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Both the Suns and Blazers brought season-best four-game winning streaks along with them to Portland. J.J. Hickson was riding a six-game double-double streak for the Blazers, while Jared Dudley had scored 20 or more in three straight games. After the game in Portland, only one team would see their streaks continue. Unfortunately for us here on the Bright Side, that team wasn't the Suns.

Game Story

The Suns got off to a sloppy start in the first quarter, and were playing some pretty bad basketball. Yet a 6-2 run to close out the quarter once the Blazers went to their bench gave the Suns a 25-23 lead at the buzzer.

The Suns took control in the second quarter, with an all bench line-up (including the much maligned Michael Beasley) going on a 16-5 run against a weak Blazer bench. At halftime the Suns led 53-44 and things were looking good.

However, the game turned in the third quarter. The Blazers got it going on offense and the Suns couldn't find an answer. LaMarcus Aldridge, who the Suns had held to just eight points on seven shots in the first half, scored nine in the third quarter alone. The Blazers also got hot from deep, hitting four 3-pointers in the period. The Suns had no answer defensively and couldn't keep up offensively. The final damage was a 31-22 Portland period, erasing the deficit and tying the game at 75.

The two teams traded blows in the fourth quarter, and the game was tied at 82-82 with 7:04 remaining. From that point, Portland's rookie point guard Damian Lillard took over, scoring nine points in the final five minutes. The Blazers took a 64-87 lead with 3:24 left, and things weren't looking good for our Suns. But they managed to fight back and draw within one possession twice in the final minute-and-a-half. The first came on a Gortat pick-and-roll finish to cut it to 94-91 with 1:25 remaining. The Blazers struck back with a step-back jumper by Lillard, but the Suns countered with a layup by Jared Dudley to make it 96-93 with 38.9 seconds remaining. After a missed shot by Lillard, the Suns had a chance to tie the game up, getting the ball back with just under 15 seconds on the clock. The Suns pushed the ball in transition and Goran Dragic found himself open on the perimeter. However, Dragic never looked at the rim and instead passed the ball across the court. The Suns were forced to pass the ball around with no one able to break free before Dragic finally had to force up a tough shot with a second remaining that wasn't even close.

Guards

Goran Dragic got off to a great start in the first half with 10 points and three assists. He was aggressive and looking to attack, and knocked down a couple 3-pointers as well. But he disappeared in the second half, recording just two assists and missing every shot he took. And of course, there was that last possession...

Meanwhile, his Portland counterpart really got himself going in the second half and carried his team to the victory in the fourth.

Dragic finished with 10 points on 4-13 shooting and five assists, while Lillard scored 25 points on 7-13 shooting and dished seven assists.

I warned in my preview that we couldn't count on Shannon Brown to continue his hot shooting, and I'm sorry to say that I was dead on with that one. Brown finished with 15 points on 7-17 shooting, and also turned the ball over four times.

For the Blazers, Wesley Matthews only played 9:49 and did not score. Matthews recently returned from an injury, and he tweaked it again tonight and pulled himself out.

Forwards

Luis Scola had a terrible game for the Suns, as he was unable to get it going on offense and was torched defensively and was crushed on the boards. He finished with just six points and four rebounds, and played less than 20 minutes.

J.J. Hickson, on the other hand, put up a huge line with 19 points and 15 rebounds. The Suns couldn't keep him off the boards all game, and he made them pay.

Jared Dudley moved the ball extremely well, racking up 10 assists with only one turnover. However, he missed out on the double-double by scoring only eight points and bricking all four of his 3-point attempts.

Dudley also did a good job of holding Nicolas Batum in check scoring-wise, as the Portland forward only had 13 points on 12 shots, including 2-9 from 3-point range. Batum also dished out eight assists, but balanced that out with seven turnovers. He closed out his stat line with nine rebounds and two steals. Overall, a strange game from Batum.

Centers

Marcin Gortat had a great night offensively for the Suns, as he scored 18 points on 9-12 shooting and hauled in nine rebounds. Gortat was great every time the Suns went to him, finishing in the pick-and-roll, in the post and on the offensive glass. However, he and his fellow frontcourt members really struggled to keep Hickson off the glass.

LaMarcus Aldridge, who was questionable for the game after missing Portland's last game with an ankle injury, finsihed with 17 points on 5-15 shooting and nine rebounds. Outside of a short stretch in the third quarter, the Suns held Aldridge mostly in check for the second straight game.

Bench

I pointed to the bench as an area the Suns should have a big advantage in, and they made me look smart. Phoenix finished with a 36-22 edge in bench points and were led by the sprightly Jermaine O'Neal, who finished with 13 points and five rebounds. Markieff Morris also finished in double figures with 11, while Michael Beasley hit a 3-pointer and somehow led the Suns with a +15. P.J. Tucker and Bassy Telfair both had solid games as well.

Three of the Blazers' seven 3-point field goal came from the bench, and Victor Claver led their reserves with seven points, but overall the Blazer bench didn't have much of an effect. This game was won by the Portland starters.

Opportunities for the Phoenix Suns were there. A missed three here by Jared Dudley, Shannon Brown’s misread of a fastbreak opportunity with the team down three points there and another missed...

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  • Game Time: 7 p.m. PST, 8 p.m. MST, 9 p.m. CST, 10 p.m. EST
  • Television: NBA TV

Last Meeting

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.

Injury Update

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.

Projected Starters

  • SG: Shannon Brown - Wesley Matthews
  • C: Marcin Gortat - LaMarcus Aldridge/Meyers Leonard

Match-ups and Key Performers

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.

Portland Trail Blazers 96, Phoenix Suns 93 PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have started to turn around their season by playing good enough basketball to rip off four wins in a row. The big caveat,...

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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

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