Blazers Finish Game Of Runs On The Wrong End In Phoenix

by Casey Holdahl
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PHOENIX -- In a game with significant playoff implications, the Trail Blazers went down big in the first quarter, rallied in the second, went down by even more in the third before falling 127-117 to the Phoenix Suns in front of a crowd of 15,522 Friday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

"We didn't get enough stops," said CJ McCollum. "Credit them, they made plays when they needed to. They hit big threes, they got offensive rebounds, did enough to beat us and they got off to a great start."

The Trail Blazers are now 28-36 overall and 11-23 on the road this season. Portland had a chance to make up ground in the race for the eighth-seed with the Grizzlies losing to the Mavericks earlier in the evening, but with the loss, Portland remains 3.5 games back for the final playoff spot in the West with 18 games to play.

Despite the Suns entering the game having lost four straight and the Trail Blazers desperately needing a win to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race, it was Monty Williams' squad that wanted it more in the first quarter. Suns center Aron Baynes made two three-pointers in the early going and the Blazers started the game shooting 2-of-8 from the field to give Phoenix a 17-5 lead with 7:23 to play in the first quarter.

Phoenix would go up by as many as 16 points in the first quarter, thanks in large part fo 19 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and 5-of-5 shooting from three for Baynes, before taking a 34-22 advantage into the second quarter.

"Baynes had a career night," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "He got hot and kind of kept us off balance the rest of the night. You expect him to make some threes but you don't expect him to make that many."

Suns outscored the Blazers 22-11 in the first six minutes of the second quarter to take a 56-33 lead, and at that point, one could be forgiven for assuming there was no reason to continue paying attention.

But the Trail Blazers responded with a 20-0 run to cut the Suns lead to 61-56 with a minute to play in the first half. Phoenix answered by outscoring Portland 8-2 in the final 40 seconds to take a 67-68 lead into the intermission.

And in the third, the Suns went 17-0 to take the largest lead of the game at 88-62 with 5:55 to play in the quarter. Portland answered again, going on a 12-0 run to cut Phoenix's lead to 13 with just over two minutes to play in the third.

Though the Trail Blazers would never really recover after starting the fourth with an over-and-back followed by allowing another wide open Baynes three. Phoenix went up by 23 after a Devin Booker three with 8:15 to play, and while Portland managed to go on numerous short runs in the fourth, they never got closer than the final deficit of 10 points.

"I can assure you we were trying to win, just didn't play well," said McCollum. "They came out with more energy, they made shots, we didn't shoot the ball particularly well to start and then we got behind the eight ball. They jumped out, we had some turnovers, they were able to get out and run to get easy baskets and pulled away multiple times throughout the night."

McCollum led the Blazers with 25 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 3-of-8 shooting from three to go with eight assists, three rebounds, a steal and a block in just under 39 minutes.

Damian Lillard went 6-of-16 from the field, 3-of-7 from three and 9-of-10 from the line to finish with 24 points and six assists in his second game back after missing six games with a right groin strain.

Hassan Whiteside finished with 23 points, 20 rebounds and four blocks in 40 minutes. Trevor Ariza rounded out Portland's double-digit scorers with 17 points to go with five rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes.

Baynes led all scorers with 37 points on 12-of-23 shooting from the field and 9-of-14 shooting from three to go with 16 rebounds and two blocks in 36 minutes. Devin Booker added 23 points and 12 assists for the double-double, while Ricky Rubio finished one of his own with 13 points, 10 assists in 33 minutes.

Dario Saric went 9-of-13 for 24 points and Mikal Bridges shot 70 percent from the field on the way to 18 points.

Next up, the Trail Blazers head back to Portland to play their next six games starting with the second of a back-to-back versus the Kings Saturday night at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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