Suns stay alive in NBA’s In-Season Tournament with win over Trail Blazers

Nov 21, 2023, 9:36 PM | Updated: 11:26 pm

The Phoenix Suns gave themselves a chance to advance beyond the group stage of the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament on Tuesday by taking care of business against the Portland Trail Blazers at Footprint Center, 120-107.

Phoenix improved to 2-1 in the tournament and avoided possible elimination with the victory.

Kevin Durant’s 14 points in the opening period spearheaded the Suns to a 34-21 lead after 12 minutes, but the Trail Blazers made runs to keep the game from becoming a blowout. The Suns created some distance late with Durant dropping 31 points, Devin Booker adding 28 and Jusuf Nurkic scoring 18 points with 12 rebounds.

Phoenix started the tournament 1-1 with a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers (3-0 entering Tuesday) and a win over the Utah Jazz (2-1). Los Angeles won by 33 points to clinch the group and advance.

NBA teams were split into three groups of five in each conference. The group winners plus one wild card from each conference advance to the knockout rounds. The Minnesota Timberwolves entered Tuesday in the top wild card spot with a 2-0 record.

The Suns were grouped with the Lakers, Jazz, Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies. A Suns loss on Tuesday paired with a Utah win over the Lakers would have mathematically eliminated Phoenix.

Portland was eliminated with the loss at Footprint Center.

The Suns have one more game in group play on Friday against Grizzlies, who have already been knocked out. The final spot in the West could come down to point differential, which is the next tiebreaker after head-to-head record. Phoenix has a +13 point differential entering its final game.

The Suns play at 3 p.m. on Friday, earlier than fellow wild card contenders the Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets, giving Phoenix a disadvantage. The incentive is high to not only win but do so by a lot.

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