The Phoenix Suns sustained a bad beating the first time they visited Portland this season.
The short-handed Suns look for a better result in Tuesday’s return engagement when they face the struggling Trail Blazers.
Portland put together one of its best efforts of the season with a 134-105 home win over Phoenix on Oct. 23. The Trail Blazers built a 20-point halftime advantage and finished 21 of 50 from 3-point range in the superb effort.
Phoenix avenged the beating with a 119-109 home win over Portland on Nov. 10. The Suns arrive back in the Pacific Northwest at a time in which the Trail Blazers are struggling with five straight setbacks and eight defeats in their past nine games.
Phoenix isn’t feeling so great either after losing 111-95 to the host Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night. The Suns shot 37.5 percent from the field, including a shaky 7 of 29 from 3-point range while again playing without sharpshooter Devin Booker (hamstring) and big man Deandre Ayton (non-COVID illness).
Booker will miss his sixth consecutive game on Tuesday, while Ayton is expected to sit out for the third straight outing.
Cameron Johnson led the Suns with 17 points against the Clippers, and Mikal Bridges scored 16. Chris Paul shot just 4 of 14 while posting nine points and eight assists.
“We competed. Guys played hard. We had 10 guys tonight,” Paul said postgame. “Them guys, we fought. Didn’t make shots, but we competed and that’s all you can ask for.”
Suns coach Monty Williams liked the intensity of his club on a night in which not a lot of things went right.
“We still had a chance, and that’s what I was encouraged by, the fight of our guys,” Williams said. “Having so many guys out, it kind of caught up with us. We battled, we just couldn’t make a shot for segments of the game.”
Meanwhile, Portland star Damian Lillard (abdomen) returned from a five-game absence on Sunday, but his presence couldn’t prevent a 116-111 loss to the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves.
Lillard had 24 points and a season-best 11 rebounds but hit just 5 of 17 from the field as the Trail Blazers’ woes continued.
“My thing to the guys was like, ‘I’ve been here before, we’ve been here before. It’s not ideal,'” Lillard said. “You don’t want to keep telling yourselves in the locker room, ‘All right, we’ve got to keep pushing, it’s going to get better.’
“You know, it’s a situation that we have to make better. We have to do things better. And that starts with me.”
The loss to Minnesota was the club’s fourth straight home defeat after a 10-1 start at the Moda Center. Two of the setbacks were ugly — 114-83 to the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 2 and 145-117 to the Boston Celtics on Dec. 4.
First-year coach Chauncey Billups said he was uncomfortable about Sunday’s game from the outset.
“I just felt like we were kind of antsy all night,” Billups said. “I was hoping they would calm down as the game went on, but … we didn’t really calm down.”
Portland’s Anfernee Simons established season highs of 26 points and six 3-pointers.
Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum (collapsed lung) will miss his fourth straight game. Big man Cody Zeller (fractured knee) will sit out for the third consecutive contest.
The Suns have won six of their past eight meetings with the Trail Blazers.
–Field Level Media