Live from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers host the Phoenix Suns.
Confidence, baby. Confidence. With their playoff dance card about to be full, the Blazers are taking a cue from Rolando Blackman and finishing this season out with, well, confidence. Just when they looked left for dead, the Blazers have rattled off four straight wins, including impressive victories against the Bulls and Grizzlies.
Everything is coming up Portland! LaMarcus Aldridge is rounding back into form, the team is playing some of its best basketball of the season, Joel Freeland may be able to return in time for the playoffs, and home court advantage for the first round is in play. With a win tonight the Blazers will be officially playoff-bound.
The only thing standing between the Blazers and a perfect week of basketball is...the Phoenix Suns?! Ah, crap. The Blazers have had all kinds of trouble with the sunny yin to their rainy yang this season, dropping two games on the road and nearly blowing a third at home. Phoenix was supposed to be one of the worst teams in the league, but first-year coach Jeff Hornacek has done an amazing job with his island of misfit basketball players.
Phoenix is battling for one of the last playoff spots in the West, so tonight has huge playoff implications for both teams. Will the Blazers be able to guard Goran Dragic? Will the Morris twins switch jerseys at halftime and not tell anyone? Will Meyers Leonard get kicked out of another game twenty seconds after checking in? Follow along after the jump!
The majority of Phoenix’s success can be heaped on the shoulders of Goran Dragic. He’s been playing like an All-Star all season, finally living up to the praise that Mike and Mike have been giving him since he was a backup for Steve Nash. When Eric Bledsoe went down, Dragic stepped up, carrying this scrappy Suns team to a potential playoff berth.
Dragic is fearless when he gets into the lane, but he might want to think twice before going down low tonight lest he get a stray fingernail across the arm. Until the Blazers lose, Aldridge is refusing to cut his fingernails. Superstitious? Sure. But man, it’s a slippery slope to wearing kleenex boxes on your feet.
Despite not yet making the playoffs, the Blazers are putting post-season tickets on sale on Monday. Get those pocketbooks and trusty internet connections ready.
11:26 - It's so good to see Channing Frye back on a basketball court after he missed all of last year. It's also good to see him pick up his first foul mere seconds into the game. 2-1 Suns.
10:08 - Lillard is starting the game guarding Eric Bledsoe, and so far it is going about as well as you'd expect. Meaning terribly. Dame has no chance to stay in front of him. 7-5 Suns.
7:33 - Robin Lopez rejected Dragic at the rim, and this crowd is eating it up. Dragic made sure to sit under the basket for an extended period of time to let everyone know that he thought he was fouled. 9-9 Tie.
7:02 - And, yep, Dragic just picked up a technical arguing a call on the other end. Things are incredibly chippy already. I wouldn't be surprised if we see someone draw blood by the time this one is over. 10-9 Blazers.
5:45 - Offensive rebound, Lillard three. There was no doubt about that one dropping. For as much trouble as he's having staying in front of the Phoenix guards, Dame is pacing the Blazers with eight points of his own. 13-11 Blazers.
4:50 - More offensive rebounds, more points. This time Thomas Robinson, freshly in the game, came flying in to clean the glass and hit a cutting Wesley Matthews for an easy lay. Keep those extra possessions coming. 17-13 Blazers.
3:27 - Thomas Robinson with a chasedown block for the ages! That was reminiscent of the block on Corey Brewer in the Minnesota game. Unfortunately in this instance, the Suns were able to grab the ball as it ricocheted off the backboard and put it back up and in. 19-17 Suns.
2:01 - The Morris twins are both in the game at the same time. This really should be illegal. One of them should have to at least wear a headband or something. 24-19 Suns.
0:20 - Will Barton's shoes are such a ridiculous shade of neon green, they look less like shoes and more like Ecto Cooler. 28-26 Suns.
0:00 - Not a bad start, but the defense is going to have to do a much better job holding Phoenix in check to have any hope in this one. 28-26 Suns.
10:37 - The Suns should have been called for at least two traveling calls in this game, but nothing. Mo Williams, on the other hand, was just whistled for a violation. That's not going to sit well with this crowd. 30-28 Suns.
9:34 - Too many Morrii on the floor! Who just picked up the foul? Who just picked up the technical? Are we sure there's actually two of them out there? 34-34 Tie.
8:47 - Dragic three. Dragic steal. Dragic three-point play the old fashioned way. Oof. 40-34 Suns.
8:17 - Gerald Green went up to try and block a Robin Lopez lay in. Lopez ducked, and Green went right over top, getting his feet knocked out and slamming hard to the deck. No harm, no foul, basket. 40-36 Suns.
7:23 - After a made basket, Ish Smith made his way up the court in roughly three seconds. He caught the Portland defense sleeping and used his speed to score the easiest basket of the night. 44-40 Suns.
7:08 - Another blown assignment in transition, this time with Gerald Green getting to the rim off of a rebound. Portland needs time, maybe to catch their breath? 46-40 Suns.
