Team Records: Phoenix (44-30) at Portland (49-27)
Game Info: 7 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -4.5
Refs: Tony Brothers, Brian Forte, JT Orr
Playoff Picture: Portland currently sits in fifth place and would play Houston if the playoffs started today. Portland’s magic number is 2 and they will secure a playoff spot with a win Friday.
The Skinny: The Blazers look to secure their playoff spot and earn the 12th 50 win season in franchise history tonight as they take on the playoff hungry Suns. Phoenix has cooled a bit as of late but a lot less than many, including yours truly, expected they would. Phoenix has lost their last two games and is currently in a three-way fight with Memphis and Dallas for the last two playoff spots.
Last Time They Met: Dragic torched the Blazers for 31 points as Phoenix ended Portland’s 11 game winning streak way back in November.
Projected Suns Lineup:
PF-Channing Frye (Arizona-8th Season)-11.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.2 APG.
SF-PJ Tucker (Texas-3rd Season)-9.5 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.8 APG.
C-Miles Plumlee (Duke-2nd Season)-8.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG, .5 APG
SG-Eric Bledsoe (Kentucky-4th Season)-17.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 5.6 APG
PG-Goran Dragic (Slovenia-6th Season)-20.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 6 APG.
Player to Watch-Channing Frye (pictured at right) – For some players they might appear to be middling at best until they find themselves in the right situation. This year Robin Lopez comes to mind for Portland and ex-Blazer Channing Frye certainly has found his best fit in Phoenix. Frye is a big man who can shoot 3s (and does so a lot, more than half of his shot attempts come from deep), which on a Phoenix team where everyone other than the center shoots 3s is an essential skill. He’s not a very good defender (although he’s not a bad shot blocker) and his rebounding isn’t the greatest but for Phoenix, he’s doing just what they need him to do.
Did You Know?: The Suns have only lost seven times this year by more than ten points, tied for the fourth fewest in the NBA.
Song of the Day: “Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman Turner Overdrive. An old Blazers theme song and what the team has been doing as of late. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-PF/C Joel Freeland (Knee)
Phoenix: Out-C Emeka Okafor (Heniated Disc), SG Leandro Barbosa (Hand)
Re-Evaluating Phoenix: I Was Wrong, the Suns are Legit
When the Blazers last played the Suns all the way back in November, I declared rather clearly that I didn’t think they had a chance to maintain their current level of success and that they would invariably fade. I wasn’t alone in this but boy was I wrong. While they may not end up making the playoffs the Suns have overachieved far more than any other team in the league this year and look well poised for the future. With plenty of flexibility in the coming years, the Suns are indeed rising in Phoenix.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They hold Phoenix under 100 points. Phoenix is not so good when they don’t score 100 (7-18). If the Blazers can keep the Suns under 100, they should win.
Phoenix wins if: They make Portland play sloppy. The Suns thrive on fast break points. If they can make the Blazers play sloppy and get a bunch of cheap baskets, they should be able to win.