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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Phoenix Suns Preview

After being beaten badly in Phoenix, the Trail Blazers look to right the ship with some revenge ball against the Suns.

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

Portland Trail Blazers (28-37) vs. Phoenix Suns (26-38)

March 10, 2020 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out)
Suns injuries: DeAndre Ayton (game-time decision), Cameron Johnson (game-time decision), Frank Kaminsky (out), Kelly Oubre Jr. (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

With playoff hopes dimming, the Portland Trail Blazers need to find a spark to ignite the playoff push. As of writing they are four and a half games back with 17 games to play. Tuesday night they will be hoping to start a fire in the original way: with the Sun.

Last time out, the Trail Blazers were run off of their own court by the Sacramento Kings 123-111. CJ McCollum had 19 points, but he and Damian Lillard combined to shoot 3-of-17 from three, and McCollum let his frustration boil over into a scrum with Kings center Alex Len. Bogdan Bogdanovic put up 27 to lead the Kings.

For the Phoenix Suns, they used the momentum from their victory over Portland to stun the Milwaukee Bucks 140-131. Devin Booker led the way with 36 as four Suns starters scored 20 or more. Khris Middleton scored 39 for Milwaukee, who were without star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo due to a knee injury.

What to watch for

  • Reverse Course. The swing of the pendulum is definitely not in the Blazers’ favor right now. They have lost eight of their last 11 games and find themselves in a precarious position outside the playoffs. The Suns recently beat Portland and just took down the team with the NBA’s best record. Phoenix would like nothing more than to come into town and continue their upward push towards next season. The Trail Blazers need to dig in their heels, stand their ground, and fight like their playoff lives depend on it. Because at this point they do.
  • Ignite the Three. While the defense was lacking against Phoenix in their last tilt, the three-ball was falling for the starters. A chance to get back on track from range will be just what the doctor ordered after the starters shot just 5-of-24 from three against Sacramento.
  • Make the Adjustment. The Suns got all of their momentum last time out by the supernova start by Aron Baynes, who hung a career-high 37 on the Blazers, mostly through uncontested or lightly contested threes. Whether that means forcing Hassan Whiteside to head to the perimeter and expose the lane, or to even consider bringing in Wenyen Gabriel or Caleb Swanigan for extended stretches, Portland cannot allow Baynes to do that again. The issue lies in that all five Phoenix starters can shoot from three reliably. There is nowhere to hide a center that cannot makes plays on the perimeter.

What they’re saying

Dave King of Bright Side of the Sun asks if Phoenix is finally putting it all together:

Three days later, the Suns now have perhaps their most impressive back-to-back wins of the season, and they did it on their home court, in front of excited, win-starved fans finally given a reason to out-cheer the bandwagoners there to see the road team.

Katherine Fitzgerald of the Arizona Republic talks about the Suns’ plan with the return of star center DeAndre Ayton:

The Suns are 24-38, good for 13th in the Western Conference. Still, Williams’ desire to get Ayton back was not about giving the second-year player more time in his system, but rather about results.