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The Trail Blazers started 5 of 20 in the first quarter and the Suns were filling it up from deep with looks created by dribble penetration by new point guard Goran Dragic. Despite a few runs, the Trail Blazers were unable to recover and ultimately fell 104-93 to go to 1-1 in the preseason.
“I thought we were passive at the beginning of the game,” said head coach Terry Stotts.
After getting off to a good start on Wednesday night, the Trail Blazers turned it over five times in the first quarter as Phoenix applied pressure early. After settling down, they struggled to make open shots, with the exception of Nicolas Batum who had 8 of Portland’s 15 first quarter points.
After falling behind by 13 in the first quarter, an unlikely unit shifted momentum to make it a more even affair. After Wesley Johnson extended the lead to sixteen on the second quarter’s first basket, a line-up of Coby Karl, Nolan Smith, Adam Morrison, Luke Babbitt and Meyers Leonard went on a 10-0 run. Portland executed on offense, the Suns shooting was suddenly not so hot and just like that, the Blazers were in the game again.
Leonard, who had 10 points and eight rebounds in Wednesday win against the Lakers, finished with 14 points and eight rebounds in his first, albeit preseason, start in the NBA. Leonard started the game looking a bit lost playing against a quality reverent center in Marcin Gortat, but the rookie from Illinois quickly answered the bell. Through two games, Leonard has been the most consistent Trail Blazer thus far.
It was Goran Dragic’s night, as he wreaked havoc in the lane early and often. Drive after drive, Dragic would have his way opening up the perimeter for Phoenix’s superb shooters. Coach Stotts said that the first six minutes of the game set the tone of the game and it was Dragic who was the tuner.
Dragic finished the game with eight points, nine assists, five rebounds and a +/- of +24. Phoenix shot 50 percent from three-point range with former Minnesota Timberwolves Wesley Johnson and Michael Beasley accounting for five of Phoenix’s 10 made threes. The physical play of Gortat was also a factor throughout the game while Markieff Morris continued his stellar play from the Las Vegas Summer League by finishing with 14 points off the bench.
This was a learning experience for a very young team. Damian Lillard struggled with his shot and turnovers in the early going. Lillard’s cold stretch extended into the second half until an ankle injury to Ronnie Price forced Terry Stotts to put Lillard back in the game. Lillard responded by scoring seven straight and ended up with eleven points in the fourth quarter to finish with 15 points, five assists and five turnovers.
Lillard’s late spurt had even pushed Phoenix head coach Alvin Gentry to put Dragic and Gortat back in the game after it seemed their night had ended as the Trail Blazers closed the gap from 15 to seven. Lillard played off-the-ball for a stretches on Friday, though it seemed as if he was most effective with the ball in his hands, directing traffic and initiating the offense.
LaMarcus Aldridge also had a rough night shooting, finishing 4 of 13 from the field, though he did tally a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Aldridge, who set the tone by making the first basket of the game against the Lakers, was unable find his rhythm until the Suns already had a cushion.
These types of games are the ones that will present themselves throughout the season for a young team. They struggled early, couldn’t get shots to fall and were unable to weather the storm from a team that came ready to play. However, this is the preseason and it is a consequence-free scenario. After shooting under 39 percent from the field and under 28 percent from three, it will be interesting to see if the Trail Blazers can find productive offense the next time they take the court.
Up next, the Trail Blazers head to Sacramento on Monday to face the Kings, who beat the Suns only a few nights ago.
This photo: Hickson Posting Up In Phoenix /
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