The last time these two teams met, the Suns won easily 114-87. This was the first game after Marcin Gortat spoke out to the Polish media, and the first game with Shannon Brown and Markieff Morris in the starting line-up.
Gortat had one of his best games of the season with 22 points and seven rebounds, backing up his words and taking advantage of Portland's rookie center Meyers Leonard. Brown and Morris also played well in their new roles, combining for 29 points.
Overall, the Suns dominated down low with a 54-24 edge in points in the paint. Along with Gortat and Morris, the Suns also received a big game off the bench from reserve center Jermaine O'Neal, who finished with 17 points, five rebounds and two blocks. Together, Morris, Gortat and O'Neal shot 27-36 from the field.
Rookie of the Year favorite Damian Lillard had a big game for Portland with 24 points, but nobody else had a standout game for the Blazers and they got nothing off their bench.
Portland's starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews returned from injury recently and should be good to go for the Blazers.
Last time these two teams faced off, Portland's starting forward J.J. Hickson sat out with a shoulder strain. He's healthy this time around, and is riding a six-game double-double streak culminating with a huge 18 points and 18 rebounds line against the Denver Nuggets.
However, Hickson's frontcourt mate LaMarcus Aldridge is not at full strength. He sat out the Denver game with a sprained ankle, and his status is uncertain for tonight's game. The Suns shut down Aldridge in their last meeting, holding him to 12 points on 5-15 shooting. However, Aldridge is Portland's best big man and it is a huge blow if he is not able to play. The rookie Leonard would likely start in his place if Aldridge can't go, a prospect Gortat has to be salivating over.
Shannon Brown has been on fire for the Suns in the last two games. However, the Suns cannot continue to rely on big games from Brown. He had a two game stretch very similar to this last one, and after it he came crashing back to earth. Somebody else is going to have to step up.
My hope is that Goran Dragic is the one that does that. Lillard has shown incredible poise for a rookie, but he's still a rookie and Dragic needs to take advantage of this match-up on both ends of the court. The Suns are at their best when the Dragon bares his fangs and is flying around the court making plays.
Jared Dudley is going to have his hands full with Nic Batum as well. Batum was sick in the last meeting, but the Suns won't be so lucky tonight. Dudley is going to have to chase him all over the court and keep him from pulling up for open jumpers off of screens and spot-ups.
The Suns should have the edge in reserves. The Blazers have zero depth beyond the starting five, and their bench includes the likes of Sasha Pavlovic and Joel Freeland. Somebody on the bench should have a field day, whether that's Markieff Morris, Bassy Telfair or even Michael Beasley.
For a while now I have felt like a distant cousin to the Bright Side that was accepted and "kept in touch," but was distant from the family. That is all changing now as I have fully come over to the Bright Side out of the shadows.
Working with Dave, Jim, and Seth has been fun from afar, but I think coming together as a cohesive unit now should make Bright Side a formidable source for Phoenix Suns news and analysis.
I am not as eloquent and waxing as Jim Coughenour (Coke-an-hour) with the way his mental thesaurus leaps over our heads in a single, effortless bound.
There is no way I can match the knowledge of a life-long Suns fan like Dave King who can, with vivid detail, recall the 11th Man on the 1993 team as they waved their towels with vigor and passion.
Seth Pollack is the voice of the voiceless here -- or at least the voice of the most reasonable pessimist with acute expectations and witty rumblings of a porcupine in defense mode as he breaks down the teams inefficiencies.
Those three bring an element that I will not try to match, but rather enhance with my own style.
What you get from me is a reporter on the ground (roaming reporter) that gets to practice, games, and events. My relationship with the team has grown over the years making it easier to get in-depth interviews to bring more than just opinion to my writing. There is no spin with me, just the black and white of a story with my depiction of grey. Not a fan of the team, but a subjective basketball head ready to give the truth whether it is appealing or not.
So who am I?
Well, not to get too deep, but I am a writer, a basketball analyst, and an NBA Draft scout. For the past four years I have independently run NBA Draft Insider (NDI) which is one of the leading sources for the draft making me one of those self proclaimed "experts" on the event. I go to events across the country scouting potential NBA players including the Nike Hoops Summit, NBA Combine, and relevant college games in the area, which couldn't be more relevant to the current situation the Suns are in.
On top of that I have written for three years as a free-lancer for Dime Magazine (NBA Draft and more), Arizona Sports 620 (Arizona Wildcats), and worked for 1010 Breakthrough Sports Radio.
Over the past year I have been with SB Nation writing for the Arizona Hub and had my work frequently get cross-promoted here. Now I am simply here.
That is enough about me. Time to dig into the Suns and make sure that I can continue the excellence that is the Bright Side of the Sun, which is quite honestly, the best in-depth coverage of the team on the internets.
My Phoenix Suns Tweets are Twittered at: @Kris_Habbas
My NBA Draft Tweets are Tweeted at: @NBADraftInsider