While the Blazers have lost seven in a row, the Suns aren’t exactly setting the world on fire. They’re losers of four of their last six with unconvincing wins over the struggling Warriors and the laughable Washington Wizards... and most of those games happened WITH the services of Bradley Beal, the $251 million dollar man who’s played just six games this season before being sidelined a few days ago with an ankle injury.
The Blazers, meanwhile, are mostly healthy and seem on the verge of eking out a win. While I’m not a betting man, the vibes are feeling like a Blazers win against a Phoenix team struggling under the weight of expectations that Portland is blissfully unaffected by this season.
Phoenix Suns (14-12) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (6-19) - Tue. Dec. 19 - 7 p.m. Pacific
How to watch on TV: Root Sports, NBA League Pass
Trail Blazers injuries: Robert Williams III, Ibou Badji, Rayan Rupert, Justin Minaya (out); Shaedon Sharpe (questionable)
Suns injuries: Bradley Beal, Josh Okogie, Damion Lee (out); Grayson Allen (probable)
Suns SBN affiliate: Bright Side of the Sun
Blazer’s Edge Reader Questions
As has been Blazer’s Edge tradition since Steve Jobs tricked us all into thinking the original iPhone was actually working on stage as well as it did in real life, we’re asking you all to toss some questions at us for the game previews! Look for posts just like this one the night before the game, and we’ll plan to pick one or two (or more!) every game and answer them as best we can. With no further delay...
Are all trades final? j/k mostly
If you’re asking whether the Phoenix Suns can have Toumani Camara back, the answer is no, they may NOT have Toumani Camara back. It’s wild to me that a player who AS A ROOKIE can play lockdown defense on the greatest shooter of all time - to the point where the opposing broadcast is calling it out - was included as a throw-in. It’s still early, but the Suns’ front office might have ended making one of the most under-reported trade fumbles of all time.
From Name’s Ash:
Nurk gets hit in the face a lot. Which Blazer will do the deed?
He sure does! Seems like a weird pick, but I’m going with Scoot Henderson for no other reason than Scoot’s explosiveness and propensity for finding the paint make a matchup with Nurk’s forehead a match made in gets-hit-in-the-face heaven.
Thoughts on what to look for in the matchup between Nurk and Ayton this time around?
As I wrote during my last preview, I have sort of given up hope that Ayton is going to be anything more than a role player. That said, this is exactly the kind of matchup that you would HOPE “Dominayton” would take personally. Maybe with a bit more time with his current team, he’s positioned well to have one of his occasional “hey, look at me!” games. Nurk has definitely lost a step, and Ayton is the younger and more talented player, so if he gets in his head that he can win this matchup (and he definitely can), he might be able to put up 14 or more field goal attempts for just the fifth time this season. The opponent in one of those 14-attempt games? The Phoenix Suns.
About the Opponent
John Voita of Bright Side of the Sun sounded off on what Suns-related stock is up or down, and their defense is... not up.
We’ve hit a low point as the team is letting opposing teams do whatever they want against them. When you have the Washington Wizards, a team that entered with a 4-20 record, dismantle your defense and score at will on the interior, you have issues. BIG issues. The challenge is we don’t know if it is correctable long-term. Who is this team’s defensive stalwart? Who is shutting down the opposing team consistently? We knew they were a top-heavy offensive team, but the lack of defense has become a punchline.
ESPN’s Tim MacMahon did a deep dive on NBA guards who are adding point guard duties to their list of responsibilities, including the Suns’ Devin Booker:
The Suns’ new lineup strategy makes Phoenix the most extreme example of a league-wide trend of teams veering away from old-school, prototypical point guards and toward explosive scorers as their primary offensive initiators. Phoenix’s front office and new coach Frank Vogel bet on the playmaking ability of the Suns’ star trio of Kevin Durant, Beal and Booker, but are leaning particularly on the nine-year veteran. “I don’t want to say it’s simple, but you just make the right play,” Booker told ESPN about his new role as point guard. “Make the open play.”
Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic gave a brief update on Suns guard Bradley Beal’s ankle injury that will keep him out of this game:
The three-time All-Star is averaging 14.7 points, Beal’s lowest since his rookie year when he averaged 13.9 in the 2012-13 season after being drafted third overall by Washington out of Florida. Before Sunday’s win over his former team, Beal talked about how he felt much better Sunday than Saturday. “(Saturday) was a little nasty, I didn’t feel as great, but (Sunday), I woke up a lot better,” Beal said. “I can put a lot of weight on my foot I can walk around. So that’s very promising.” When asked if he’ll be back within two weeks, Beal said, “I hope so.”