Live from the Moda Center, as the Portland Trail Blazers host the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns were not supposed to be this good. Coming into the season most analysts had them pegged as one of the five worst teams in the league, and that was before they went and traded starting center Marcin Gortat to the Washington Wizards for a future first round pick. Phoenix is hoarding picks, the idea being they would suck this year to try and secure a better draft position for next year’s ridiculously loaded draft.
Nobody gave the tanking memo to new coach, and noted face toucher, Jeff Hornacek. He has the Suns off to a scorching 5-2 start, tops in their division. Suddenly Portland’s first loss against Phoenix, way back in game number one, doesn’t seem quite as bad. At least not with the Should Have Been Terrible Suns playing this well.
Grab your giraffe bones and penguin skulls and let’s basketball!
If you had asked me before the season to name one hundred players who might win Western Conference Player of the Week at some point, I don’t think Markieff Morris would have made said list. I would have named the Suns Gorilla before Morris, and yet here we are.
Morris and whirling dervish Eric Bledsoe have anchored the Suns early, and both are off to better than expected starts. Can this success last? No way. The drop off in talent after the top few guys on this Phoenix roster is too much to overcome.
But will they put up a fight on a nightly basis? Sure! If nothing else, Coach Hornacek has Phoenix playing hard. With such a young team—thirty-year-old Channing Frye is the oldest veteran around—the Suns will have their struggles. They will start losing sooner rather than later. Hey, Andrew Wiggins, I hope you're okay wearing orange.
Nothing too new to report from the Portland side of things. The Blazers are still scoring the ball at an incredible clip, posting one of the best offensive ratings in the league. The offense has to keep this pace up—the defense can't stop a thing.
After the dud they laid the first time these two teams met, expect the Blazers to come out quickly and blow this open early. An exclamation point victory is due, especially before an upcoming road trip.
Is that Van Halen's "Right Now" blaring? You're damn right it is. Game on.
11:30 - Robin Lopez picks up where he left off from last game, corralling his first rebound off of a Damian Lillard airball and putting it up for the first points of the game. 2-0 Blazers.
8:39 - Lopez has four points and four rebounds already. LaMarcus Aldridge has a rebound as well, but other than that the Blazers are putting up fat zeroes right now. This game has been ugly so far, which makes sense considering how much Lopez is involved. 4-4 Tie.
6:10 - Aldridge with two quick fouls and he has to sit. Channing Frye was on the receiving end of both fouls—the former teammates were taking it to each other early, and Frye seemed to know how to goad Aldridge into getting a little reckless. That's a big loss early, and hopefully the offense doesn't sputter out. 10-8 Blazers.
4:34 - Thomas Robinson with five quick points, picking up the power forward slack. But on the other end Eric Bledsoe is carving Portland alive. He's getting stuck with a big man on him after every pick and roll, and collapsing the defense with ease. Batum is going to see time on him defensively soon if this keeps up. 17-13 Blazers.
3:02 - Wesley Matthews and Gerald Green trade ridiculous baskets. Both were covered completely by the opposing player, but great offense beats good defense apparently. 19-15 Blazers.
0:53 - Thomas Robinson was fouled by Marcus Morris. Not a huge deal, except that the shot clock was nearing zero and Robinson was throwing up a desperation attempt from distance. Three free throws. Robinson looks engaged. He wants to be the best former Kansas player on the floor over the Morris brothers. Or is it Morrises? Morrii? 23-19 Blazers.
0:00 - Joel Freeland followed up a nice putback tip in with a stupid foul on the other end as time expired. He contested a long Eric Bledsoe three and ran into the already falling down Bledsoe. There was enough contact for the refs to call it, and Bledsoe got three free shots. That was a bad way to end the quarter. 25-22 Blazers.
10:37 - Aldridge just got rim-checked on a wide open dunk. Those legs must have been tired from all that sitting in the first half. Regardless, that's going on Shaqtin' A Fool. 25-22 Blazers.
8:48 - And a turnover for Aldridge on his next possession. The Suns are throwing a consistent double team at him, and he appears to be a bit flustered. You know what else is flustering? Having the Morrii on the court at the same time. It seems like that should be a competitive advantage somehow. 30-27 Blazers.
8:20 - Portland has had about three or foul balls just fall off the rim. Those shots should be falling, and this lead should be larger. 30-29 Blazers.
6:25 - Make that five balls just off the rim. Lopez just blew a chip shot, which led to an easy transition basket for the Suns. Between the easy misses and Lillard and Aldridge combining for only two points, there is nowhere to go but up. 34-33 Blazers.
4:40 - When the offense is flailing, just give it to Lopez for a hook shot? Uh, okay! 36-35 Blazers.
3:33 - I think Portland has eighty-six turnovers this quarter. That might not be an exact figure, but Phoenix is capitalizing on the miscues nonetheless. 39-36 Suns.
2:24 - No, seriously. These turnovers are getting ridiculous. Batum called for the traveling violation as he tried to get the ball to Aldridge in the post. Things are not going well here in the second quarter. 43-37 Suns.
