The slumping Portland Trail Blazers look to take advantage of struggling Phoenix when they host the Suns on Thursday. Portland has lost three straight games and six of its last seven games as it entertains a Phoenix squad with six straight setbacks and the NBA's worst record.
The Trail Blazers got off to a strong 12-5 start but losses by 43 to the Milwaukee Bucks and 28 to the Golden State Warriors began the stretch of substandard play that continued with Tuesday's 111-102 road loss against the Dallas Mavericks. "We know that we're much better than what we've been doing," star point guard Damian Lillard told reporters. "The things that we're losing games on, it doesn't come down to ability a lot of times." Phoenix has experienced a lot of low points this season but found itself trailing 36-9 after one quarter of Tuesday's 122-105 home loss to the Sacramento Kings. "We lost the game in the first quarter, then from there it was just competing to show we had character, which we did in the second half," Suns coach Igor Kokoskov told reporters afterward. "No excuses, the effort wasn't there."
TV: 10 p.m. ET, FS Arizona (Phoenix), NBCS Northwest (Portland) LINE: Blazers -13.5
ABOUT THE SUNS (4-20): Phoenix is struggling with star shooting guard Devin Booker (hamstring) and productive forward T.J. Warren (ankle) out of the lineup with injuries. The Suns have lost by an average of 14.5 points during their skid - only one of the defeats has been by single digits - and the home fans mocked the club with derisive cheers when they finally reached double digits 14-plus minutes into Tuesday's contest. "It is really hard to play a game where we don't make shots. There are going to be times like that," forward Josh Jackson told reporters afterward. "It's basketball, but the times we don't make shots we have to make sure we play good defense and not let the other team score."
ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (13-11): Frustration is adding up for a Portland squad that has made five straight playoff appearances and was playing like one of the best teams in the Western Conference earlier in the campaign. "This game was very similar to the last two we played," Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts told reporters after Tuesday's setback. "Get off to a slow start, get down at halftime, make a good comeback and fall short. I think we're all getting tired of it." Lillard scored 25 of his 33 points in the second half and has tallied 30 or more in four of the past five games.
1. The Trail Blazers went 4-0 against the Suns last season and have prevailed in seven straight meetings.
2. Portland PF Al-Farouq Aminu is averaging 17.3 points (on 19-of-24 shooting) and 9.7 rebounds over the past three games.
3. Phoenix SG Jamal Crawford is just 9-of-32 shooting over the past four games.
PREDICTION: Trail Blazers 117, Suns 101 Bet Now
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