The Portland Trail Blazers picked a really good time to become one of the NBA’s hottest teams.
The Trail Blazers will look to record their sixth straight win and 10th in the past 11 games when they visit the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.
Portland (41-29) and the Dallas Mavericks share the fifth-best record in the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Lakers just one game behind. All three teams have just two games remaining and the team that finishes seventh will be part of the NBA’s new play-in round.
“We’re just worried about the next game,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said after Wednesday’s impressive 105-98 road win over the Utah Jazz. “Obviously, we are aware where we are and where everybody else is — you need to be aware of that — but you can’t get ahead of yourself. So now we move on to Phoenix and see what happens there.”
The Suns (48-21) are waging their own postseason battle as they sit just 1 1/2 games behind the Jazz for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
While Phoenix asserted that it would be a part of the postseason months ago, Portland was looking like it could be relegated to the play-in round just last month.
The Trail Blazers had dropped five straight games and were embarking on a six-game road trip on April 27. But they opened the excursion with 21-point victories over the Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies, followed with a 19-point thumping of the Brooklyn Nets and finished with a 5-1 mark.
Stotts said that he never doubted the team could turn its fate around.
“You keep coaching the team,” Stotts said. “I didn’t think we were that far away. I’m a big believer in confidence and you have to instill confidence in the team and keep the faith. That’s your job as a coach.”
Portland definitely had the confidence in its win over the Jazz as it overcame a 12-point, first-quarter deficit.
All-Star guard Damian Lillard stood out with 30 points and he has tallied at least 30 in six straight games and seven of the past eight.
Phoenix has lost back-to-back games and three of its past four.
The defense has been a problem as the Suns have allowed 135, 123 and 122 points in the recent setbacks.
In Tuesday night’s 122-116 road loss against the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix allowed 62 points in the paint, 29 second-chance points and 12 offensive rebounds. The Suns scored just 32 in the paint.
“We’ve never been a team that’s been outworked and I saw a little bit of that (Tuesday),” Suns coach Monty Williams said.
All-Star guard Devin Booker scored 34 points and he was definitely surprised to see Golden State go on a game-ending 12-3 run to claim the victory.
“It was a tough one,” Booker said. “You never want to lose two in a row.”
But Booker said there is no reason to press the panic button.
“I’m not concerned at all,” he said.
All-Star point guard Chris Paul recorded 24 points and 10 assists against Golden State. He has posted three straight double-doubles and five in six games this month. Paul also has notched four steals twice in May.
Phoenix averaged 129.5 points while beating the Trail Blazers twice earlier this season.
Booker averaged 34.5 points in the matchups and Lillard averaged 27 points for Portland.
–Field Level Media