Blazers Make Up For Past Mistakes In Win Against Suns

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

PORTLAND -- Back-to-back losses last week dealt a blow to Portland's playoff hopes, but they got did their part to get back into the race Tuesday night at the Moda Center, while also getting a bit of assistance from around the league.

After losing in Phoenix Friday night, the Trail Blazers evened the score and the season series with a 121-105 victory versus the Suns in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 Tuesday night at the Moda Center.

"Good to have a win," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. The last two (losses) have been very frustrating, wee didn't play very well. I liked our focus, our effort the entire game... We need every win, that's obvious, but I like the way we played.

The Trail Blazer are now 29-37 overall and 18-14 at home this season. With the win, along with a Grizzlies loss earlier in the evening, the Trail Blazers are now in a three-way tie for ninth, 3.5 games behind Memphis for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Blazers host the Grizzlies Thursday at the Moda Center.

After getting run off the floor in the first half of their loss last week in Phoenix and turning in one of their poorest efforts of the season the next night versus the Kings, the Trail Blazers brought an intensity, particularly on the defensive end, not seen in their last two losses.

“I thought it was a really good defensive performance from the start of the game – we was locked in to what we needed to do defensively," said Damian Lillard. "We went over a lot of stuff in practice yesterday. Coming off the game we had in Phoenix, it was obvious we wanted to come back and show a lot more consistency in a game that we really needed. We’re trying to make this final push for the playoffs, we had to have this one and that’s where it started at – on the defensive end.”

Between holding the Suns to 2-of-8 shooting from three, forcing four turnovers and Carmelo Anthony scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, the Trail Blazers went up by as many as 12 before taking a 36-38 advantage into the second quarter.

"I think for us the most important thing is communicating and giving maximum effort on defense," said Trevor Ariza, who spent most of the game trying to slow down Suns All-Star guard Devin Booker. "When you are hitting shots and playing well offensively, I guess it’s natural to play harder on defense but for us when the offense isn’t clicking we have to figure and continue to stay locked in on the defensive end to give ourselves a chance to win."

After a close game in the second and third, Portland pulled away in the fourth by ratcheting their defensive intensity back up to where it was in the first. The Blazers held the Suns to 33 percent shooting in the final 12 minutes while going 7-of-10 from three to outscore the visitors by 12 to come away with the 16-point victory.

"We were just more present, showing help, making them play in crowds. Our communication was much better," said Lillard. "We just weren’t as spaced out. It was an emphasis on us helping each other out, having a tight paint – box and elbows, closing out on shooters, making them put the ball on the floor, plays that they like to run, we scouted really hard. We didn’t really change our coverages, we just kind of hammered home yesterday in practice exactly what we wanted to do and what it should look like if we do those things and we executed tonight.”

TOP PERFORMERS

Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers with 25 points on 8-of-17 shooting from the field, 5-of-10 shooting from three and 4-of-4 shooting from the line, seven. assists, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks in 40 minutes.

CJ McCollum and Trevor Ariza both finished with 22 points six assists and aa block, though the former also added four assists. Carmelo Anthony scored 12 of his 21 points in the first quarter while also finishing with five assists, two steals and two blocks.

Hassan Whiteside finished with yet another double-double of 16 points, 14 rebounds and also blocked two shots.

Devin Booker led all scorers with 29 points on 25 shots. Dario Saric added 24 points and 11 rebounds in 38 minutes.

NOTABLE

• Portland shot 45-of-89 (50.6%) from the field, while Phoenix was 35-of-87 (40.2%). It was the 20th time this season that Portland shot 50% or better from the field. The Trail Blazers are 16-4 in those games.

• Portland earned its ninth win by 15 or more points.

• The Trail Blazers recorded nine steals and nine blocks while the Suns had three steals and five blocks. It was the fourth time this season that Portland recorded at least nine steals and nine blocks in the same game.

• Portland had five players score 16 or more points for the second time this season (Feb. 6, vs. SAS). It was the fourth time this season that four Portland players scored 20-plus points. They are 4-0 in those games.

• The Suns handed out 26 assists to the Trail Blazers’ 20. It was Portland’s fifth-straight game with at least 20 assists.

QUOTABLE

"Every game is pretty much a game that we have to win." -- Trevor Ariza

HIGHLIGHTS

NEXT UP

As previously noted, the Trail Blazers host the Grizzlies on Thursday in a game that is as close to a "must-win" for Portland's playoff chances as you can get with 16 games to play.

"At this point, they’re the team that we’re chasing," said Lillard. "Sixteen games left and that would basically be like winning two games, so it’s a game on our home floor, a game that we’re more than capable of winning. We’ve got to just come prepared, come sharp and just get it done. That’s what it comes down to."

Tipoff is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m.

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