6:18 - Mo Williams grabbed an offensive rebound but got a hand right across his face. He hit the deck like he had been shot. Must have been a finger in the eye based on that reaction. 47-40 Suns.
5:29 - That eye must be doing okay, because Mo just hit a three to put an end to this little Phoenix run. 47-43 Suns.
3:49 - Yeah, the Suns aren't losing tonight. They are too quick, and Portland's transition defense is too poor. Gerald Green has sixteen points (!!). Miles Plumlee threw down an alleyoop that will be showing on Sportscenter later. Portland just doesn't match up well. Cut those nails and let's move on. 51-45 Suns.
2:15 - Ball don't lie. Robin Lopez just put on a one man defensive clinic, stopping Eric Bledsoe from driving, then recovering enough to block Plumlee. A foul on Lopez was called, but Plumdog Millionaire misses both freebies. 51-49 Suns.
1:23 - Robin Lopez, man. He just works. He boxed out Plumlee to grab and offensive rebound and was fouled on the following shot. It's the most boring job in basketball, but he does it so well. 51-50 Suns.
0:40 - Just when I said the Suns would win, Portland has gone on a 9-0 run, capped off by a Nicolas Batum three. This place is going nuts. 54-51 Blazers.
0:00 - The Blazers were getting killed in transition, but once the starters checked back in the defensive intensity kicked up another notch. They finished that quarter on a 9-0 run, holding the Suns scoreless over nearly four minutes. That'll do. More of that, please. 54-51 Blazers.
10:49 - The Blazers go to a heavy dose of Aldridge to start the third. He missed his first two shots, but was able to drain the third as the shot clock expired. 56-53 Blazers.
9:36 - Batum has a nifty 9/9/6 line going right now. A triple-double is, once again, in play. 60-53 Blazers.
9:10 - Batum is taking over. That's four points and an assist for the swingman in this quarter, and Portland has picked up right where the left off at the end of the second. This is somehow a nine point lead, and Phoenix needs time. 62-53 Blazers.
7:20 - Getting that Robin Lopez hook thrown in over you has to be such a demoralizing play as a defender. It's ugly as hell and has no right going down, but dang if he doesn't hit it with consistency. 67-57 Blazers.
5:24 - Lopez leads all Portland scorers with sixteen, and he's added in ten rebounds for good measure. Without him, the Blazers would be down by twenty—he's been that good tonight. 71-62 Blazers.
4:43 - The bench comes in, the bench gives up transition baskets. So it goes. 72-67 Blazers.
3:12 - I'm not about to argue foul calls—Portland definitely has the edge in that department tonight—but Mo Williams sure looked to get all ball when he tried to break up a fast break by Goran Dragic. Oh, and did I mention it was a fast break? Because of course it was. Portland's bench has been a defensive sieve in transition. 74-71 Blazers.
1:09 - Gerald Green isn't the gunner we need, but he's the gunner we deserve. Goodness, that man likes to shoot. He makes it look like Mo Williams has a conscience when it comes to shot selection. 78-75 Blazers.
0:00 - We have a game. As long as the Blazers can shore up their transition defens...oh, that's right. They are playing against Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Everything is terrible. 80-79 Blazers.
11:06 - That's a quick 4-0 for Phoenix to start the fourth. Phoenix is putting on the jets. 83-80 Suns.
10:46 - Oh, make that a quick 7-0 run. Gerald Green has five of those, and he's getting hype after draining a three. Portland needs time. 86-80 Suns.
9:20 - The Blazers have to do a better job on the defensive glass. Eric Bledsoe snuck his way in, picked up a rebound over Robin Lopez, and put it back in with ease. That's nineteen offensive boards for Phoenix, a total killer. 91-85 Suns.
8:03 - Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum were blocked on back to back possessions, both times by the man guarding them. Things are falling apart here for the home team. The offense is stagnating and the Suns are scoring at will. 92-85 Suns.
6:37 - Gerald Green with another three, Gerald Green with his fifteenth mean mug. Hold that playoff parade. 95-85 Suns.
5:52 - Wow, Lillard just missed two free throws in a row. First time in his career? That's three misses from the stripe for Dame tonight. Brutal. 97-85 Suns.
4:01 - On the bright side, at least this is the last time the Blazers have to face the Suns this season. 99-89 Suns.
3:20 - Portland gave up two offensive rebounds on one possession, and the third time was the charm for Phoenix. Bledsoe sunk a corner three, and the fans are headed for the exits. 102-89 Suns.
1:32 - Another offensive rebound? Sure, why not? The Suns have grabbed them all up to this point, what's one more? 107-91 Suns.
FINAL: 109-93 Suns. Oof. This Suns team is just a nightmare matchup for the Blazers. Portland hung tough for three quarters, but lost the final frame 30-13. Thankfully for Portland that's the last meeting between these two teams this regular season. On to the next one.