Suns News

Court Report: Suns Look to Cool Blazers

Dragic and Co. defeated the Blazers in the preseason.
(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Posted: November 21, 2012

Looking to snap a three-game losing skid, the Suns hope to right their ship against a visiting Trail Blazers team that’s won three consecutive contests. Check out some interesting notes regarding tonight’s matchup.

1. Lineup Change: Suns head coach Alvin Gentry informed the media in the last few days that he’ll be making at least one change to the starting lineup. He also said that he’s not going to reveal that change until game time.

Gentry referred to the shake up as “subtle,” not “drastic,” and that if any players are taken out of the starting five, it’s not because they aren’t playing well. The coaching staff is just trying to find the right combination of players that can provide defensive consistency and get the team off to hotter starts.

“It’s not any individual or anything,” the Suns head coach said. “We just have to try to put a group of guys together that are going to work.”

2. Containing Lillard: Although it’s early in the season, Trail Blazers rookie point guard Damian Lillard seems to be in a two-man race (with the Hornets’ Anthony Davis) for NBA Rookie of the Year honors. The 6-3 guard is currently leading all rookies in scoring (19 points), assists (6.1), steals (1.5) and minutes (37.5) a game.

Gentry likened game-planning for Lillard to preparing for Lakers point guard Steve Nash. Suns point guard Goran Dragic compared him to Bulls playmaker Derrick Rose and Clippers guard Chauncey Billups.

The reason for the Nash and Billups comparison is because Lillard is launching about six three-balls a night. He’s also hitting on 39 percent of them.

“He plays with the poise of a five, six year veteran,” Gentry said. “His court demeanor is incredible. We have a tough job ahead of us.”

3. Three-Point Shooting: In order to keep the Blazers from being a team that is in the Top 10 in the league in scoring, the Suns are going to have to disrupt their three-point shooting. Currently, Portland is sixth in the league in that category.

“They shoot 23 (threes) a game,” Gentry noted. “You have to run them off the line and keep them out of the corners. That’s where you’re most vulnerable in this league.”

4. Blazing Hot: Currently, the Blazers have four players averaging more points a game than the Suns’ leading scorer Goran Dragic. Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (21.1 points), small forward Nicolas Batum (20.8), Lillard (19) and shooting guard Wes Matthews (16.4), are all scoring at a higher clip than Dragic (16.3 points).

While those kind of numbers are good for eighth in the league in scoring, Portland isn’t finding a lot of firepower off of its bench. Last game, only two reserves logged double-digits in minutes.

“We’re going to play hard for 48 minutes because they don’t have much of a bench,” Dragic said. “We want to try and wear them out.”

5. New Rotation: Although we know the Suns plan on making a change to the starting lineup, it’s uncertain if Gentry will move any players in and out of the rotation entirely.

“In all honesty, I’d like to find a way to get Wesley Johnson into the game,” Gentry said. “We’re trying to figure that out. It’s tough to play 10, but it’s almost impossible to play 11.”

During the preseason, Johnson was a bright spot offensively, scoring in double figures in his first four games as a Suns swingman. But since then, his time and minutes have dropped dramatically.

After totaling 24 minutes in his first preseason contest, Johnson has only played 29 minutes all season. Gentry said that it was nothing that he did, but that he’s a victim of having only a certain amount of spots in the rotation.

It seems as if Johnson’s minutes have gone to swingman P.J. Tucker, who has provided a nice lift off the bench with his hustle and defensive intensity.

“Tucker gives us something that we desperately need,” Gentry said. “And that’s a defensive stopper. We need that and will continue to do that.”

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