Two seasons ago, the Phoenix Suns didn’t record 20 wins over an entire 82-game campaign.
But as game No. 30 of this season arrives, the Suns will be looking for win No. 20 when they host the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.
Phoenix has won 11 of its past 13 games and thrashed the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies by an average of 24.5 points on a two-game road trip on Friday and Saturday.
Star point guard Chris Paul passed legendary Oscar Robertson to move into sixth place on the all-time assists list during the 128-97 defeat of the Grizzlies on Saturday. Paul has 9,891 assists, four more than the “Big O.”
Paul said he has been a fan of Robertson since he began playing basketball as a youth. He also cited a memory from his time as a star at Wake Forest.
“It’s just an honor and a privilege to play the game as long as I’ve played,” the 35-year-old Paul said afterward. “Oscar Robertson came to see me play when I was in college in Cincinnati, and I’ve been a fan of his since I’ve been playing basketball. It’s a huge accomplishment, and I’m grateful.”
Phoenix also made team history as well in the easy victory as it knocked down a franchise-record 24 3-pointers.
Devin Booker and Cameron Payne made 5-of-7 attempts from 3-point range while Paul and Mikal Bridges each were 4-of-5 shooting.
While the shooting was superb, Payne was equally impressed with the defense as the Suns roared out to a 65-34 halftime lead.
“This is a big-time road win,” Payne said. “We know we’ve got to win on the defensive end. Thought we shot the ball well. But I feel like our defense fires our offense.
“The fact that we were getting stops, it allows players on the offensive end to get a little bit loose and shoot the ball at a high clip.”
Booker scored a team-high 23 points for Phoenix. He has topped 20 in seven consecutive games and is averaging 28.1 during the stretch.
The Suns have won two of the past three meetings after Portland won the previous 11.
The Trail Blazers, who are beginning a three-game road trip, are coming off Saturday’s 118-111 home loss to the Washington Wizards that snapped a season-long, six-game winning streak.
Star guard Damian Lillard had 35 points and 12 assists, but it was far from his usual stellar performance. Lillard was just 10-of-30 shooting and had just six points on 2-of-13 shooting in the first half.
“Sometimes you have nights where the ball is just not going in,” Lillard said. “You get a quality look — I thought we got a lot of quality looks — and the ball just wasn’t going in. That means, on the defensive end, you’ve got to be even sharper. And I think we were in moments; we were in stretches — but we just got to be better when our offense is struggling.”
Portland made 13 more 3-pointers than the Wizards — the Trail Blazers were 19-of-55, Washington was 6-of-26 — in a totally inconsistent offensive effort.
The Trail Blazers scored 43 first-quarter points before having just 12 on 4-of-25 shooting in the second. Portland then tallied 37 in the third quarter and wilted down the stretch with just 19 on 6-of-24 shooting in the fourth.
Meanwhile, the Wizards scored between 28 and 31 in each quarter while posting an impressive win.
“I think the lesson is it’s not easy to be a consistent team in this league,” Lillard said. “It’s not easy to win games night in and night out regardless of the record of the team or how the other team is playing. Anybody can be beat on any given night in any given arena.”
Enes Kanter played well with 19 points and 13 rebounds for his 15th double-double of the season.
–Field Level Media