Suns Control Blazers Early, Lillard Saves the Night for Portland with Last Minute And-1
Boy, did the Blazers need this one. Sitting at 10-16. Trying to avoid an 0-2 road trip. No Devin Booker for the Suns. Yet, the Suns dominated the Blazers early, and some late game heroics were needed from a familiar source.
Make no mistake, the Phoenix Suns are better than years past, but they’re still not great. A lot of their early success can be attributed to former Blazer assistant and new Suns head coach Monty Williams.
Tonight’s struggles are a reminder of how far the Blazers have fallen due to injuries to Rodney Hood and Zach Collins. But the comeback reminds us just how resilient these players are.
Portland trailed by 15 twice (47-32 and 57-42) in the second quarter. They fought back.
The Blazers didn’t have their first lead until the third quarter, 82-80. They built on it, and eventually Portland led by seven, 104-97, and six, 108-102, in the fourth.
Then, Phoenix rallied. The Suns went on an 8-0 run to lead 110-108 with 32 seconds left. The hearts of Blazer fans sank because blown leads and close losses have been happening a lot in 2019.
However, Dame Time showed up, as he usually does, with those 32 seconds to go. Damian Lillard saw an opening–albeit early in the shot clock–and he drove the lane hard to the right, drew contact and threw the ball at the hoop.
Aron Baynes slid over, looking to draw the charge, but he was called for a blocking foul. Oh, and Lillard’s shot went in. So, count the basket, and Lillard had a chance to give Portland the lead on an old-fashioned three-point play.
Not so fast, said the Suns, coach’s challenge. The NBA would review the call. Block or Charge? The call stood. Lillard’s free throw would go down. Blazers 111-110, but the Suns had 26 seconds left to try and win for themselves.
The Suns ran a normal offensive set, looking for a shot. Instead of what Lillard did, just get points and hope for a foul, the Suns didn’t really drive looking for an and-one opportunity.
The ball ended up with Ricky Rubio, who shot a three at the shot clock buzzer, and missed, but a rebound tip-in could still win it. Lillard swooped in, grabbed the board and Portland exhaled.
Blazers win 111-110. Phew.
Oh, you might want stats… CJ McCollum led Portland with 30. Lillard had 27, and Carmelo Anthony pitched in 23 points.