Trail Blazers

Instant Analysis: Suns spoil Blazers shot at clinching playoff berth

Trail Blazers
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It was a close one throughout Thursday night in Phoenix.

Neither the Trail Blazers or Suns led by more than five points until the final minutes of the third quarter.

With the Suns forcing the Blazers to turn the ball over more than their season average coupled with Phoenix's second chance points, the Suns took a 85-77 lead heading into the final period. Torrey Craig's 10 points in the final three minutes of the third helped Phoenix to get that separation. 

But after Damian Lillard hit a three-pointer to open the fourth quarter, while both he and CJ McCollum played the entire second half, the Blazers were determined to secure a win and clinch a playoff spot.

Yet as Lillard looked to will the Blazers to the victory with his 24 fourth-quarter-points, Chris Paul and the Suns always seemed to have an answer as the Blazers clawed back in the fourth.

And it was Devin Booker's pair of free throws that secured the Suns, 118-117 victory over the Blazers.  

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Even though the Trail Blazers struggled from three early, Portland and Phoenix were all tied up at 26 at the end of the first quarter.

It was the CJ McCollum show in the first half. The Blazers starting shooting guard picked apart the Suns defense while scoring in a variety of ways. He notched a game-high 20 points in the first half to help the Blazers take a 53-52 lead at the break.

Between McCollum and Damian Lillard’s scoring and the Blazers defending at a high level, Portland kept pace with Phoenix.

But it was the Suns second unit who provided a big scoring boost in the second half. 

Dario Saric missed three free throws in the final minute and a half, while Devin Booker turned the ball over when he was called for a double dribble in the final six seconds.

The Suns were without Deandre Ayton (left knee; soreness), Cameron Johnson (right wrist; sprain) and Abdel Nader (right knee; arthroscopy).

FINAL BOX SCORE: Suns 118, Trail Blazers 117

The Good: 

Both CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic picked up where they left off Wednesday night in Utah. The duo mixed in with Damian Lillards aggressive attack to drive the open lane, meant the Blazers found success from inside the arc early. The Blazers notched 16 points in the paint after the first 12 minutes.

When the Suns doubled Lillard or Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers whipped the ball around to find the open man. McCollum and Lillard combined for 35 points in the first half on an extremely efficient shooting half. The Blazers as a team shot 51.2 percent from the field in the first half.  

McCollum finished the game with 27 points on 11-of-22 shooting. Lillard added 41 in 43 minutes of work. 

 

Robert Covington came up with timely buckets and a big time rebound on the break. Covington's pair of free throws with 1:13 remaining in the game gave the Blazers a two-point lead. But he wasn't able to knock down a pair in the final seconds. Covington finished with 16 points. 

The Blazers once again focused on not allowing open looks from three. Phoenix was just 5-of-15 from deep through the first two quarters. The Suns finished the game shooting 40.6 percent from behind the arc.

The Bad: 

Phoenix had plenty of second chance opportunities after out rebounding the Blazers in the first half, which resulted in 10 second chance points.

Even though the Blazers held the Suns to 39.1 percent shooting in the first 24 minutes of action, Phoenix was able to get to the free throw line to keep the game close in the first half. 

Portland had a difficult time slowing down Mikal Bridges. The Suns starting small forward finished with 21 points after finding a lot of success at the rim. While Cameron Payne flourished on offense in the second half. Payne notched 21 for the game. 

Portland committed eight turnovers in the first half.

The Highlight:

Damian Lillard coast to coast:

The Stat:  

The Blazers shot just four free throws in the first half compared to the Suns 11 first-half free throw attempts.

Next up: The Trail Blazers wrap-up the regular season Sunday night against the Denver Nuggets. The Blazers and Nuggets are set to tip-off at 6:00p.m. PT on NBCSNW, the official network of the Portland Trail Blazers.