Portland Trail Blazers (11-16) vs. Phoenix Suns (21-5)
The Portland Trail Blazers are at home in the Moda Center tonight, taking on the Phoenix Suns who are currently ranked second in the NBA. Portland is in the midst of a rough patch, having lost five straight games and eight of the last nine. While the Suns are also coming off a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, they have been heating up the beginning of their season with only five total losses so far. But if we know one thing about the Trail Blazers, it’s don’t count them out until they’re out.
Tuesday, December 14 - 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: TNT
Blazers injuries: CJ McCollum (out), Cody Zeller (out), Greg Brown (day to day)
Suns injuries: Dario Saric (out), Frank Kaminsky (out), Devin Booker (questionable), Abdel Nader (out), Deandre Ayton (questionable), Jalen Smith (out)
SBN Affiliate: Bright Side of the Sun
What To Watch For
- Damian Lillard, again. The Blazers’ point guard had a slow start to his season, and then battled an injury that benched him for nearly two weeks. But despite the rough beginning to the season, he’s still Damian Lillard. Portland fans know it’s only a matter of time before he comes back strong. In the last matchup with the Timberwolves, Lillard had 24 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists — a stat line that would look good for an average player. But for Lillard, it wasn’t his best night. But for all of us who have watched Lillard’s career thus far, we know Dame Time is coming.
- Shorthanded Suns. With Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and other injuries on the Suns squad, as well as the fact that the team is coming off a game against the Clippers last night, they may be due for some struggle. So far this season in match-ups with the Suns and Blazers, the team with the most rest has won. With the Suns traveling to Portland after a loss in Los Angeles, it might be the perfect time to catch the highly ranked team at a low point. If Portland was going to get a win against the team, this seems like a good time.
- Trail Blazers lineups. In the team’s last game against the Timberwolves, head coach Chauncy Billups shook things up by benching Robert Covington and starting Larry Nance Jr. Billups had previously stated that if things didn’t change, he may be in a position of making changes to the lineups, and he followed through with that on Sunday. But what happens now? Billups could start the same lineup, or go back to the original starters. It’s possible that we could see a whole new combination on the floor as well.
What Others Are Saying
The Suns may be shorthanded, but the Trail Blazers aren’t at a hundred percent either. Dave King of the Bright Side of the Sun summarized it eloquently.
Complaining about Suns challenges to Blazers fans is like complaining a bruise to a person with two broken arms. The Suns are missing some rotation players at the moment (Booker, Ayton, Nader, Kaminsky, Saric) but have been winning anyway with a deep bench. Ayton might even be back on Tuesday. The biggest immediate challenge is not expecting too much from Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet in Booker’s absence.
The Trail Blazers are struggling to improve their defense, with coach Billups at the center of the conversation according to Dan Feldman of NBC Sports.
Among Billups’ challenges: He’s a first-time head coach who hasn’t proven he is doing enough to help his team win. When someone like Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich has called out his players, they know the coach is capable of delivering his part. Billups has yet to earn that type of credibility.
Billups was hired to help fix the Trail Blazers’ woeful defense. But they still rank 28th in points allowed per possession.