When you're facing a solid opponent that's the second youngest squad in the league and hasn't played in four days, it's going to be tough to win, especially when you've had to grind out two tough victories in three days while fighting for your playoff lives.
That's the best way to sum up the Phoenix Suns' experience in Portland last night, a not-even-close 129-109 victory for the Trail Blazers. Phoenix had to play yet another toughie less than 24 hours after a tough home win over the Utah Jazz. The Suns definitely didn't have their legs nor any inspired play on the defensive end (the Blazers hit the century mark by the end of the third quarter).
You could see during the game's early stages that win number seven in a row wasn't meant to be. Fast-break takes to the hoop by Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished with a season-high 29 points, came en masse. By halftime, Portland took a comfortable eight-point lead into the locker room. After that, it was game, set, and match for Portland, who outscored the Suns 35-22 in the third quarter on its way to a convincing twenty-point victory. (Phoenix is now three-and-a-half games back of Dallas for the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.)[jump]
Next up on Saturday is another matchup with the smooth Utah Jazz, who didn't look so smooth in its 118-114 loss to the Suns on Wednesday night. During crunch time of that game, there was a questionable-esque no-call by the officials - Mehmet Okur looked as if he was hit on the elbow while attempting a game-tying jumper in the paint, though it would have been a bitch foul to call in that situation - so Utah will be seeking payback. They'll have the Salt Lake City home crowd backing them up, so a Suns victory will be a tough thing to accomplish.
Then, on Sunday, the Suns hit up the Sacramento Kings in their crib. The two haven't met since February 2 - a 129-81 pasting by Phoenix - but will cross paths once again at US Airways next Friday. The secret to beating the Kings is, well, just don't play like ass, because Sacramento is arguably the league's worse team. The team recently suffered its second six-game losing streak of the season. Compile that with two eight-game losing streaks and, ouch, dude.
The Suns and Jazz exchange some more pleasantries at 6 p.m. Saturday at Utah's EnergySolutions Arena. At 6 p.m. Sunday, the Suns and Kings square off at Sacramento's ARCO Arena. Catch both games locally on KUTP 45 and/or on the radio at KTAR-620 AM.