Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 11/21/12
Back on track? The Portland Trail Blazers have won three straight contests, as its young roster is beginning to find success in a lighter part of the schedule. Matchup: Portland (5-5) @ Phoenix Suns (4-7) Venue: US Airways Center Time: 6:00 PM PT Date: Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 A game against the 4-7 Phoenix Suns could be just what the team needs to keep their streak going. Game Notes/How They Match Up Batum will have the chance to take advantage of a poor three-point defense against the Suns. We’ve all learned at this point in the year that the Blazers like to get out and run, but it’s the Suns that play at the third-highest pace in the entire NBA. They play transition basketball every chance they get, which has become a staple for the Suns throughout the years. Despite the faster pace, the Suns are actually a lot like the Trail Blazers. Both teams have good offenses, and both teams have atrocious defenses. Portland is 28th in the league in points allowed (101.8 per game), while Phoenix is dead last (104.3 per game). This game is going to come down to which team—if any—can make stops. Playing well in transition will be important, but if one team can excel defensively, they’re going to have the edge Wednesday night. What to Watch: Portland Part of the reason the Blazers have been exceptional on offense this season is because of three-point shooting. The team is top 6 in three-point percentage (38.5 percent), and Nicolas Batum is a big reason why. He has shot 40.8 percent on the year, and he has taken the most deep-range shots of anybody in the NBA. If that news isn’t good enough for Portland, they’ll be going up against a team Wednesday that has the worst three-point defense in the league. The Suns allow 43.2 percent from behind the arc, and it’s an area where teams have looked to take advantage all season. Getting stops will be important for Portland, but if they can take advantage of horrible perimeter defense, they may be able to simply outscore their opponents if their sharpshooters get hot from deep. What to Watch: Phoenix If the Suns are going to keep up with the Blazers’ offense, they must come out of the gate hot. Phoenix hasn’t led at halftime of any of their previous six games. They’ve had a serious problem playing on both sides of the court, and while becoming a two-way team doesn’t happen overnight, it is a crucial part of taking advantage early. If the Blazers can come out and play well from the start, they just might suck the life out of the Suns from the get-go. Phoenix is going to need production in the first quarter, and setting the tone early is going to be part of their strategy. Lillard and Dragic are both score-first guards who can get others involved. (Photo: R. Franklin/AP) Key Matchup The Trail Blazers had Goran Dragic on their free-agent radar late last season, but with the addition of Damian Lillard through the draft, they opted not to pursue another big name at the point guard position. The two guards each have a leadership quality about them, and both will be facing off in this contest. Dragic is the Suns’ leading scorer, as he is averaging 16.3 points per contest—he is also leading the team in assists (7.3). Damian Lillard is also leading his team in assists (6.1), and while he may not be the Blazers’ high scorer, he is near the top with 19 points per contest. Both players are good shooters, both have good size for their position and both can finish at the rim. These two players are also perfect examples of score-first point guards who can get their teammates involved. Both are also subpar-to-average defenders. We’ve seen Lillard struggle slowing down his opposition numerous times this season, and that could be the case against Phoenix. Luckily for the Portland guard, he’ll likely present the same problem for Dragic in their matchup. Prediction The Blazers haven’t had a two-game road winning streak since May 2011, but they have a great chance to break that trend with hot shooting Wednesday night. Blazers 108 – Suns 100 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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