Lillard, Blazers Await Suns in Next Preseason Game

by Matt Petersen

Coming off a 41-point win in their first preseason, the Suns now face a team reeling from a very different exhibition opener.

Everything that went right for Phoenix on Monday night — the shooting, defense and high scoring — couldn't have gone more wrong for Portland on the same night. The Blazers shot just 35.9 percent from the field, committed 21 turnovers, and didn't see anyone score more than 12 points in their 89-81 loss to the Clippers.

To add injury to insult, the player that did score 12 points (Nicolas Batum) won't play against Phoenix on Wednesday night due to a concussion.

The disparity between opponents accounts for some of the extremes. The Blazers played a Clippers team many expect to contend for a title. The Suns hosted Maccabi Haifa, an Israeli championship team that wanted a competitive experience against an NBA franchise.

Portland also went without the services of LaMarcus Aldridge, who is recovering from a left quadriceps strain. His status for Wednesday night is uncertain

Such is the state of the Blazers as they prepare to welcome the Suns, who moved on from Monday's win and brought "a lot of energy" to Tuesday morning's practice, according to Head Coach Jeff Hornacek.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.


It will be interesting to see which half of Phoenix's starting backcourt is assigned to guard Lillard, last year's unanimous Rookie of the Year. The former Weber State Wildcat boasts plenty of quickness and speed off the dribble, and doesn't shy away from making big plays in big moments.

Lillard made his impact last season by slashing to the rim for 19 points per game, but shot just 42.9 percent from the field. The Suns' guards will need to be disciplined when deciding whether to go for the steal or simply play solid defense and force him to shoot jumpers.



When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Where: Moda Center

TV: None

Radio: Arizona Sports 620

Hornacek has already stated several times that opposing lineups will play a role in his own defensive schemes, and Wednesday night could shed some light on that approach. Batum's replacement in the starting lineup will determine whether the 6-5, 220-pound Wesley Matthews remains at off-guard and provides an early test of Bledsoe or Dragic's ability to contain bigger guards.

Should Portland elect to go with a smaller backcourt and shift Matthews to small forward, Phoenix will undoubtedly try to take advantage in a game of speed vs. speed.


Hornacek said on Tuesday that he'd like to continue experimenting with two-center lineups, and the Blazers offer some interesting counters.

Former Suns big man Robin Lopez is the new starter in the middle for Portland, and, if he plays, LaMarcus Aldridge presents a mobile assignment for whichever big men ends up guarding him. Former lottery picks Thomas Robinson and Meyers Leonard will also be in the mix down low.

"It's another thing we've got to see how it works," Hornacek said. "Not only [Monday] with Alex [Len] and some of those guys, but Alex and [Marcin Gortat], maybe Miles and [Gortat]. Marcin came out today and was like, 'I can play [power forward], I can play that four against two big guys.' We'll probably have to go with that some. There's going to be teams out there that have two bigs like that."