0:56 - Aldridge with two more chip shots just off the rim. He's 0-6 with four turnovers. Portland is scuffling. 43-37 Suns.
0:00 - Whew! Aldridge finally gets on the board! He didn't get checked by the rim on that attempt. The Blazers end the half with four unanswered, but they're still shooting a paltry 39% on the night with twelve turnovers. 43-41 Suns.
11:32 - Miles Plumee's first shot with right off the side of the backboard. Ouch. Portland followed that up with misses from both Lillard and Aldridge on the same possession. Cool, so nothing changed at halftime then, eh? 43-41 Suns.
10:16 - Took three tries, but Aldridge got his first basket of the half. More of those, please. 45-43 Suns.
9:37 - Two in a row for Aldridge. He's on a roll!! 45-45 Tie.
8:06 - Three in a row! If this were NBA Jam, I think Aldridge's shoes would be catching on fire right about now. Oh, wait. That would require Portland getting stops on the other end, which they can't seem to do. Let's just call it a nice little stretch of made baskets, then. 49-49 Tie.
6:23 - Coach Terry Stotts needs time after Goran Dragic runs a pick and roll and gets Lillard stuck guarding Channing Frye in the post. Frye hooked it in with ease, because that's the advantage of posting up with an extra foot of height. 53-51 Suns.
5:16 - Scary sight, as PJ Tucker was fouled in transition by Lillard and tumbled to the floor. Batum was flying in looking for a chase down block, and landed right on Tucker's face. Looks like he is okay, thankfully. 54-51 Suns.
4:28 - Batum just air balled a three, coming up about a foot short on his shot. Batum is never that off. Guess Portland just doesn't quite have it tonight. 54-51 Suns.
3:31 - And Mo Williams just air balled a three. Yep. The offense is a mess. If Joey Crawford were here, he'd get someone to clean this shit up. 58-53 Suns.
1:51 - Batum finally connects from distance, and smacks his head in anger as he runs down the court. Self-flagellation, the winning strategy. 64-59 Suns.
0:00 - The good news for the Blazers? They are holding the Suns to under 44% from the floor. The bad news? They are only mustering a paltry 38% themselves. If it wasn't for a lucky banked in three from Mo Williams as the quarter expired, things would be even uglier. 68-62 Suns.
11:11 - There's some energy! A Thomas Robinson dunk, a steal on the other end, and a made free throw from Lopez, and suddenly this crowd is alive. 68-65 Suns.
10:08 - A Goran Dragic three ends an 8-0 Portland run, but Robinson gets it right back on the other end with a layup. 71-69 Suns.
9:19 - Aaaaand Dragic with another three. He is killing this Portland run. 74-69 Suns.
8:50 - Blood on the court! Dragic and Mo Williams collided going for a rebound—contact that looked to be initiated by Dragic—and Goran immediately went for the bench with blood streaming from his eye. That looked nasty. I can't imagine he'll be back tonight. 77-69 Suns.
7:30 - Wow. Robinson just electrified this crowd with a monster putback dunk between two Suns. That was the best dunk I've seen from this Portland squad this year, hands down. That was followed by a Wesley Matthews three, and the crowd is now a factor. 77-74 Suns.
6:45 - Lillard just sent the crowd into a frenzy. Two free throws to tie it, then an acrobatic lay up to give Portland the lead. We've got a game! 78-77 Blazers.
4:25 - If Portland pulls this out, Robinson deserves the game ball. He has brought this team to life in the fourth. Another offensive rebound, another put back, and he now has fourteen points and eight boards on the night. 82-81 Blazers.
3:20 - Welp, I cursed it. That was three out of four missed free throws for Robinson. Nothing better to kill momentum than some missed freebies. 85-83 Suns.
2:02 - Wesley Matthews hit a three on one end, picked up the offensive foul on PJ Tucker on the other. That was a great sequence. 87-86 Suns.
1:05 - The Suns seem to be coming up with all of the big offensive rebounds tonight. They just picked up two in a row after long misses, keeping their possession alive after the Blazers managed to take the lead. Phoenix has the ball, down one, with a minute left to play. 88-87 Blazers.
0:11 - It's coming down to the last possession here in the Moda Center. The Suns were able to get a bucket from Miles Plumlee, Aldridge missed on the other end, and the Suns whiffed on their next possession as well. Blazers timeout, down one, with the ball. 89-88 Suns.
0:06 - Wow. The Suns just completely fell apart on that possession. Lillard ran a pick and roll with Aldridge, Marcus Morris didn't rotate over on the help defense, and Lillard had a wide open lane to the basket. That was the easiest two points of the night. Timeout. Suns ball. 90-89 Blazers.
0:00 - Holy shit! The Suns had THREE great looks at the basket—a missed layup by Bledsoe, and two subsequent missed tip ins. I have no idea how one of those did not drop—seriously, they were all crawling on the rim—but chalk one up to the basketball gods and call it a night.
FINAL: 90-89 Blazers. That was an ugly, wild basketball game.