It wasn’t until things got a little uneasy in the fourth quarter that the Trail Blazers woke up Saturday and remembered they were in a playoff race.
After letting a 25-point lead dwindle to four in the fourth quarter, the Trail Blazers went on a 14-0 run to put away the young and foundering Phoenix Suns, padding their lead for the final playoff spot in the West with a 130-117 win at the Moda Center.
It was the sixth straight win for Portland (38-38), which moved to .500 for the first time since it was 12-12 on Dec. 8. The Blazers lead Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot by 2.5 games with six games remaining. Denver plays at Miami on Sunday.
"It's been a long season, a long journey,'' Coach Terry Stotts said about reaching .500. "But we are not done yet. To battle back and be in the eighth spot is an accomplishment, but again, our work is not done.''
Phoenix (22-55) lost its 11th in a row despite 31 points from Devin Booker.
Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 31 points and seven assists and CJ McCollum had 29 points and seven assists, but it was Evan Turner, whose strong fourth quarter helped steer the Blazers out of trouble. Turner scored nine of his 18 points in the fourth, his strongest outing since returning to the Blazers on March 18 from a broken right hand. Coach Terry Stotts after the game said he liked Turner's defense on Booker even more than his offense.
Phoenix, which has shut down many of its usual starters, including Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Tyson Chandler, was within 99-95 with 9:56 left, but Portland called a timeout then went on a 14-0 run that was keyed by a three-point play from Turner and three-pointers from McCollum and Lillard.
It was the first game for the Blazers since learning starting center Jusuf Nurkic will be lost for the remainder of the season with a fractured right leg. Meyers Leonard started in his place and had seven points and four rebounds in 22 minutes.
The Blazers looked like they would put the game away early, jumping to a 50-25 lead as Phoenix didn’t look interested in playing defense or staying focused on much of anything. But the Blazers got complacent and started settling for outside jumpers, which were off, and Phoenix closed the half on a 24-11 run to draw within 63-53 at halftime.
Noah Vonleh had 12 points and 13 rebounds, Maurice Harkless 13 points and Al-Farouq Aminu 12 points and six rebounds as the Blazers continued their season-long winning streak and completing the season series with Phoenix 3-1.
Next up: Blazers at Minnesota, 6 p.m. Monday (CSN).