A favorable opponent and an extra day off give the Portland Trail Blazers a good chance to rebound from one of their worst offensive performances of the season.
The Blazers go on the road to begin an easy portion of the schedule Friday night as they try to pick apart the league-worst defense of the Phoenix Suns and complete a season sweep.
Portland (20-19) is coming off a stretch of five games in eight days, capped by back-to-back home losses. The Blazers had won eight of 11 before a 107-100 overtime defeat to Miami on Sunday, then appeared a bit tired Tuesday as they trailed New York for most of the game and lost 100-86.
Besides producing only eight assists -- seven fewer than its previous season low -- Portland made 34.9 percent from the field for its second-worst shooting performance of the season.
Coach Nate McMillan said his team 'looked mentally fatigued' and told the Blazers' official website that he ordered his players to take Wednesday off.
"Get out the gym tomorrow," he said. "I don't want anybody coming in. I think they need to get away. We'll come back Thursday and get some work."
LaMarcus Aldridge posted his sixth straight double-double -- the most by a Portland player since Arvydas Sabonis had seven in 1997 -- but was held to 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting. He had averaged 27.7 points and shot 52.4 percent over the previous six games.
"We have stretches like this," Aldridge said. "We can't play perfect every night. We won two or three in a row and now we lost two so we just have to figure it out and bounce back."
Facing the Suns seems like a good way to do so. They're giving up a league-high 108.9 points per game and 115.5 over the last four, with opponents posting at least 24 assists each time and hitting a combined 40.0 percent from 3-point range.
Portland is 9 for 42 from beyond the arc in the past two games, including 2 for 12 from Welsey Matthews. He's failed to score more than 15 points in five of six games this month after that happened just five times in six weeks.
Matthews has averaged 17.6 points against Phoenix this season to help the Blazers take all three meetings and score more than 100 in each.
They've won seven of eight versus the Suns (16-21), the first of seven straight opponents with losing records. Only two of those games are on the road.
Phoenix has won its last two home games but trailed in the fourth quarter of both, and they were against the Eastern Conference's worst teams -- Cleveland and New Jersey. Between those victories came a 132-98 defeat at Denver on Tuesday, the Suns' 12th loss in 13 games against teams which currently have winning records.
They had to overcome a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter Wednesday night to beat the Nets 118-109 in overtime.
"This is the type of game, especially after (Tuesday) night, we needed to find a way to win and that's exactly what we did," said Steve Nash, who had 23 points and 16 assists. "We were competing but not playing great, then we took a stand."
It's unclear if Grant Hill will return after missing two games with a sprained knee as Phoenix tries to avoid its first season sweep to Portland since dropping all three meetings during the abbreviated 1999 season.
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