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Suns Strokes: Suns give up 15-point lead, lose to Portland at home

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives on Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in Phoenix. The Trail Blazers defeated the Suns 106-104. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX, Ariz. — This one is going to hurt. For awhile.

It’s not because their losing streak reached nine straight games, extending a season-long streak. Or that they’ve not won at home since Jan. 31, dropping their last six inside Talking Stick Resort Arena.

No, it’s because with 7:26 to go in the game, the Phoenix Suns had a 15-point lead. And lost it. And ended up losing the game, 106-104, to the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday.

Damian Lillard ruined the night for many of the announced crowd of 17,112 in attendance.

With the game tied at 104, Lillard dribbled left, got past Elfrid Payton and eluded the help-defense of Devin Booker to hit an off-balance layup with 0.9 seconds to go.

Troy Daniels 59-foot heave at the buzzer fell short and so did the Suns, who have now lost 14 of 15.

Lillard scored 40 points, 28 in the second half and 19 in the fourth quarter, including 10 of the Trail Blazers’ final 12 points.

The Suns led 93-78 and then proceeded to miss 7-of-10 field goal attempts, 2-of-4 free throw attempts and turn the ball over four times, the fourth a costly five-second violation which put the ball back in Lillard and the Trail Blazers’ hands with 20.6 seconds remaining on the clock.

The Trail Blazers (34-26) won its second in as many nights — they won at Utah — and third in row overall, sweeping the season series with the Suns (18-43) in the process. They’ve won seven straight against the Suns.

The Suns had five players score in double figures, led by Booker’s 30, and two players record double-doubles, Payton (13 points and 11 assists) and Alex Len (11 and 13 rebounds).

The Suns outshot (44.8 percent vs. 39.4) and outrebounded (51-48) the Trail Blazers, so the effort was better than the previous night, when they lost to the L.A. Clippers.

But, again, it’s another mark in the loss column.

THE GOOD

Just over four minutes into the game and the Suns had a 13-8 lead. Quite the change from last night, when they dug themselves a 19-0 hole before many fans had settled into their seats. Booker had 6 points, Payton 4 and T.J. Warren 3 to account for the scoring. Booker’s points — two 3s — came during a 10-0 run capped by a Payton fastbreak layup. Booker finished the period with eight points, while Payton had six plus three assists and two rebounds.

With Booker struggling shooting the ball — he missed his last nine field goal attempts after a 3-of-3 start — Daniels and Warren picked up their teammate with 11 points each in the first half. Daniels had eight in the second quarter, hitting a pair of 3s and an 18-foot step-back jumper. Warren went for six, all within the paint. Payton added four assists, giving him seven for the game. Twice he setup Daniels and then Len for layups on back-to-back possessions.

A 14-1 run bled into a 26-5 spurt, all of which was contained inside a 31-16 third quarter in which the Suns shot 54.5 percent (12-of-22) from the field while holding the Trail Blazers to 21.7 percent (5-of-23). The Suns turned a 10-point deficit (60-50) into a 14-point lead (81-67). Booker had 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including a pair of 3s; the first of which snapped a streak of 10 straight misses and also, put the Suns back in front, 62-61, at the 8:59 mark.

THE BAD

After opening the game shooting 5-of-6 from the field, the Suns went cold. They missed seven of their next 10 field goal attempts, which allowed the Blazers to regain control of the game. Twice in the final three minutes of the first quarter, the Suns trailed by as many as four points. McCollum accounted for 13 (six points and three assists) of the Trail Blazers’ 28 first-quarter points.

Sometimes it’s not how you start but how you finish. The Blazers finished the first half on a 9-2 run and went into the locker room with a 55-50 lead despite getting outshot from the field (20-of-49, 40.8 percent vs. the Suns’ 20-of-48, 41.7) and misfiring from 3-point range (1-of-13). Credit Lillard. He had all seven of his second-quarter points in the final three minutes, hitting 5-of-6 free throw attempts.

This marked Lillard’s third 40-point game of the season. He also grabbed 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. Lillard shot 13-of-27 from the field, 3-of-11 from 3-point range and 11-of-15 from the free throw line. The game-winner was his second in the final second this season as he also hit a 3-pointer with 0.7 left to give Portland a 113-110 win over the Lakers on Nov. 2.

STAT OF THE GAME

22-9: The Trail Blazers turned 16 Suns turnovers into 22 points compared to the nine points the Suns scored off six Portland turnovers, which tied a Suns opponent season-low

HE SAID IT

“He had 28 in the second half,” interim head coach Jay Triano said, referring to Lillard. “I don’t know if we could have guarded him much better, other than the last play where we gave him a bit of an angle. The other plays he made tough, contested shots and I thought we did a pretty decent job, but he’s an all-star for a reason.”

NOTED

The Suns were swept in a four-game season series by the Trail Blazers for the first time since 1987-88

The Suns dropped to 8-18 in games as part of back-to-back sets, 4-9 in both the first and second games

Booker recorded his 17th 30-point game, tied with Kyrie Irving for seventh most in the NBA this season

Len recorded his team-leading ninth double-double and the first time in consecutive games since Dec. 16-18

Payton recorded his fifth double-double of the season and his second in five games since joining the Suns

Josh Jackson was called for a technical foul, his 8th of the season, with 58 seconds left in the first quarter

Tyler Ulis was available to play but did not; he was a DNP-Coach’s Decision for a second straight game

Tyson Chandler missed his third straight game and fourth in five games overall because of a neck spasm

Davon Reed was recalled from the Northern Arizona Suns, the Suns’ G League affiliate, prior to the game

UP NEXT

After back-to-back home games, the Suns will play their next two contests on the road. They’re at New Orleans and at Memphis with the matchup against Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and the Pelicans taking place at Smoothie King Center on Monday, Feb. 26.

Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station.

The Pelicans won the first of three meetings this season, winning 115-91 in Phoenix on Nov. 24. Davis had 23 points, while DeMarcus Cousins, since injured, finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Warren led the Suns with 18 points and three blocks

Overall, the Suns have won six of their last 11 games on the road against New Orleans.

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