Trail Blazers Take A Step Back With Loss To Suns in Phoenix

by Casey Holdahl
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PHOENIX -- The Portland Trail Blazers moved to 0-3 in preseason play with a 119-74 loss to the Phoenix Suns Wednesday afternoon in front of a crowd of 9,772 at Footprint Center.

“It was a horrible effort, I thought, by us,” said Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups. “You know the preseason, you’re always trying to work on something. We’ve talked as lot about trying to create a defensive mentality here and that takes time, right? But you’ve got to keep getting better and I just felt like our urgency on the defensive end from the very start of the game wasn’t there. We just didn’t stop anything.”

While it’s never pleasant to lose by 45 points, if Portland had showed progress on either end of the floor Wednesday afternoon, at least something of value could be taken from the end result, regardless of the deficit. But starting preseason 0-3, and with none of the games being especially close, it’s a bit difficult to assess whether this year’s team is going to be markedly better than last year’s.

“Tonight, we started off getting some good looks but it’s more just like in spurts,” said Damian Lillard. “We’ll have a few good possessions where we play good defense and then we give up an offensive rebound. Or we’ll be in a good position and the wrong person will rotate then it’ll be two people guarding one person, they swing it to an open three.

“It’s like we’re getting to where we need to be but we’re just not consistent at it. It’s always something that will break up us putting possessions together, offensively and defensively.”

Portland started what most assume will be their starting lineup on Opening Night versus the Suns Wednesday afternoon, but were still throughly outplayed from start to finish. They trailed by as many as 12 points in the first quarter, 22 points in the second and 37 points in third in a performance that started out bad and got progressively worse as the game went on.

“In the preseason, all you’re really expecting, for us at least, trying to change the mentality a little bit, and that’s why a game like today is really disappointing. Not because you lose or because you got beat so badly, but because the mentality wasn’t there. That is what we’re trying to change and be better at, at least. Today I thought we took a step back there.”

Lillard led the Trail Blazers with 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting, two assists and two rebounds in 23 minutes. CJ McCollum and Robert Covington each finished with 10 and Jusuf Nurkic pulled in 13 rebounds in 20 minutes.

Suns guard Devin Booker led all scorers with 17 points in 17 minutes. Worse yet, Phoenix’s bench scored more points (78) than Portland’s entire roster.

The Trail Blazers now head to San Francisco to end their preseason the same way they started it: by playing the Golden State Warriors. Tipoff is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m.


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