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Blazers Offense Goes Bonk in Phoenix

Portland struggles for a scorer in a loss to the Suns.

Portland Trail Blazers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers were overmatched by the veteran, star-laden Phoenix Suns on Monday night, mustering their usual spirited attack while watching another game slip through their fingers. Because of injuries and illnesses, Jerami Grant and Malcolm Brogdon were the only normal starters in play at the start of the game. Scoot Henderson did yeoman’s work at the point guard position, but nobody else could keep it together long enough to keep the Suns at bay.

Henderson scored 17 to lead the Blazers. Bradley Beal topped the Suns’ stat sheet with 21.

If you missed the game, you can find our quarter-by-quarter recap here. After that, here are a few extra details for you to peruse.

Percentages

The simplest, and probably best, explanation for the loss is simply Portland’s lack of offense. After shooting 50% in an oddball first period, the Blazers drooped and slouched to 41.3% for the game, shooting 8-30, 26.7%, from the three-point arc. Portland relied heavily on their veteran starters, Grant and Brogdon. When Phoenix clamped down on them, away went Portland’s offense. (see also: the section on turnovers below)

Portland’s motto tonight might as well have been, “Do not play offense if you are allergic to offense.” Against a team like the Suns, that just won’t wash.

A Bit of Scoot Praise

Because of injuries, Scoot Henderson started another game tonight. Both his confidence and his team’s confidence in him are growing. When the Blazers needed a boost as Phoenix was streaking away from them in the second period, Scoot stepped up with direct, NBA-ready scoring. Portland is also running some iso sets for him at the top of the arc now. You can see it when he stands alone on the perimeter instead of setting up on the side of the court with a teammate up high on the opposite side to bail him out. Scoot didn’t look polished with those opportunities, but the fact that he’s getting them says something.

Henderson also picked up at least a little of the full-court pressure the Blazers are used to seeing from Toumani Camara, who didn’t play in this one. He had some good moments against Bradley Beal defensively too. Scoot’s athleticism is going to cause problems in this league when he puts it all together.

Henderson finished with 17 points on 7-18 shooting. He also had 6 assists, but his night wasn’t spotless, as they were accompanied by 5 turnovers.

Ibou Badji Ups and Downs

Ibou Badji got another quick substitution into the game after Moses Brown struggled with sets as a starter. Badji brings a size and intimidation factor that no other Blazers big can provide, not even consensus starter Deandre Ayton. He’s tall, super solid, and aggressive swatting back opponent attempts.

Phoenix had the answers for Portland’s giant-sized spark plug though. A surprising appearance from Bol Bol gave the Suns a perimeter threat good (and fast) enough to keep Badji away from the bucket, robbing him of his superpowers. Then Jusuf Nurkic checked in and taught Badji something about up-and-under post play.

Badji finished with 4 points, 5 rebounds, and a block in 23 minutes, but it’s obvious that Portland needs a fully armed and operational Ayton in order to succeed.

Turnovers and Fast Breaks

The Blazers caught the Kevin-Durant-free on a bit of a cold streak, at least early. A 29-20 first-quarter lead stands testament.

Portland squandered it by turning over the ball, allowing run-outs for dunks. That cost them the lead (and then some) when they could have carried on, relatively even.

To be fair, this isn’t entirely surprising. The halfcourt offense was hamstrung by injuries to Ayton and Anfernee Simons. That left two viable options—Grant and Brogdon—plus a third once Henderson got (temporarily) hot. All Phoenix had to do was shadow the main scorers. With them covered, the Blazers were left scrambling. Portland commits plenty of turnovers under ideal circumstances. Making stuff up as they go only intensifies the issue.

The Blazers finished the game with 19 turnovers. They scored an impressive 19 points on the break, but gave up the same amount to the Suns, losing the advantage.

Brogdon Shooting

Despite the struggles, Malcolm Brogdon provided a life preserver for his team, at least for a while. He kept the Blazers afloat with jump shooting when nothing else was working. His stat line read 2-4 three-point shooting, 5 assists, and 10 points in 21 minutes. Every bit of it was important. Or at least as important as anything gets in a game they were never going to win.

Brogdon’s trade status is a topic of frequent discussion and will remain so as the February deadline approaches. Whatever happens to him, it’s near-certain this year’s Blazers would not be the same without him.

Booker vs. Beal

The Blazers played stiff defense against Phoenix’s main scoring threats, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal.

Booker suffered a game of extremes. He either endured a defender draped over his fingertips or found himself so wide open that a cruise ship could have piloted between him and the nearest defender. He didn’t respond well either way. He appeared to be in his own head on wide-open attempts. It was a fortunate development for Portland, else they would have fallen behind by 20 early. Booker finished with just 10 points on 4-16 shooting.

Beal was another story. He was able to find seams in Portland’s defense, using his jump shot to deadly effect. He also made a couple of nifty passes to keep the Blazers guessing. He shot 8-16 for a game-high 21, looking far better than Booker.

How the Suns sort out these games when one or more of their Big 3 seems out of sorts will be a huge storyline for their season. One star on fire was enough to beat the Blazers tonight, though.

Up Next

Boxscore

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