Portland Trail Blazers (21-14) vs. Phoenix Suns (24-11)
After a much-needed break, the Portland Trail Blazers kick off the second half of this unique NBA season against one of the league’s best teams. As they continue to play without CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, the team needs to re-summon the form that delivered them a three-game win streak leading into the All-Star break. Tonight’s game could be a telling indicator as to where this team is mentally as they approach the pointy end of the season.
Thursday, March 11 - 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass or see games all season on fuboTV
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), CJ McCollum (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Harry Giles (out) Suns injuries: Cameron Johnson (out)
SBN Affiliate: Bright Side of the Sun
What To Watch For
- Rust or rejuvenation. As discussed above, time off can be restorative and rejuvenating. It can also lead to rust. Tonight’s first quarter will be telling for how the team wants to start its second half run and by extension its push towards the playoffs. What better way to test their mettle than against a young Phoenix Suns team with real championship aspirations?
- Damian Lillard. Unfortunately for Dame, he’s still carrying the workload with returns for McCollum and Nurkic still unconfirmed. Yes, he played — quite well — in Atlanta on Sunday but let’s hope he got the rest he needed in order to keep dragging this team up the standings until his fellow heavy hitters are ready to take the court again.
- Anfernee Simons. “Hail the Conquering Hero!” Portland now lays claim to the last two Slam Dunk champions. Sunday’s winner returns to the court, hopefully with a renewed confidence to keep building his game and edge closer to the player that Neil Olshey has been talking about since the 2018 draft.
What Others Are Saying
Samuel Cooper from Bright Side of the Sun urges the Suns not to rest on their laurels as they get closer to the March 25 trade deadline and the rest of the season.
“The Suns can’t control the health of other teams. What they can do is focus on their own roster and really scrutinize it for improvements. For those of us who watch every Suns game, it’s not hard to think of how this team could be even better. They could use another self-creator off the bench, for example, or another physical big to provide some insurance for Deandre Ayton. Those are just the minor tweaks. You can get much more creative, with a little bit of imagination.”
“But what I recommend most is to avoid falling into the trap of complacency. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might be solid advice for the next social media app that tries to engage in some clunky re-design (seriously, don’t do it). But when you’re engaged in an all-out arms race in this competitive a sphere, that old adage just sounds like a loser’s mindset.”
Chris Paul is not surprised at how well the Suns have performed so far this year, but he knows there is still work to be done, reports Christopher Boan of Arizona Sports.
“Paul knows full well how much is left for the team to accomplish to clinch the franchise’s first playoff berth in 11 years. “There’s a lot left to do to tell you the truth,” Paul said. “And it’s a credit to our coaching staff, the organization and the guys on our team. It’s fun to be around our guys.”
“The 16th-year NBA guard said the team’s turnaround stems from their on-court camaraderie, combined with solid roster construction by the team’s front office.”
Dave King of Bright Side of the Sun says the Suns should feel validated after controversially taking sharp shooting forward Cameron Jonhnson with the 11th pick in the 2019 draft.
“Maybe James Jones was right all along. He got panned for most of his deals in his first year, sometimes in uncomfortably weird ways, and yet those deals almost universally have worked to turn the 2nd worst team in a 30-team league to the 2nd-best in JUST EIGHTEEN MONTHS.”
“Maybe James Jones knows how to build a team, and did all the right things to put that team together.”
“For that 6th overall pick, earned from suffering another bottom-feeding season of loss after loss after loss, he actually came away with the Cameron Johnson AND the 2021 league leader in net-plus-minus in Dario Saric.”