Trail Blazers vs Suns Tuesday, 02/19/13 AT 07:00PM

After Break, Trail Blazers Return Home To Face Suns

02/19/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    After a weekend spent marveling at the stars of the NBA, the season returns on Tuesday. With the NBA regular season underway again, Portland is one of the cities where dreams of playing beyond the thirty games left on the schedule is still working itself out. The Trail Blazers (25-28) begin their push for the playoffs once again on Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns (17-36) at the Rose Garden. Tip-off will be at 7PM and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM. The Trail Blazers will be looking to snap a five-game losing streak.

        •    Although the half-way point of the season passed nearly a month ago, the All-Star weekend marks a logical stopping point to look back, regroup and prepare to finish the season strong. For the Trail Blazers, whether they admit to it or not, the break came at the perfect time. The season, up to this point, has been a fantastic ride, with emotionally charged, drama-filled match-ups marking the season. Heading into the break, they became mired in their season's second-longest losing streak. Often times, a physical and mental release can be of great benefit and hopefully for the Trail Blazers, that will be true. After five days away, the Trail Blazers comeback to reality. That reality is, that even though they have suffered a rough patch, they're still holding on to their playoff hopes but unless they turn things round, hopes is all they will remain to be until next year. The Trail Blazers begin with an opponent who has given them stiff competition twice this season in the Phoenix Suns.
     
       •    The Suns come into Tuesday's game as the last place team in the Western Conference and suffering a four-game losing streak of their own. However, that doesn't seem to bother them much against the Trail Blazers as they were able to demolish the Trail Blazers by 27 in the first meeting and give them a tough game in December, which Portland squeaked out by three. The Suns have been good opponents for the Trail Blazers but one constant in both Portland-Phoenix match-ups has been the stellar play of Damian Lillard. Lillard has been a thorn in the Suns' side in each match-up as he is averaging 24.5 points against Phoenix this year. Lillard, who only averages 3.7 free-throws per game, has shot 19 foul shots against the the Suns in two games. He has shown a greater willingness to get to the hoop lately and look for that to be a key to him getting himself going. However, there will be some question as to who will be joining Lillard in the starting backcourt as Wesley Matthews is questionable for Tuesday's game with an injury to his left elbow he suffered in New Orleans to go along with the right ankle he injured in Utah a few weeks ago. The Suns are likely to trot out a starting line-up of Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, P.J. Tucker, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat. All of Portland's other starters are expected to play.
      
     •    While the offense against New Orleans was lackluster, the Trail Blazers have been playing well on the offensive end. They scored over 100 points in four out of the six games on the road trip and scored 99 in their loss at Dallas. Over the six games of the road trip, it was LaMarcus Aldridge who was the reason behind their offensive explosion. Aldridge averaged 23.8 points on 56 percent shooting to go along with eight rebounds and 2.5 assists. If Aldridge can continue to this type of play, there is no doubt the Trail Blazers can hang with anyone throughout the rest of the season. However, the Trail Blazers need to get their defense back to levels that they were at earlier in January. In January the Trail Blazers were able to win with their defense but as they are a young team, they have not been able to put together games on both ends.  They've been great offensively but their defensive struggles are the root cause of their losing streak. As the season reaches a close, the Trail Blazers will need to find a balance in their identities. They've won shootouts and they've won grind-it-out games. As a new season begins, the Trail Blazers' identity stems from their attitude. As the Trail Blazers continue to fight for the playoffs and continue to grow as a unit for future seasons, they must find a basketball identity as well.

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