In a game that had one fan saying quietly to himself “Mondays, am I right?” while chuckling (It’s me, I’m the one fan), the Portland Trail Blazers fell to the Phoenix Suns 132-100. Damian Lillard had 24 points but had an overall off shooting night, making only one of seven threes. Nassir Little was the second highest scorer for Portland with 18 points all in the fourth. Devin Booker led all scorers with 34 points in three quarters.
If you need a quarter-by-quarter look at the game, you can see our Instant Recap. Once you’re clued in, here are eight observations from tonight’s blowout loss.
Shots Were Not Falling
Portland’s offense was subpar tonight. That’s not ideal, especially since the offense usually has to be hyper-efficient in order for this team to win (see below for defensive issues). The main reason for the tough night was the poor shooting from outside. The Blazers made only 12 of their 39 threes, which is well short of their season averages.
The three point shot has been even more prominent in the offense this season. The Blazers are second in both three point attempts and makes per game behind only the Utah Jazz. When that isn’t falling, Portland has to find other ways to succeed, and tonight they just couldn’t. It was a difficult night on this end for Portland. And speaking of shooting woes...
Trent Goes Cold
I mean, I guess it had to happen eventually, but Gary Trent Jr. went cold tonight. He was 4 of 18 from the field and 3 of 12 from three. Nights like this from Trent have been especially rare lately. Even when he’s struggled from inside the arc, he’s made up for it by (usually) hitting at least 40% of his threes. He couldn’t keep up his hot shooting forever, and this was the game that brought him back down to Earth. But after watching Trent this season, something tells me he won’t be afraid to let it fly tomorrow night.
Portland’s defensive struggles were far worse than the offensive ones. This was just an egregious performance. The Blazers just looked lost on every switch. The communication was off tonight, and they paid the price for it.
Like I said above, this team needs to be an elite offensive team every night in order to make up for the defensive deficiencies. Otherwise, you get blown out by thirty. Tonight was just an example of the porous defense at its worst.
Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers
The Blazers had an oddly high number of turnovers in this one, especially in the first half. 9 of their 14 total turnovers came in the first half, and it once again stemmed from communication breakdowns. Lillard had six turnovers by himself. It’s not something to be worried about, especially considering the Blazers average the second fewest turnovers per game, but it’s just another thing that didn’t go right for Portland.
Devin Booker In the Post
Lamar Hurd noted during the broadcast that Devin Booker has averaged around 30 points a game against the Blazers throughout his career, and he was right around there tonight with 34. Booker beating the Blazers isn’t surprising, considering the above stat and his All-Star talent. But it was very interesting to see how he beat Portland.
Booker did most of his work in the post. He used his size to take on smaller players and unleashed a flurry of moves to get his buckets. If he wasn’t doing that, he was utilizing the post to find open teammates. He’s a burly guy that isn’t easy to push off the block when he establishes position, and he went to the post up numerous times to punish Portland.
The Rodney Hood Revival...
...didn’t last too long. Rodney Hood looked great in the first half, though. He had nine points and did a lot of his work in the post (though not quite as well as Booker). He used his 6’8” frame to take on whoever was guarding him. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long and he was shut out in the second half. I’m not sure Hood will ever get back to what he was last season before the injury, but it was nice to see that version of Hood for a little bit.
Nassir Little’s Aggression
Yes, it all happened pretty much when the game was over, but I really liked seeing how aggressive Nassir Little was offensively in the fourth quarter. Little had 18 points, with all of those points coming in the fourth quarter. He was three of five from outside and seven of eight form the free throw line. Believe it or not, he looked like the alpha offensively, even with Trent on the court.
There was a lot to like from Little in the final quarter. The threes he made weren’t just catch-and-shoot threes; they were pull-ups with little separation that he just drained anyway. The fact that he even made it to the free throw line eight times in the quarter is impressive, let alone making seven of the attempts. When a guy like Little has struggled to find a rhythm for so long, it’s easy to forget about him. It was nice to see him find his confidence, even if it was during garbage time.
The Sneaky Benefit of Getting Blown Out
Okay, no one wants to be blown out. It stinks to lose by a lot of points. The spin for tonight? The Blazers got to give their starters (except for Gary Trent Jr.) some rest before tomorrow’s match up against Denver. Getting your guys as much rest as possible during a difficult week like this one (Portland plays the Lakers after Denver) is key. So while getting blown out is obviously the last thing you want, at least Dame and company didn’t expend too much energy in a blowout against Phoenix.
The Blazers will be right back at it tomorrow when they take on the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. PT.