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Run-and-gun Suns too much for Trail Blazers in Phoenix

  1. Written by: KevinHudson

    The Portland Trail Blazers couldn't keep up with the Phoneix Suns, Monday at US Airways Center, falling 125-107 in a game that saw young players in increased roles for Portland, which was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.

    "It’s been a trying season though but if we could take one positive out of it it’s to see these young guys get better and see Kaleb get better each game as well as each of us try to end on a positive note," said Jamal Crawford.

    In the absence of Raymond Felton and Nicolas Batum, Luke Babbitt got his first career start and Nolan Smith played a career-high 33 minutes off the bench behind starter Jonny Flynn.

    Neither disappointed, as both players scored career highs: Babbitt with 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting (4-of-9 from long range) and Nolan Smith with 14 points, five assists.

    Portland (28-34) trailed by 11 points, 35-24 after the first quarter, then made a run to pull within three points of Phoenix midway through the second before a late Suns push extended the advantage to 66-53 at the break.

    The Suns built their lead to as many as 19 points in the third quarter and 23 points in the fourth quarter before settling for the final margin.

    Phoenix (32-29) moved into the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference playoff race with the win, pulling level with Houston, over whom the Suns hold the tiebreaker.

    Portland was led by Crawford and JJ Hickson with 22 points each. Hickson narrowly missed his fifth consecutive double-double by pulling down eight rebounds and was the only Trail Blazer to shoot better than 50 percent from the field with 9-of-15 shooting.

    "I just wanted to attack. I just decided to be more aggressive at the offensive end but that’s not where the ball game is won. It’s won on the defensive end and we have to do a better job of playing defense," Hickson said. "Coach drew up a good defensive plan but we didn’t go out and execute it. When the Coach draws up a defensive plan like he did we have to go out and execute it. We did a horrible job at it."

    Marcin Gortat led the Suns with 20 points and added a game-high 10 rebounds for his double-double, followed by Channing Frye with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting and Jared Dudley with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting.

    Phoenix shot a season-best 60 percent for the game collectively and Steve Nash dished a game-high 13 of the Suns 29 assists on 51 made baskets as six Suns scored in double figures.

    "I just don’t think we got consecutive stops tonight. I can’t remember if we ever got three or four consecutive stops," said Portland coach Kaleb Canales. "We can’t allow that and our defense needs and will continue to get better."

    The Trail Blazers return to Portland for their home finale against the Utah Jazz Wednesday, 7 p.m., at the Rose Garden. The game can be seen locally on KGW (Channel 8). 750 AM The Game and NBA Audio League Pass will have the play-by-play call.

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