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Beal, Suns too Hot for Trail Blazers to Handle

Scoot Henderson had another nice game, but it wasn’t quite enough.

Portland Trail Blazers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns played the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night without future Hall-of-Fame forward Kevin Durant. The Blazers had no sympathy, missing three players from their starting lineup as well. The difference was, Phoenix still had two bona fide NBA All-Stars in their rotation. The Blazers had a dime store collection of seven-footers and the return of Shaedon Sharpe.

It wasn’t nearly enough. The Suns played around with Portland for a single quarter, then blasted past them courtesy of Bradley Beal, never to look back. Phoenix ended up winning 109-88.

Scoot Henderson led the Blazers with 17 points. Jerami Grant added 15, Malcolm Brogdon 10. Those were the only three Blazers in double figures before garbage time.

Bradley Beal led the Suns with 21.

Here’s how the game went.

First Quarter

The Blazers started the game without Toumani Camara, Deandre Ayton, and Anfernee Simons, and with starting center Moses Brown looking lost half the time. That left their defense fractured. Their halfcourt offense was a product of veterans Jerami Grant and Malcolm Brogdon dribbling off of multiple screens. It was not pretty.

The Blazers got bailed out by a couple of opportunistic plays from Brown...a dunk and a blocked shot, both on the break. They also watched Phoenix miss wide-open looks, a dangerous development sure to turn around at some point during the evening.

As long as Portland stayed in transition, they were fine. The Suns aided that by taking, and missing, plenty of mid-range and longer jumpers. With 6:00 remaining, Portland had a mediocre 13 points, but the Suns put up a tragic 6.

Portland’s ancillary scorers—Scoot Henderson and a returning Shaedon Sharpe—made good when the Suns threw the house at the primary veterans. That kept them to the positive as Phoenix continued to struggle from the field. Grayson Allen seemed like the only Phoenix player immune from the curse. He hit three shots to keep the Suns in contact. With a little under 2:00 remaining, Portland led 25-20. Strikes by Ibou Badji—who also intimidated and blocked shots—pushed the lead to 29-20 after one.

Second Quarter

Bradley Beal had a mid-range jumper bounce all around the rim, in and out and in again, at the start of the second. That seemed to herald the end of Phoenix’s missing streak. Shots that bounced off in the first period started falling in the second. That wasn’t a great sign, as Portland was forced to check in their deeper bench players. Blazers scoring was going to be rough and hard-earned. With three-fifths of the lineup on the floor more suited to the G League than NBA play, they couldn’t afford a Phoenix streak. A couple of Phoenix fast break dunks at the 9:00 mark didn’t help. Head Coach Chauncey Billips called timeout with his team up just 33-30 with 8:48 remaining.

Phoenix continued pounding away. They had a nearly-foolproof plan. Beal dominated the ball. When the Blazers sent any fewer than three men to stop him, he scored over them like an all-world superstar. When Portland sent the house, he passed for open looks and drives. By the 7:15 mark, Phoenix had the lead back. Just more than a minute later, they were up 5, courtesy of Portland turnovers leading to easy run-out buckets.

Head Coach Chauncey Billups checked Badji back in to provide some energy and better defense, but Suns Coach Frank Vogel had little-used Bol Bol on the floor. Bol’s shooting range and quickness kept Badji from patrolling the paint, limiting his effectiveness.

When Beal checked out for a rest, Devin Booker attempted to fill his scoring superstar role. He wasn’t as effective as his veteran teammate, though. That kept the advantage modest for Phoenix. By this time Grant and Brogdon had checked back in for Portland, but Henderson had a head of steam behind him and continued to press the offense forward with pace. Portland trailed just 47-41 with 2:30 remaining.

Jusuf Nurkic came back in with the Suns first unit and proceeded to pick apart Badji inside, creating the second bad matchup in a row for the young center. Nurkic hit a couple of inside shots, a free throw, and threw a nifty assist to the rim for a Suns score. A pair of Brogdon threes kept the Blazers in touch, but barely. Phoenix led 55-47 at the break.

Third Quarter

Both teams put on the defensive pressure as the second half commenced. Offense ran low and slow, with Portland turning over the ball again and Phoenix resuming their missing ways.

Jusuf Nurkic helped Phoenix break through first, hitting a trio of inside attempts against overmatched opponents. That put Phoenix up 10, soon to be 13 courtesy of a Chemezi Meti three with 7:22 remaining. The Suns were threatening escape velocity. The Blazers needed an answer, quickly.

Instead they got more choppy, sloppy offense. Grant became their pacifier, the go-to when their weepy attack needed soothing. But Phoenix had that figured out two quarters prior.

Pressure on Jerami turned Portland’s offense into a wobbly Jenga tower. Turnovers pulled out the critical peg, and the game collapsed. A few routine shots put Phoenix up by 19, 76-57, with 3:30 remaining in the third.

All of that happened before Coach Billups checked the third...really fourth...unit in to provide the regulars some rest. Unsurprisingly, Skylar Mays and Ish Wainright did not turn around the game. Phoenix led 86=61 after the third.

Fourth Quarter

Jabari Walker and Kris Murray converted three of shots at the rim to start the fourth. At the same time, the Suns missed their first six shots. That provided the illusion of a comeback, at least. Portland closed it to 15 with 9:30 remaining.

Eric Gordon shut down that mini-run by drawing five foul shots. He only made two, but it was enough to slow down the game. Also it was a reminder that the Suns could bring Eric Gordon off of their bench while the Blazers were stuck with players whose trading cards come 52 for a quarter. Foul shots and a short Bol Bol shot put the Phoenix lead over 20 once again, seemingly without trying. When Beal hit a seemingly-unfair three with 7:02 remaining, Phoenix led 95-71.

The sad thing about that: the Suns had shot only 2-9 to that point in the period. Firing at a below-25% rate was enough to increase a lead against Portland’s offense tonight.

Phoenix would cross the 100-point barrier with 4:09 remaining. The Blazers would never get there. And that pretty much sums up the ballgame.

Up Next

Stay tuned for extra analysis of the matchup, coming soon!


The Blazers continue their road trip against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night at 5:30 PM, Pacific