Phoenix Suns get pounced on by Blazers in blowout loss

Oct 23, 2021, 10:15 PM
Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, right, is defended by Portland Trail Blazers forward Robert Covingto...

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, right, is defended by Portland Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

(AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

After Friday’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers appeared to signal the Phoenix Suns found their footing from last season, they stumbled the next night in Portland.

Phoenix got steamrolled by the Blazers on Saturday night 134-105.

Head coach Monty Williams took responsibility for the way his team performed on the second game of a road back-to-back.

“I didn’t have us ready to play,” he said. “Our communication was not to the level it needed to be. Typically when you don’t communicate, that means your mind is crowded with stuff, and so that’s on me.”

This was a team that went 6-3 in the second game of back-to-backs away from home last year, so they have certainly proven they are capable in the less than ideal situations they present.

But nothing on either end of the court came together for the Suns beyond a few brief spurts and they ran into the wrong team on the wrong night to be playing like that.

Portland was engaged defensively and lethal offensively, where Phoenix’s shortcomings boosed the effectiveness of those efforts, particularly on defense.

When C.J. McCollum hit a tough shot, there was an open 3 off a bad Suns rotation that came not much later. An open lane to the basket was punished a few possessions later by a Damian Lillard 30-footer. This cycle continued, all while Phoenix’s offense with the starters kept struggling.

Through three games, the Suns’ starting five has been outscored by 37 points. This is the same issue they ran into at the start of last season, one that eventually fixed itself about 20 games in, but it shouldn’t be happening considering the continuity they have. We’ll see after a handful more games if it is indeed like last year or just a weird three-game sample. Whatever the case is, that group of five isn’t clicking at the moment, and it’s very difficult to win like that no matter how good a team’s depth is.

The defense, as a whole, just seemed off. There was far too much of a failure to contain dribble penetration and too many shooters left open, sometimes because of that first problem.

“You get beat like that, it’s obviously more than one thing that went wrong. But saying anything from the beginning, just thinking of defense and guarding better,” Suns guard Devin Booker said. “I think we’re not on a string completely right now.”

Williams also saw a Portland team that did a great job of screening, which is where a defense can really run into trouble if it fails to defend ball screens well.

The Blazers reached 30 points in each of the first three quarters, including a combined 76 in the middle quarters to extend a 20-point halftime lead to 25. Any last-gasp effort from the Suns did not come, with a 10-2 Portland run to open the fourth quarter leading Williams to empty his bench.

McCollum shot 10-of-19 for 28 points in 30 minutes. Portland hit 21 3-pointers despite only 24 assists on 51 made field goals, a nod to the amount of isolated off-the-dribble shots the Blazers wounded Phoenix with.

The lone bright spot for the Suns was that Booker found his rhythm early, hitting four of his first six shots, ending up with 21 points after his scoring was a bit off in the team’s opening two games. Phoenix was without backup point guard Cam Payne due to a strained right hamstring.

Deandre Ayton finished with eight points and Chris Paul had just four with five shot attempts.

There is an easy narrative to lean into here, that the Suns have become the “hunted” after winning the Western Conference. Sure, that’s at play here, but they just don’t look like themselves yet. Maybe that was three games in four days to open a season when the Suns’ conditioning isn’t up to par on a short layoff, another easy one. Who knows.

Either way, the Suns now get a long and light five-game homestand to get everything right quicker than last year when they began 8-8. It’s 14 days in Phoenix hosting the Kings, Cavaliers, Pelicans, Rockets and Hawks.

Booker’s mindset isn’t going to radically shift because of suboptimal results over three games.

“Not to hit the panic button and just understand how long the season is and when we get it rolling we know how good we are,” he said of it.

Empire of the Suns

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) drives past San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray, right, durin...
Kellan Olson

Chris Paul dominates clutch time again in Suns’ win over Spurs

Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul continued his league-leading efficiency in clutch time for a win over the Spurs.
3 days ago
Jae Crowder #99 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after hitting a three-point shot against the Golden Stat...
Kellan Olson

Suns reset after conclusion of winning streak; Ish Wainright gets run

The Phoenix Suns get over a week at home with just two games after a grueling stretch in the schedule across November.
3 days ago
Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Golden State Warriors is guarded by ph2in the second half at Chase Center...
Kellan Olson

Mikal Bridges, Suns thankful after wing avoids serious finger injury

A lot of hearts sunk into stomachs on Friday when Mikal Bridges was visibly upset after injuring his finger during the loss to the Warriors.
4 days ago
Stephen Curry #30 is congratulated by Juan Toscano-Anderson #95 of the Golden State Warriors after ...
Kellan Olson

Suns put up a fight against Warriors before taking 1st loss in over a month

We often hear the saying of "not going down without a fight," and boy, is that apt for the Phoenix Suns' franchise-record winning streak.
5 days ago
Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors attempts a three-point shot over Cameron Payne #15 o...
Kellan Olson

What to watch for in Round 2 of Suns vs. Warriors

After the Phoenix Suns beat the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, the two sides face off only three days later.
6 days ago
Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) steals the ball from Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) du...
Kellan Olson

Suns use balanced scoring attack to win franchise-record 18th straight

The Phoenix Suns were without Devin Booker for the first time this season and used several contributions to beat the Pistons.
6 days ago
Phoenix Suns get pounced on by Blazers in blowout loss