Trail Blazers vs Suns Wednesday, 11/21/12 AT 06:00PM

Portland Looks For Fourth Straight Win In Phoenix

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 4.0

    Wednesday, the Trail Blazers head to the Valley of the Sun to take on Phoenix (4-7) at 6PM looking for their fourth straight win. The game will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on the radio on 1190 FM and 102.3 AM.

    The NBA season has its ebbs and flows. Just last week we were here writing about if the Trail Blazers could turn around their porous defense and get some of the late game bounces to go their way after a four-game losing streak, three of which came on the Rose Garden floor. On the road in Sacramento, they found victory behind a great game from Damian Lillard. They continued winning in a high scoring, overtime affair against Houston in which Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and the aforementioned Lillard combined for 91 points. Then on Sunday they grinded out a win against a tough Bulls team behind a total team effort and contributions from reserve veterans. Every game, as Coach Stotts always likes to point out, is different.

    Two things that we’ve seen from the Trail Blazers this season: they compete and they adapt. It’s foolish to think that every night you can trot out the same line-ups, same substitutions against different opponents and expect to win every night in the NBA. The match-ups dictate these things and the Trail Blazers have not been afraid to adapt. Against Houston, Coach Stotts decided to go with Victor Claver with the first unit to match-up against Chandler Parsons. Meyers Leonard played well and earned himself playing time for the majority of the fourth quarter and overtime. Against Chicago, Will Barton found himself in the action early against a much smaller perimeter group in Chicago. Ronnie Price, Jared Jeffries and Sasha Pavlovic all made big plays in the game’s final period to help Portland seal the win. What will Wednesday’s match-up bring?

    •    Portland will certainly be able to score. Despite the fact Marcin Gortat is second in the league in blocks per game, Phoenix’s defense is poor. They have the worst defense in the league through eleven games, ranking 30th in the league in defensive efficiency according to Basketball-Reference. Portland, who has the ninth best offense in the NBA, should be able to take advantage. Aldridge, Batum and Lillard currently rank eighth, ninth and 17th in the league in points per game.  No other team has three players in the top-20 in points per game. Also, look for Batum, Lillard and Matthews to get plenty of open looks from three-point range as the Suns give up a league high 43 percent three-point shooting to their opponents. Portland currently ranks 6th as a team in three-point field goal percentage (38.5%).

    •    Portland is also at the bottom of the league defensively but what is going for them in this match-up is that this is not the prolific Phoenix offense of years past. Despite the fact that Goran Dragic is a very capable starting point guard, he is no Steve Nash and the Suns have not been very good from the field, ranking 24th in effective field goal percentage (a stat that accounts for the extra worth of three-pointers). Their offense is currently below the league average and if Portland can find a way to contain Dragic offensively, Portland will be able to get a win at Phoenix unless streaky offensive players like Shannon Brown or Michael Beasley get hot. Phoenix plays at the fourth fastest pace in the league and Portland likes to play at a pretty fast pace themselves (11th), so at least there will be a lot of running.

    •    With the pace Phoenix plays at, Portland will have to do a better job than they have of finding shooters in transition. Portland currently ranks 28th in giving up transition points per possession according to Synergy Sports Technology. Transition plays are the second most frequented type of offense for the Suns but they only rank 24th in points per possession on those plays according to Synergy Sports Technology. Portland on the other hand ranks third in the NBA in points per possession in transition.

    •    Containing Dragic will be the key to winning the game. Although it was only in the preseason, Dragic’s ability to get into the lane helped the Suns brutalize the Trail Blazers in October. His penetration caused Portland to collapse and Phoenix was able to convert on 50 percent of their three point shots. Dragic finished the game with a +/- of +24. He currently ranks 18th in player efficiency rating in the league at 21.9 just behind Portland’s Nicolas Batum (22.1).

    •    Phoenix, even though they haven’t been very efficient on either end so far, do play a lot of guys. Dragic and Beasley are the only players that average over thirty minutes. Portland has four averaging over 38. In Portland’s last three games, the bench has made meaningful contributions whether it’s Ronnie Price, Jared Jeffries or rookie Meyers Leonard. Bench contributions will be needed again but don’t look for their biggest ones to come in the column farthest to the right in the box score. That is unless Ronnie Price’s offensive production becomes something Portland can count on rather than an aberration.

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