The Baynes of Their Existence: One issue that has plagued Portland this season is when a big can shoot from three-point range, as Whiteside has been reluctant to follow them out to the perimeter. As a result, Aron Baynes went on a nightmare tear in the first quarter with 16 points, including 4-of-4 from three. The worst was how uncontested the shots were, with at most the Blazers giving token resistance. Baynes tied the Suns team record with nine threes total.
- Not Full Power: Damian Lillard played in his second game back from injury, but it was clear that the groin injury that shelved him since before the All-Star Game was still present and affecting his play. He was clearly grimacing after drives. Lillard is a fiery competitor, but if the Blazers sink lower in the standings it may be worth it to rest him more to prevent long term damage. He scored 24, but on 6-16 shooting.
No rest for the Blazers, who play the Kings tomorrow night in Portland.