The Phoenix Suns look to make it three straight wins under interim coach Jay Triano when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. Triano took over an 0-3 team that was outscored by an average of 30.7 points under former head coach Earl Watson, and it has responded with back-to-back wins over Sacramento and Utah.
The defensive struggles of the first week of the regular season seemed to be a thing of the past in the 97-88 decision against the Jazz, who had 24 turnovers. “We’re just playing together, on both ends,” guard Devin Booker told reporters. “I said it right after they made the coaching change, this should be eye-opening for us. And I love the way we responded.” The Trail Blazers are 1-1 on a four-game homestand after a buzzer-beater doomed them in Thursday’s 104-103 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. One of the Suns’ blowout losses came at home against Portland on Oct. 18, when Damian Lillard scored 27 points and the Blazers had a 57-33 advantage on the glass in a 124-76 rout.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, FS Arizona (Phoenix), NBCS Northwest (Portland)
ABOUT THE SUNS (2-3): The Eric Bledsoe situation continues to hang over the organization, as the standout guard remains on the outs since a reported trade demand. Mike James and Tyler Ulis have filled the gap, with James posting 18 points in the win over the Kings and Ulis providing an average of 12 points on 10-of-18 shooting and four assists off the bench during the two-game winning streak. “For sure. He can score the ball, but at the same time, he’s known as a pass-first point guard,” Booker said of Ulis. “He makes the game easier for a lot of people. I’ve known that forever being a friend with him, so seeing him do it on this level is good to see.”
ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (3-2): Portland received just 11 points on 4-of-20 shooting from its reserves but still had the game with the Clippers in hand until Blake Griffin’s dagger ended a tight affair. “Very disappointing loss,” coach Terry Stotts told reporters. “Griffin hit a great shot at the end. A tough way to lose a game. I was disappointed with our defense in the first half. I liked the way we came back and competed and put ourselves in a position to win, but losses like this are tough.” CJ McCollum, who was suspended for the first meeting with the Suns, scored at least 23 points in each of his four games while making 12-of-18 3-pointers.
1. Phoenix SF T.J. Warren scored 27 points against Utah after producing a total of 13 over his previous two games.
2. Portland PF Meyers Leonard (ankle) missed Thursday’s loss and is awaiting MRI results.
3. The Suns’ only win against the Blazers in the last six meetings came on a buzzer-beater by Bledsoe last Nov. 2.
PREDICTION: Trail Blazers 111, Suns 102