Trail Blazers-Suns Preview
The Phoenix Suns refused to let the exhaustion of losing close games on their recent road trip frustrate them and have shown in back-to-back contests that they still have some energy left.
A brutal stretch for the Portland Trail Blazers hasn't been going as well.
Phoenix looks to extend its winning streak to three and beat the visiting Blazers for the third time this season Friday night.
The Suns (10-13) began a six-game trip with a five-point win over Toronto on Nov. 29, the first of a franchise-record seven straight games decided by five points or fewer. They lost the next four by a combined 13 points, then fell behind by 16 at Chicago on Monday.
Phoenix, though, rallied to score 42 points in the fourth quarter, capped by Mirza Teletovic's bucket with 0.3 seconds left to give it a 103-101 win. The Suns then returned home two nights later and hung on to beat Orlando 107-104.
Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight finished with 21 points apiece, and Alex Len added a career-high 20 while tying a career best of 14 rebounds.
''We definitely needed this win," Bledsoe said. "We came off a tough stretch."
The Suns had dropped eight of nine prior to winning the last two. They're also facing a potential distraction with Markieff Morris, who demanded a trade after the team shipped his twin brother, Marcus, to Detroit in the offseason.
There are reports that Phoenix is shopping Morris, who is averaging 11.4 points and shooting 38.6 percent. He didn't play at all in a loss to Memphis on Sunday before coming off the bench for only seven minutes against the Bulls.
The Suns said Morris was inactive Wednesday because of a sinus infection. Tyson Chandler also sat out a seventh straight game with a right hamstring strain.
''We just have to continue to stick together,'' Knight said. ''We believe in ourselves. We put the time in and we put the work in.''
Damian Lillard is preaching the same for the Blazers (9-14) despite their struggles. Portland blew a late lead in Monday's 90-88 loss to Milwaukee, then let an 18-point edge slip away the following night in a 105-100 loss to Cleveland.
Lillard finished with 33 points against the Cavaliers while C.J. McCollum added 24.
"The main thing is that everybody cares to be a part of the group," Lillard said. "Wins, losses, guys playing bad ... everybody still manages to stick together. That lets me know people really want to be a part of the group. And that's really good for the direction we're going in here."
This contest will finish a four-game trip for Portland, which faces New York on Saturday. Monday's game against New Orleans will cap its second stretch of three games in four nights since last Saturday.
''Over the years, we've been a good back-to-back team, so that's not much of an issue,'' coach Terry Stotts said. ''It's more the four-in-five days or six-in-nine days that really take their toll on an NBA team.''
The Blazers' first back-to-back set of this season didn't go so well as it was swept in a home-and-home by the Suns on Oct. 30 and 31. Bledsoe had 22 points in Phoenix's 110-92 victory before netting a season-high 33 in a 101-90 road win the next night.