The reigning Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns, coming off an impressive road win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, continue their road trip with a game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday.
The Suns cruised to a 115-105 victory over LeBron James and Co., leading comfortably the entire second half.
Four of the five Suns starters scored in double figures, with Chris Paul contributing 23 points, Devin Booker 22, Mikal Bridges 21 and Jae Crowder 13.
Paul, who also dished a game-high 14 assists, reached 20,000 career points in the second quarter. He is the first player in NBA history with 20,000-plus points and 10,000-plus assists.
“When you get done playing this game, you want to have things to remember,” Paul said in his postgame press conference, holding onto the game ball. “I’m going to keep this for sure.”
Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton scored eight points, grabbed 15 rebounds and helped limit Anthony Davis to 6-of-18 shooting from the floor.
The win came just hours after Suns owner Robert Sarver issued a statement denying allegations of sexism and racism rumored to be published in a forthcoming ESPN report.
“I’m not gonna talk about any of that, and nothing will invade or erode our culture,” Suns coach Monty Williams told reporters in his pre-game media availability. “That’s something that we’ve said from day one.”
The allegations had no ill effect on Phoenix through the first three quarters Friday, as the Suns’ lead swelled to as many as 32 points in the third quarter. Los Angeles cut the deficit to nine points in the final minute, but never came any closer.
The Suns dropped their opener on Wednesday to the Denver Nuggets, the same team Phoenix swept in the Western Conference semifinals last season en route to just the third Finals appearance in franchise history.
The same night the Suns fell 110-98 to Denver, Portland dropped its opener to Sacramento, 124-121. The Kings shot 17 of 41 (41.5 percent) from 3-point range to outpace Portland despite CJ McCollum’s 34 points and six 3-pointers.
“Our (defensive) rotations were wrong a few times,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “When you get a team that can really shoot or a team that gets hot, those are mistakes that you just can’t make.”
The Blazers rallied from an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter and had a look at a would-be game-tying 3-pointer, but Damian Lillard’s buzzer-beating attempt was no good.
Despite the Wednesday loss, Lillard — who scored 20 points — received some good news on Thursday. He was selected to the NBA’s 75th anniversary team as one of the top 75 players in league history.
“(Basketball media) evaluate us by how many (championships) you’ve won, playoff success. And I think I’ve had playoff success, I just haven’t won a ring,” Lillard said, according to NBA.com. “Outside of that, I’ve achieved a lot, six-time All-Star, six-time All-NBA. …
“I feel like the best years of my career are ahead of me.”
Lillard is one of two top 75 players taking the court Saturday in Portland, along with Paul.
–Field Level Media