Friday’s game at US Airways Center was a perfect example of the difference a perennial All-Star can make for an NBA team.
The Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers were engaged in a dogfight for most of the second half, but power forward LaMarcus Aldridge went off in the final minutes, scoring 10 straight points for the visitors — all on midrange shots.
Aldridge, who has been selected to the last four All-Star Games, finished with 12 points in the fourth quarter and 27 overall — to go with nine rebounds. The Blazers emerged by a final of 87-81, bumping their record up to 46-25.
The Suns impressively worked themselves back from a double-digit first quarter deficit, and they even went into the fourth quarter leading by six, but they weren’t able to hold on over their Western Conference opponent. It was the second straight home loss for Phoenix, and the team fell to 38-35, its playoff hopes all but dashed.
The Trail Blazers now lead the season series 2-1. The two teams will square off once more in just three days: Monday at the Moda Center in Portland.
Here’s a look at Friday’s low-scoring contest, by the numbers:
Suns forward Marcus Morris shot just 8-for-19 from the floor (including 3-for-9 from long range), but he posted team highs of 19 points and 12 rebounds in 44 minutes. The effort marked his third double-double in his last four outings — and his fourth of the year overall. Needless to say, becoming a starter has worked out well for the fourth-year forward.
Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe is still trying to get over an illness, and it showed Friday. The fifth-year guard shot just 5-for-20 (including 0-for-4 from three-point range) from the field, finishing with a modest 13 points. On the bright side, he dished out a game-high seven assists and didn’t turn the ball over once — the latter of which hasn’t happened since Feb. 6 against Utah.
Suns guard Brandon Knight was a game-time decision, but he ended up missing his eighth straight contest due to a left ankle injury.
Aldridge went on a 10-2 run against Phoenix all by himself from the 3:25 mark in the fourth to just over a minute remaining in the game. The Blazers had a one-point lead at the start, and it was a nine-point advantage when Aldridge was all said and done.
Power forward Markieff Morris started the game out hot, but he finished just 6-of-16 from the field. Nonetheless, he finished with one of the better games for the Suns, posting 15 points and nine rebounds, narrowly missing what would have been his 11th double-double of the season. The fourth-year forward also was the only starter to not come out negative in the plus-minus category. He and his brother, Marcus, combined for an impressive 34 points and 21 rebounds on the night.
Despite the loss, the Suns played well on the defensive side of the ball. Portland started out with 41 points in the game’s first 16 minutes, but the Suns tightened their grip and held the Blazers to just 19 points over the next approximately 20 minutes of action. Portland went into the fourth quarter with just 60 points on the board. The Suns crawled out of an 11-point deficit to build a lead as big as eight while Portland struggled in the middle quarters.
Guards Gerald Green and Archie Goodwin gave the Suns a nice spark off the bench, combining for 20 points in 32 minutes of action.
— NBA (@NBA) March 28, 2015
Green’s 12 points marked his first time in double-figures since March 7 in Cleveland, and he made multiple three-pointers for the first time since Feb. 25 in Denver.
The game was reminiscent of the Suns’ 74-72 affair with the New Orleans Pelicans last week. Portland had to scramble near the end just to finish right above 40 percent from the field on the night — 40.4, to be exact. Meanwhile, Phoenix shot just 36.8 percent from the floor, only tallying 34 points in the second half.
The Suns led in the rebounding battle for most of the evening, but the Blazers started taking over the category when it mattered more and they finished with a 54-48 advantage. Phoenix was out-rebounded 31-20 in the second half, including 17-8 in the fourth quarter. Shockingly, however, Phoenix finished with more points in the paint: 32-24; then again, most of Aldridge’s late daggers came from outside the lane, which put away the game for the Blazers.
It may come as a surprise, but Portland hadn’t won in US Airways Center since Feb. 10, 2010. The Blazers snapped a seven-game losing streak in the building with Friday’s victory.