Blazers, Suns aim to end thankless skids

By Kerry Eggers, The Sports Xchange
Blazers, Suns aim to end thankless skids
Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns will collide Tuesday night at Moda Center, both teams hoping to regain a measure of equilibrium.

The Trail Blazers (22-21) will try to end a three-game losing streak, having fallen to Western Conference playoff contenders -- Houston, New Orleans and Minnesota -- on the final three stops of a recent four-game road trip.


"We've had our hands full," Portland point guard Damian Lillard told the media. "It's a good measuring stick to say, 'OK, these are some of the top teams in the West. Can we do the things we need to do to give ourselves a chance to win?' And we've struggled in those games."

Portland fell behind by 26 points before losing 120-103 to the Timberwolves on Sunday. The Blazers were outscored 26-10 in the second quarter while shooting 2 for 15 from the field.

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"The second quarter was the game," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "Our offense really hit the skids. We didn't shoot it well. We didn't pass it well. We turned the ball over. It was a big hole to climb out of."


The Blazers are tied for 20th in the NBA in offensive efficiency, but they've improved in that department in recent weeks. The Minnesota game snapped a streak of scoring at least 110 points in six straight games.

Portland has gone in the opposite direction at the defensive end. The Blazers, who ranked second in defensive efficiency through much of the first half of the season, are now No. 7. In their three recent losses, each opponent shot better than 50 percent from the field and averaged 120 points, including 54 in the paint.

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Phoenix (16-28) comes to Moda Center having lost two in a row and four of its last five. The Suns, who had won six of their previous nine outings, got drilled 120-97 by Indiana Sunday at Talking Stick Resort Arena. To coach Jay Triano, it felt much worse than a 112-95 defeat to Houston last Friday.

"We didn't stick with the philosophy we've been trying to build on the defensive end," Triano told reporters. "I don't know if that's because we were tired, but we were a step slow."

The Suns weren't very good at the offensive end against Indiana, either, shooting .412 from the field. Rookie forward Josh Jackson scored 21 points despite being limited by a hip injury. Star guard Trevor Booker scored only 15 points on 5-for-16 shooting.


"We're not the most talented team, so we're going to have to out play-the other team with energy and effort," Booker said. "We haven't done that."

The Suns will have to contend with Lillard, who in two games against Phoenix -- both Portland victories -- averaged 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Phoenix is being slowed by injuries. Forward Marquese Chris (hip) couldn't finish Monday practice and forward T.J. Warren (back) was held out of practice. Chris is doubtful and Warren and Jackson are questionable for Tuesday's game. Triano has mixed emotions about even holding practice with that many players injured.

"It's a fine line, but our goal is to try to keep developing our young players," he said. "We can't do that by taking time off."

Portland backup point guard Shabazz Napier (back) is questionable for Tuesday's tilt.

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