Thursday night at Moda Center was a hard-fought battle between two of the top teams in the West.
And one of the hottest teams in the league, the Phoenix Suns, were up for the challenge to slow down the Blazers and Damian Lillard.
Suns small forward 6’6” Mikal Bridges picked up Lillard full court for the game to put extra pressure on the Blazers All-Star point guard. But when Lillard broke free on the perimeter, he made Bridges pay.
It was Enes Kanter who made his presence felt early in the second half. Between his scoring, screen setting to allow Lillard more space, and his rebounding, Kanter was key in keeping the Blazers in the game until midway through the fourth.
But then Devin Booker, who was initially listed as questionable with a left knee sprain, came to the rescue. He had it going late in the game to help the Suns take a 127-121 victory.
Phoenix found success early at the rim, especially on the break, outscoring Portland 28-22 in the paint in the first half. After the Blazers held a double-digit lead for most of the second quarter, the Suns fought back to tie it at 60 at the break.
Portland was still without Harry Giles (left calf strain), CJ McCollum (left midfoot fracture), Jusuf Nurkic (right wrist fracture) and Zach Collins (left ankle stress fracture).
Phoenix did not have Cameron Johnson, who was not with the team due to health and safety protocols.
Just like the second quarter, Portland held a big lead early, but then allowed Phoenix to charge back.
The Blazers held a four-point lead heading into the final period.
Phoenix outscored Portland, 37-27 in the fourth quarter.
Despite having a lengthier defender on him all night, Damian Lillard mixed up his scoring and found his teammates to finish with 30 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.
As a team, Portland’s fresh legs coming off the All-Star break helped the Blazers from long distance. Lillard along with Robert Covington, Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr., all had it going from three. For the game, the Trail Blazers shot 38 percent from behind the arc.
Enes Kanter went to work early and often on the glass. He finished with 11 rebounds with six coming on the offensive end.
It was the Blazers defense that allowed the Suns back into the game late in the second and third quarters.
From the very first play of the game, the Suns flexed on the Blazers at the rim. Whether it was on the fastbreak or hard cut or drive, Phoenix had its way with Portland in the paint. The Suns made it look easy with open looks in the paint.
In the second quarter, frustrations boiled over for Portland. After questioning a couple of calls, Carmelo Anthony was charged with a technical, while Lillard showed his frustration at the end of the quarter after being charged with a foul on the break.
The Suns tightened up their defense even more on Lillard late in the game, while Devin Booker took charge on the other end. Booker finished with 35 points on 12-of-21 shooting.
Robert Covington found his stroke early:
The Blazers, thanks in big part to Enes Kanter, were offensive rebounding machines against the Suns. In the first quarter alone, Portland outrebounded Phoenix on the offensive end 7-0.
Next up: The Trail Blazers will head out on the road for a back-to-back this weekend in Minnesota. The Blazers and Timberwolves are scheduled to tip-off at 5:00 p.m. PST Saturday and Sunday on NBCSNW, the official network of the Portland Trail Blazers.