Portland Pulls Away from Phoenix to Complete Winning Trip
PHOENIX -- For nearly three quarters, neither Portland nor Phoenix separated from the other by more than six points. But Portland began to run away from Phoenix toward the end of the third quarter and sped through the fourth quarter in winning, 120-106, at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
"First half was frustrating, we missed a lot of shots at the rim early on, gave up too many transition points in the first quarter," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "We played much better in the second half, obviously."
The Trail Blazers are now 30-20 overall after 50 games and 10-13 on the road this season. Portland leads the season series versus Phoenix 2-0 and have defeated the Suns in their last nine meetings.
While there was never really a point in which the Trail Blazers were in danger of losing Thursday night, their play in the first half didn't do much to inspire confidence. Between turning the ball over five time and allowing 19 fastbreak points in the first quarter, the Trail Blazers were lucky to go into the second quarter trailing only by one.
Portland turned the ball over five more times in the second quarter, but they did a much better job of controlling Phoenix's transition opportunities and outrebounded the home team 13-8, all of which helped the Trail Blazers take a 56-52 lead into the intermission.
"I think we missed a lot of shots in the paint in the first half," said Damian Lillard. "We was getting good looks, missed a lot of those shots. Turned the ball over, I think we had like nine or 10 turnovers in the first half. When we don't value the ball and we don't get shots up, a team like that, they're young, athletic, like to play fast, they gonna get out in transition and they gonna draw fouls and they gonna score points that way."
Portland started the second half on an 11-2 run to take 67-56 lead with less than eight minutes to play in the third quarter, and for a moment, it looked as if they might pull away from an outmanned Suns team playing without rookie DeAndre Ayton, T.J. Warren, Richaun Holmes. But behind the play of another rookies, Elle Okobo, the Suns pushed back to cut Portland's lead to 73-71 with 4:21 to play in the quarter.
But rather than getting themselves into a second-half dogfight, Portland closed out the third on a 15-4 run and then scored the first seven points of the fourth to take a commanding 95-76 lead. Portland would go on to lead by as many as 23 points in the fourth quarter, with their reserves doing most of the work, before coming away with the 14-point victory.
"Every game is going to be different," said Lillard. "I think in OKC, we didn't make shots, they were aggressive defensively and I think that's why they won the game down the stretch. We come here tonight and it was a different story. We was up 12 going into the fourth and our bench came in and pushed the lead up. When they do that -- I didn't even play in the fourth quarter -- it's a positive for me and a positive for our team. But the fact that they was able to hold it down like that and kind of push it up to 20, those are our best nights, when it's collective."
Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers with 24 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in 29 minutes. He has now scored 1,311 points this season, the most by a Trail Blazer in the team’s first 50 games.
CJ McCollum finished with 20 points to go with three rebounds and two assists. He scored 11 of his points in the first quarter before sitting out the second quarter with foul trouble.
Jusuf Nurkic 16 points, making Thursday's contest the fourth straight game in which he's scored at least 15 points. Jake Layman scored 20 points – the third 20+ scoring game of his career -- and has now scored in double figures in six of the last seven games.
"It was a game made for (Layman)," said Stotts. "It was up and down, they played a small lineup. It catered to his style of game."
Seth Curry scored 15 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter. He finished one shy of a season high. The Trail Blazers are 10-0 this season when he scores at least nine points.
• Damian Lillard made a 3-pointer for the 50th straight game to begin the season. Lillard joins Dennis Scott (Orlando, 1995-96) as the only players in NBA history to make a 3-pointer in each of their team’s first 50 games.
• The Trail Blazers improve to 10-3 over their 13 last games and 30-20 for the season. This is Portland’s best record through 50 games since starting 34-16 in 2014-15.
• Portland has now defeated Phoenix in nine straight meetings.
• The Trail Blazers shot a perfect 20-of-20 from the free throw line. This marked the 29th time in franchise history that the Trail Blazers were perfect from the free throw line and second this season (16-of-16 at San Antonio on Dec. 2). This was the Blazers’ first perfect game from the charity stripe on at least 20 attempts since Oct. 25, 2016 vs. Utah (22-of-22).
• Portland outrebounded Phoenix 29-20 in the first half and 53-39 for the game.
"We knew this was going to be a tough trip with Utah, OKC and then finishing here, regardless of what their record is. We knew they had wins against really good teams." -- Damian Lillard on finishing the three-game trip 2-1
The Trail Blazers return to the Moda Center to play a slate of four home games over the next two weeks starting Saturday with a tilt versus the Atlanta Hawks. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.