The Phoenix Suns won the first of four match-ups between these two clubs two weeks ago in Phoenix, but the scene will change to Portland on Thursday night as a nationally televised game on TNT.
Phoenix (28-22) has dropped their last two games, including a 102-101 defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night in which the Suns blew a seven-point lead with 1:30 remaining in the game.
Portland (33-16) enters the evening tied for fourth place in the Western Conference standings with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Trail Blazers trail the Houston Rockets by a game, are just one game above the Dallas Mavericks, and are two games above the San Antonio Spurs in what is shaping up to be a slugfest of a playoff chase down the stretch this year.
Damian Lillard has been slumping as of late for the Trail Blazers which has led to Portland’s 3-8 record in their last 11 games. Portland only had one victory in the month of January against a team with a record over the .500 mark.
Keys to Victory
1. Continue Lillard’s “Cold-Spell”:
Starting with Portland’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers on January 14, Lillard has only had two games where he finished with a shooting percentage of over 50%. In those 11 games the former Weber State Wildcat has struggled from both inside the arch and beyond the three-point line.
Overall, he is shooting 35.1% from the field and 22.5% from distance in which he has only made 20 of 89 attempts. The Oakland-native is still averaging 18.8 points per game over the past two weeks, but it is mostly due to his volume shooting.
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2. Involve Alex Len in the Offense:
For the first time since getting the starting gig at center on December 17, Len has been held scoreless in consecutive games. In the 24 games that Len has started he has averaged 7.2 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game, and 2.2 blocks per game while only playing just over 23 minutes per game. His efficiency has been vital to the Suns’ 16-8 stretch to boost them back into the playoff picture.
Jan 13, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns center Alex Len (21) is defended by Cleveland Cavaliers forwardKevin Love
(0) during the second quarter at US Airways Center. Phoenix won 107-100. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix typically doesn’t run offensive plays designed for Len, but if Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, and Isaiah Thomas can penetrate the lane and find Len underneath the basket to get his offensive side rolling again it could play a huge role in the overall effectiveness of the Suns’ offense tonight. Also, if Len is able to find space from mid-range, he can knock down jumpers from the elbow and his versatility could play an additional role in the offense.
Overall, I believe that this game will be neck-and-neck until the end (also an offensive explosion), however I predict that Portland, who holds a 20-5 record at home, will come out on top 112-107.