Suns-Trail Blazers Preview
Tyson Chandler underwhelmed in his Phoenix Suns debut, while C.J. McCollum enjoyed one of the best performances of his career in the Portland Trail Blazers' opener.
Both players and their teams flipped the script Friday, but will meet again Saturday night in Portland on the second half of a home-and-home.
Chandler, who signed a four-year, $52 million deal in July, had only three points and six rebounds in 17 minutes in Wednesday's 111-95 loss to Dallas. He was a force at home against the Trail Blazers on Friday, however, recording 15 points and 13 rebounds. He also helped Phoenix score 58 points in the paint, illustrating the possibility of a more consistent interior game for the Suns. They ranked 16th over the last three seasons with 41.8 points in the paint per game.
Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight also combined for 40 points in the backcourt, and coach Jeff Hornacek said the pick-and-roll action ran by his two guards was reminiscent of Steve Nash, whom the organization inducted into its Ring of Honor at halftime.
"They made some great passes and Tyson finished on a couple and they had to foul him on others or he is going to dunk it," Hornacek said. "So that's what we need. When we can get that going then it's going to open up other things."
McCollum lit up New Orleans in Portland's 112-94 home win on Wednesday, scoring a career-high 37 on 14-of-22 shooting, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range. He scored 16 on Friday but was 7 of 22 from the field and is 16 for 47 in six career games against the Suns.
Damian Lillard scored a game-high 24 but was also shaky from the field, going 7 for 20 to fall to 15 for 41 in two games. He's averaging 16.4 points on 35.5 percent shooting in his last eight games against Phoenix compared to 26.3 and 49.2 in his first four career matchups.
Lillard, who averaged 2.7 turnovers per game in 2014-15, is at 5.5 thus far after committing seven giveaways Friday. The Trail Blazers had 23 turnovers, leading to 29 points for the Suns.
Portland seemed to take issue with the way the game was officiated, as it was 15 of 19 from the free-throw line compared to Phoenix hitting 32 of 42.
"It is frustrating," Lillard said. "The refs are going to call the way they see it. We just got to play."
The Suns continued to struggle from 3-point range Friday and are 10 for 42 to begin the season. They ranked 21st in 2014-15 (34.1 percent).
Phoenix snapped a three-game losing streak in the series with Friday's win, but has dropped 10 of 12 at Portland, including both last year by a combined 44 points.
Portland shot 50.0 percent at home Wednesday against the Pelicans and its .768 home winning percentage over the last two seasons is tied with Oklahoma City and Houston as the NBA's fourth-highest in that span.