The Portland Trail Blazers got waxed by a hungrier and currently more equipped Phoenix Suns squad tonight, getting blown out on the road 132-100 in a game they will probably try to put behind them as fast as possible.
At least we get McNuggets.
Neither team was bashful in getting its stars going early. Most of the first period could be aptly summarized as “Damian Lillard v. Devin Booker.” Both had it going from the tip. Their teammates did well enough to recognize there was gold in the hills of their respective sure-to-be all-stars methodically picking apart the opposing defense. Booker got the better of it with 17 points in the quarter, but Lillard’s 12 were enough to help Portland weather the storm. Much of the damage was self-inflicted, as the Blazers took a generous predisposition towards ball security, coughing up the ball seven times. Enes Kanter and his at this point entirely expected offensive rebounding muscle was able to mitigate some of the pain, but Suns led 32-26 after the first.
Portland got a big boost from Rodney Hood, who began the second quarter with a clear determination. Hoodie scored the first seven points of the period, instantly erasing the deficit and prompting Monty Williams to call a hasty timeout to find out which of his players failed to read the defensive scouting report. From there, though, the Blazers were forced to sustain themselves on a diet of contested jumpers from Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent Jr., the latter of which the colder of the two. Meanwhile, Booker kept doing his thing. this time joined by Deandre Ayton, who has become a load in the post. Eight points in the quarter, all near the rim, were enough for Phoenix to extend its lead, even after Lillard returned. Suns were ahead 63-54 at half.
The Blazers were able to stay within striking range for about half of the third quarter, but then the wheels starting coming off fast. The two-man game of Booker and Ayton absolutely wrecked the Portland defense, operating at will near the basket while the Blazers themselves went ice cold. With no answer for the desert edition of John Stockton and Karl Malone, the Suns quickly ballooned their lead to 20 and then almost 30 within just a few minutes. Lillard kept on with his usual unyielding-ness, but not even a humongous game from him would rescue Portland from the hole they had fallen into. Suns took a commanding 100-71 lead into the final frame.
The last 12 minutes were entirely of the garbage variety.
The Blazers got a couple of injury scares just possessions away from each other in the first quarter. First Robert Covington took a large percentage of Dario Saric’s forearm to the noggin on a rebound attempt (looked to be accidental), and went down to the floor in pain. Then, Lillard found himself on the hardwood after locking knees with a Phoenix defender. Portland was fortunate; Covington ended up returning and Lillard just gritted through it, as he is wont to do, albeit with a slight limp for a while.
It wasn’t Dame’s best night (24 points, 7 assists, 1-9 3PT), but he didn’t look to be favoring anything after his normal rest, so it doesn’t look to be a concern.
It still feels weird to see Chris Paul playing for the Suns, and if you didn’t look hard, you might’ve not noticed tonight. The 35-year-old shot only 1-9 for 2 points, but still had 9 assists and was a near team-best +20. With Booker and Ayton doing much of the heavy lifting, Paul opted to mercifully give the Blazers a break from the usual fit he causes them.
The Blazers should already be on a plane to Denver to take on the Nuggets tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. Pacific.