Blazers Go Up Big Then Do Just Enough To Get Past Suns

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- There’s an old adage that the first home game after an extended road trip is one of the hardest games to win in the NBA. While that might often be the case, it luckily didn’t play out that way for the Trail Blazers.

In their return to Portland after a four-game road trip, the Trail Blazers dispatched the Phoenix Suns 118-111 in front of a crowd of 18,604 Tuesday night at the Moda Center.

With the win, the Trail Blazers improve to 23-21 overall and 11-10 at home this season. The win also ends Portland’s three-game losing streak, extends their home winning streak to four games and is their sixth straight win versus the Suns.

While Portland looked like the better team in Tuesday’s contest from the jump, making their first eight shots overall and five of their first seven three-point attempts, the Suns were up for the challenge, shooting 57 percent behind 13 first-quarter points from Devin Booker. Between Booker’s shooting and 10 fastbreak points, the Suns were able to go into the second quarter trailing by just five.

But the Trail Blazers were able to get some separation in the second quarter thanks to seemingly nonstop barrage from three. Portland would outscore Phoenix by 10 in the quarter and shot better than 50 percent from both the field and three in the first half to take a 66-51 lead into the intermission.

And when the Trail Blazers started the second half by scoring the first eight points, which, along with the final six points that they scored in the second quarter, turned into a 14-0 run that gave the home team a 74-51 lead early in the third quarter. That lead would extend to as many as 27 before the Trail Blazers took a 92-72 advantage into the fourth quarter.

"I thought the second quarter we really gave ourselves some cushion, locked in on the defensive end and our ball movement, it continued," said Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard. "Going into the half, you always talk about how big the first five minutes of the third quarter is when you have a team down and I thought this was one of our best coming out of the half and being able to keep a team down, going into the fourth up 20."

The Suns did what NBA teams often do in the fourth quarter of what looked like a blowout by taking advantage of Terry Stotts’ attempt to rest his starters, but the Trail Blazers were able to hit just enough shots and duck just enough Devin Booker three-pointers to come away with the seven-point victory.

"It’s a shame that the five or six minutes in the fourth quarter kind of put a damper on what was a really good game for us," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "We did a lot of good things. Offensively, we shared the ball, set good screens. Defensively, in the second and third quarter, we were very good. Disappointed I had to put basically the starters back in the game, but they held on to it."

TOP SCORERS

The Trail Blazers were led by Damian Lillard, who went 11-of-19 from the field and 4-of-8 from three for 31 ppints to go with seven assists, five rebounds and a steal in 36 minutes.

CJ McCollum went 9-of-18 from the field and 6-of-10 from three for 27 points, three rebounds, two assists, and three steals in 36 minutes. Four of Al-Farouq Aminu's five made shots came from three, with the forward finishing with 14 points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes.

Evan Turner added 12 points in 27 minutes and Shabazz Napier came off the bench to finish with 11 points, six assists and three rebounds in 20 minutes.

Suns guard Devin Booker led all scorers with 43 points on 14-of-29 shooting from the field, 5-of-12 shooting from three and 10-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. Troy Daniels came off the bench to score 18, with all of those points come from three.

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NOTABLE

• The Trail Blazers shot 17-of-35 (48.6%) from the three-point line, marking the second-most three-pointers they have made in a game this season (18, Dec. 9 vs. Hou.).

• Portland outscored Phoenix in the paint, 32-30.

• The Trail Blazers had six blocks and seven steals while the Suns had three blocks and six steals.

• Portland scored 66 first half points, tying the season high for first half points (vs. L.A. Lakers, Dec. 2).

• The Trail Blazers made their first eight shots of the game and finished the night shooting 46-of-91 from the field (50.5%). Portland has shot over 50.0% from the field in four of its last seven games.

• Damian Lillard led Portland with 31 points (11-19 FG, 4-8 3-PT, 5-5 FT), five rebounds and seven assists. It was the 11th game this season that Lillard scored 30-plus points.

• CJ McCollum tied his season high with six three-pointers (of 10). McCollum finished with 27 points, three rebounds, two assists, three steals and two blocks. He joins LeBron James as the only two players to have six three-pointers, three steals and two blocks in a game this season.

• Al-Farouq Aminu had 14 points (5-12 FG, 4-7 3-PT) and nine rebounds. It was the sixth time this season that Aminu has made at least four three-pointers.

• Evan Turner had 12 points (6-10 FG), reaching double figures for the fifth time in the last eight games.

• Shabazz Napier finished with 11 points (5-9 FG, 1-1 3-PT), three rebounds and six assists. Na-pier has scored in double figures in 11 of the last 15 games.

QUOTABLE

“It’s been really good for us. In some ways, it’s difficult to get to it but when they made their run in the first quarter, we went to it in the first quarter and it was good. We had a lead in the third quarter, so I was trying to kind of preserve Bazz’s minutes, otherwise I probably would have gone to it in the third quarter as well.” -- Terry Stotts on the three-guard lineup featuring Lillard, McCollum and Napier

NEXT UP

The Trail Blazers continue their three-game homestand by hosting the Indiana Pacers in their first and only visit to the Moda Center this season. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 pm. on NBC Sports Northwest and Rip City Radio 620 AM.

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