Trail Blazers Lose Touch In Second Half In Loss To Suns

by Casey Holdahl
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PHOENIX -- The Portland Trail Blazers started a three-game road trip versus some of the better competition in the Western Conference with a 132-100 loss to the Suns Monday night at Phoenix Suns Arena in Arizona’s capitol.

“First half, I thought we were close,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Defensively there were a few things here and there but I didn’t think we were that far off in the first half. But obviously in the third quarter, offensively, we didn’t shoot the ball well, we didn’t score and they were very efficient... It went off track in the third quarter, which is an understatement.”

The Trail Blazers are now 18-12 overall and 10-6 on the road this season. Portland has now lost their last two games on the heels of a season-best six game win streak.

Monday’s game didn’t start out especially well for the road team, though they managed to make do for a while. Portland turned the ball over three times before they made their first basket and would eventually give the ball away eight times in the first quarter, which the Suns converted into eight points.

Though by virtue of shooting 10-of-19 from the field and scoring eight second chance points, the Trail Blazers managed to head into the second quarter down by six, a triumph considering the way their night started.

And when Rodney Hood scored the first seven points of the second quarter to give Portland their first lead of the game, it seemed as though they might have put their difficulties behind them.

But even though the Trail Blazers would shoot 60 percent from the field in the second -- Hood, Derrick Jones Jr. and Enes Kanter combined to shoot 9-of-10 for the quarter -- they’d go just 2-of-8 from three while the Suns went 4-of-7. And with the Suns outscoring Portland 20-12 in the final six minutes of the first half, the road team found themselves trailing by nine at the intermission.

But in the third, after doing just enough to remain close for the first few minutes of the second half, the Blazers were unable to get any stops -- Phoenix shot better than 60 percent from both the field and three -- and continued to struggle from three while converting just seven field goals in the quarter.

The Suns would end the third on a 26-6 run, including closing the quarter by scoring eight-straight in the last 35 seconds, to take a 29-point lead that would effectively end the game with the fourth still yet to play.

Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 24 points and seven assists in 28 minutes. Nassir Little went 4-of-7 from the field, 3-of-6 from three and 7-of-8 from the line for 18 points while also grabbing five rebounds in 16 minutes.

Gary Trent Jr. made three three-pointers, making him the first player in franchise history to convert at least three threes in 11 consecutive games. He would finish with 11 points on 4-of-18 shooting.

Suns guard Devin Booker led all scorers with 34 points on 12-of-17 shooting. Deandre Ayton went for 19 points and five rebounds, Dario Saric scored 14 of the bench and Mikal Bridges added 10 points and five assists in 24 minutes.

With their worst loss of the season in the rearview, the Trail Blazers now head north to Denver to face the Nuggets in the second game of a back-to-back in the Mile High City.

“We’ve got a game tomorrow night,” said Stotts. “We’ve got to fly to Denver, play a game and that’s one thing about the NBA. We’ll watch some clips from this game, see where we can be better but we have to prepare for Denver and move on to the next one.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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