The good news for the Portland Trail Blazers is they only face Goran Dragic and the Phoenix Suns one more time. And that’s not until spring.
Dragic scored 31 points, Channing Frye added 25 and the Suns used their up-tempo style to recover from a poor start and beat Portland 120-106 Wednesday night and snap the Blazers’ 11-game winning streak.
Markieff Morris scored 19 and twin Marcus Morris 15 for the Suns, who wiped out a 16-point second-quarter deficit to hand the Blazers their first loss since Nov. 5 against Houston. Two of Portland’s three defeats have come to the Suns, who shot 52 percent from the field behind the speedy Dragic, who was one point shy of his career-high and added 10 assists.
”I’m glad we don’t have to play Phoenix until April,” said Blazers coach Terry Stotts, whose team is 1-2 against the Suns and 12-1 against the rest of the league. ”After we got a lead they completely outplayed us. They ran, they rebounded, they played an excellent game. They have played us very well and we will see April 4 if anything changes.”
LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points and Damian Lillard scored 16 points for the Blazers, who had also won six straight on the road but couldn’t keep up with the new-look Suns, who moved a game over .500.
”We already played those guys three times and in all those games, we were better or we were close,” said Dragic, who hit 4 of 5 3-pointers. ”I don’t know why. I think they’re a good matchup for us. They want to play slow in the half court and we want to run. And that’s to our advantage.”
Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said before the game that he wanted to push the pace, adding, `’We’re not good when we hold the ball.” But the Suns looked sluggish early and Portland looked poised to match the third-longest win streak in franchise history.
Then Dragic took over.
Playing without backcourt mate Eric Bledsoe (bruised shin) for a sixth straight game, Dragic fueled a 40-point second-quarter with a variety of 3-pointers, midrange jumpers and nifty passes for buckets on the fast break. Frye helped by heating up from the outside. Portland turned a 39-23 deficit into a 61-58 halftime lead.
”Goran has just been on a tear,” Frye said. ”When he is feeling it like that you just give it to him and get the hell out of the way.”
Frye’s 3 to start the second half was the beginning of a 10-0 spurt and he hit another 3 to start the fourth quarter as the Suns built a 97-78 lead.
”Every time we look at the tape, if we play half court we have problems,” Dragic said. ”But when we run we got those easy, open 3s or easy layups. Everybody wants to play like that. It’s really fun.”
It was no fun for the Blazers, who had another miserable visit to the desert.
It was Portland’s 22nd loss in the past 26 trips to Phoenix, including a loss on opening night. Not even Bledsoe’s continued absence could keep the surprising Suns from winning for the third time in four games.
After limping through the morning shootaround, Bledsoe had an MRI that Hornacek said `’didn’t show anything besides what they knew already, which is a contusion.” Bledsoe has been sidelined since colliding with teammate P.J. Tucker in practice Nov. 17.
The Blazers haven’t had the same uncertainty, starting the same five players all 16 games. And Portland came out with much more energy early, racing to a commanding lead early in the second quarter behind Aldridge’s play inside and ex-Sun Robin Lopez’s work on the boards.
But the Blazers struggled to contain Dragic. After Lillard struggled to stay in front of him, Nicolas Batum took a turn on Dragic, who added five rebounds and four turnovers as Phoenix set a season-high in points.
”That’s something special in the NBA to win that many games in a row,” Aldridge said. ”We’re definitely proud of it but we have to bounce back and not lose two in a row.”
NOTES: Hornacek said they plan each game as if Bledsoe won’t play so they’ll be `’surprised” when he does. `’I thought he’d miss one game or maybe two games. But he’s got to be able to push off and if he can’t then he doesn’t play.” . . . The Blazers made only 7 of 19 3s after entering the game shooting 42 percent. But Stotts insisted before the game he believes they can continue to shoot well if his top five shooters take the bulk of the shots. ”It’s not far-reaching to think that each one of those guys could shoot 40 percent or better on the season,” he said. ”So is 42 percent sustainable? I think it is.” . . . Ex-Suns F Grant Hill attended the game. . . . Blazers G Mo Williams (three points) returned after serving a one-game suspension for his role in a scuffle Saturday against Golden State.