How’s this for a scary Halloween story: Miles Plumlee, PJ Tucker and the Phoenix Suns swiftly kick the Trail Blazers’ butt and score 52 points in the paint en route to a 104-91 win in front of a scarce home crowd.
The worst part is that it’s a true story! The Portland Trail Blazers (0-1) rung in the 2013-14 season on the road with a matchup with the Suns (1-0) at the US Airways Center. Portland was looking forward to starting out strong and showing they are capable of being a playoff-contending team, while the Suns are more then likely headed straight to the lottery.
What happened instead was Portland played half-assed defense, couldn’t take care of the ball and shot poorly throughout. The blame doesn’t rest on either LaMarcus Aldridge or Damian Lillard, who both combined for 60 points, no one else scored in double figures and the bench production wasn’t looking as good as advertised. Chalk this one up as Opening Night nerves or rustiness or whatever you want to call it, the Blazers stunk.
Right after Aldridge nailed Portland’s first two-points of the season on the reliable mid-range, the Suns were getting plenty of easy looks inside the paint, something they haven’t been known to do for many years instead living and dying by the three-point shot. While Portland was feasting on offensive boards early, they only capitalized on 4-13 shooting from the field and quickly fell behind midway through the first.
One of the biggest problems for Portland tonight was the turnover battle, and Phoenix deserves a lot of credit for their constant pressure on the guards, Nic Batum and Mo Williams, who would get stuck and try to pass out, only to chuck the ball wildly and into the hands of the Suns. Miles Plumlee was having the time of his life in the first half, finding himself at times wide open down low while Robin Lopez and the rest of the bigs got caught double-teaming Goran Dragic up top. Lillard trying his hardest to keep the Blazers in striking distance nailed three consecutive three-pointers to close the gap 50-46 at the break.
The closest the Blazers ever got for the rest of the night came in the opening minutes of the third when Aldridge brought them within one. A few threes from Channing Frye and Dragic ignited a 12-0 run and from there, it wasn’t even close. Portland fed Aldridge throughout much of the quarter but forgot about him in the fourth, the Suns manage to get themselves to the foul line and that’s the ball game.
Who Was Hot
- Give credit to both Aldridge and Lillard, they were the ones that tried all their might to get some kind of positive momentum going but the rest of the team couldn’t match.
- Lillard finished with a game-high 32 PTS (on 10-20 shooting), 2 AST, 4 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 0 turnovers and 6-12 3PT. Lillard’s last game with more than 30 points? Last April against the Denver Nuggets. One of the things he said he worked on this summer was his defense and damn, he needs to get back in the practice facility and continue to work on keeping pace with quick point guards. It was embarrassing.
- Aldridge practically owned the third but was fighting off double and triple-teams all night to end with 28 PTS, 4 REB, 2 AST on 12-22 shooting in 39 minutes.
- Miles Plumlee was the engine tonight for Phoenix and had a career night in practically every category: 18 PTS (previous was 13), 15 REB (10 defensive), 3 BLK on 8-14 shooting. Dragic lead the team with 26 PTS, 9 AST, 6 REB and Eric Bledsoe had 22 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST on 7-12 from the floor.
Who Was Cold
- Mo Williams had a terrible opening impression and did nothing to help his cause. He threw wild passes, took awful shot selections and didn’t look comfortable at all. He collects just 2 PTS, 3 AST, 3 turnovers on 1-9 shooting and 0-4 from three-point range.
- Nic Batum’s stats look alright; 7 PTS, 13 REB, 4 AST, 1 BLK and 4 turnovers that all were ill-advised and passes that he should’ve just held on and shot the ball. He only took nine shots and connected on three, and every other time was just him pump-faking, running the paint and then throwing a laser pass back out that the rest of the guys didn’t expect, resulting in a turnover. Ugh.
- Portland shot 28% in the first quarter to Phoenix’s 60% and brought that up to just over 40% for the night. The Blazers hit 8-26 three-pointers (30%) and need to work on their free throws (17-24 for 70%) while the Suns went 51% for the game and only 4-19 from three. Portland was killed inside the paint 52-24 and allowed 32 fast break points.
- Coach Terry Stotts chose not to play Claver, Leonard, Crabbe or Barton and chose to keep Williams who was playing like a chicken-with-its-head-was-cut-off instead of Freeland and Robinson who actually had some nice plays.
Fail of the Game
- Shame on whoever in the Suns organization that came up with having tonight be Polish Heritage Night in honor of Marcin Gortat. Bringing a bunch of native Poles to the game to cheer for a fellow countryman only to have traded Gortat to Washington almost a week ago…!
- The fans also must have no faith in their team this season as only 17,000 showed up. It was so quiet at some points you could hear player conversations on the court.
Take a deep breath everybody, yes this wasn’t the kind of basketball we expected right out of the gate but we have a day to regroup and gather ourselves before we face the thin air at the Mile High City to face the Denver Nuggets on Friday. There’s still 81 games left!
I’d also like to take a second to introduce myself, my name is Nicholas and I have been brought on to write game recaps for you fine readers and I thank PWE for giving me the opportunity to be here. I look forward to connecting with all of you throughout the season! Go Blazers!