It’s been a little while since I’ve had a chance to write about the Blazers. A lot of time traveling about for the holidays and living in SoCal it’s hard to cover the games against the Lakers when the games are blacked out on League Pass and I don’t get the channel the Lakers are on.
I hope everyone had a great holiday and hope you all have a great New Year as well.
So here we are tonight against the Phoenix Suns.
The Blazers are not messing around tonight. CJ McCollum and Kent Bazemore get the Blazers off to a hot start, racking up a quick seven points for the Blazers and then Damian Lillard carried the team the rest of the way in the first quarter going 5-6 from three.
Gary Trent Jr. had eight points off the bench for the Blazers in the quarter too. Oh, and hey, Hassan Whiteside had 10 rebounds in the quarter too. Great defense on Devin Booker as well. This is the best I’ve seen the Blazers look in a first-quarter all year. They definitely earned that 19 point lead to end the quarter.
Blazers are very active in the passing lanes tonight. They have three steals in the first 15 minutes and have forced four turnovers. This is something the Blazers have been missing all season. They have been playing on their heels and letting Whiteside deal with everything on the back end. Whiteside is going to block a lot of shots, but he’s not going to block every shot. He’s going to force cutters to bail and kick the ball out, the Blazers have been shadowing the cutters well tonight and have been there to catch the outbound passes.
Monty Williams had the Suns switch to a zone defense to start the second quarter and the Blazers are not getting the looks they were in the first quarter. They also do not have Dame out there on the court either. There is a lot of one-on-one offense going on to start the quarter.
Then Anfernee Simons knocks down a couple of threes, but the Suns are attacking the paint and have gotten a couple of threes from Cameron Johnson and Kelly Oubre, cutting the Blazers lead down to 11 halfway through the second quarter.
Lillard checks back into the game and the lead goes from nine to 17 in a blink of the of an eye. Oubre then shoves Lillard in the back right into the elbow of Aron Baynes. Dame picks up a T and from there makes the Suns pay.
The Suns should know better than to make Lillard bleed his own blood.
Dame had been very business-like up until that point and then he got mad.
The rest of the Blazers got sloppy. The Suns knocked down three threes in the final 24 seconds to cut the lead back down to nine, 64-55 at the half. Kelly Oubre has really found himself in Phoenix. He looked like another bust coming out of Kansas, but he definitely has a fit in Phoenix.
Oubre starts out the third quarter by knocking down a few more jumpers and cut the Blazer lead down to 71-66. He’s 5-7 from three tonight.
Have to say that Dario Saric is playing really great defense against Carmelo Anthony tonight. He’s held Melo to 1-10 shooting so far tonight. He’s giving him no room to breathe and cutting off all driving lanes. You can see Melo is frustrated and starting to force the issue.
Baynes and Oubre carrying the Suns through the third quarter and the Suns are now only down by four points. The Blazers offense is flat. The Suns’ defense is shading both Dame and CJ, while their man is playing them tightly. It isn’t giving the guys any sort of opening to rise up or drive. Then they are playing hard man when the ball goes to Melo, Whiteside, or Bazemore.
I’ve counted at least 97 times the Blazers have had a pass deflected in the first eight minutes of the third quarter. Suns are just active everywhere on the defensive end at the moment.
And speaking of defense Hassan Whiteside has decided he’s going to attempt to block every shot the Suns take here for the rest of the quarter. This man should be playing 30 plus minutes a night. The Blazers are a different defensive team with him on the floor.
You have to wonder what happens when Jusef Nurkic is ready to return. Both of those guys are going to need minutes and I’d love to see Nurk start at the four and have Melo come off the bench maybe. I don’t think the Blazers are going to do any major trades to shore up the bench. And they shouldn’t. This is going to be an LA vs. Milwaukee June.
I mean unless the Bucks want to do a Melo and Toliver trade for Giannis for some dumb reason.
Phoenix starts the fourth quarter fast. They are really pushing to get shots before the Blazers defense can get set. They are taking shots within seven or eight seconds into the shot clock. The Blazers have been a pain when allowed to set tonight and Williams has the Suns rightfully pushing the tempo. Even in sets, everyone is moving and it’s allowed for some wide-open back cuts for open baskets.
Boy, this fourth quarter has turned into an old ABA game. Threes, alley-oops, and lots of running.
Kelly Oubre looks like a freaking All-Star out there tonight. He hits his sixth three tonight and the Suns are down one point with just a skosh over three minutes left in the game. The Suns have outscored the Blazers 30-21 so far in the fourth quarter.
Oubre hits his seventh three tonight and then blows kisses to the crowd. The Blazers could not get a stop when it mattered the most. Phoenix scored in some form in their last nine possessions.
The Blazers had a 19 point lead at the end of the first, had it around 17 with about three minutes to go in the first half and Phoenix kept chipping away. They kept the Blazers on their heels for most of the second half. Terry Stotts did not have Hassan Whiteside on the floor during crucial moments when Phoenix was getting to the rim and crucial rebounds late. Whiteside was on the bench.
Blazers lose a heartbreaker by six.
Lillard had 33, CJ had 25, Whiteside with 16 and 22, Trent and Simons had 11 and 12 off the bench respectively.
The Blazers head to the Garden to take on the Knicks on Wednesday. The tip is at 4:30.