Trail Blazers send Suns to worst loss in team history
PHOENIX — Missing starting guard C.J. McCollum because of a suspension and losing rookie Zach Collins right before the game to a stomach virus, the Portland Trail Blazers were just trying to get through opening night against the Phoenix Suns with a victory.
They wound up posting the biggest opening night win in league history.
Damian Lillard scored 27 points and Pat Connaughton added a career high 24 as the Blazers routed the Phoenix Suns 124-76 on Wednesday, setting an NBA record for the largest margin of victory on opening night.
Was it hard to play with such a big lead?
“It can be. You can get loose and mess around,” said Lillard, who made 10 of 20 shots including four 3-pointers. “But we talk all preseason about habit-building, not letting up and not having those loose moments. We were able to sustain that level of focus. We kept defending, kept getting deflections and kept executing to get the good shots we got all night.”
And when they we done, Portland had surpassed the Denver Nuggets’ 46-point victory over the Los Angeles Clippers (139-93) in the 1987-88 season opener. Portland led by as many as 58 on Wednesday and more than 50 in the final minute.
“The goal was to be 1-0 when we got done, whatever way that happened,” said Connaughton, who exceeded his previous career high of 19 in Portland’s final game of last season. “We wanted to play the style of basketball we’ve played all preseason and make sure we had C.J.’s back.”
The night began with the pomp and circumstance of a season opener for Phoenix but ended with the worst loss in the 50-year history of the franchise. The previous worst loss by a Suns team was by 44 points (151-107) to the Seattle SuperSonics on April 2, 1988.
“We got whooped from beginning to end. It’s going to be hard to sleep thinking about tonight,” said Phoenix guard Devin Booker, who scored 12 points before leaving with cramps in both legs in the third quarter. “(Coaches) didn’t have to say anything to us. We were all out there. We should all have a feeling in our body that shouldn’t feel good.”
Suns coach Earl Watson said the best word to sum up his feelings was embarrassed.
“You come in here, you represent something,” Watson said. “This is basketball. This is a gift. We can’t use any excuses. We have to get better.”
The teams were tied at 17 late in the first quarter and it was a 31-28 with 9:53 left in the first half. But from there, Portland outscored the Suns 29-7 for the rest of the first half and 93-48 the rest of the way, never giving Phoenix a chance to breathe.
The Portland bench outscored Phoenix 24-0 in the first half, building a 25-point lead that more than doubled in the second half. Evan Turner had 12 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 11 for the Trail Blazers, who had six players in double figures
Eric Bledsoe had 15 points for the Suns who shot 28.6 percent from the field in the first half and missed 10 of 11 3-pointers. They ended shooting 31.5 percent for the game.
Portland scored nine of the first 11 points of the third quarter to push the lead to 69-37 on a Turner 3-pointer with 9:40 left. The Blazers pushed the lead to 98-55 heading to the fourth. The Suns never got closer.
NOTES: Trail Blazers C Zach Collins missed his NBA debut after coming down with a stomach problem about 90 minutes before the game. ... Portland G C.J. McCollum will make his debut when Portland visits the Indiana Pacers on Friday. ... The Suns were without F Jared Dudley (left foot surgery rehab) and C Alex Len (left ankle sprain). ... This is the eighth time the Blazers and Suns have met in a season opener. Portland owns a 6-2 advantage. ... Portland made an NBA-best 44.2 percent of their 3-pointers in preseason and kept it going by making 14 of 24 in the opener. ... The game not only began the 50th season in Suns history but was the 1,000th regular-season game at Talking Stick Arena, where Phoenix is 652-348.