The Phoenix Suns opened the season with a stunning comeback victory against the team that eliminated them from last season’s playoffs.
Now the Suns shoot to make it two straight wins on Friday night when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers, who also won their opener.
Phoenix trailed the Dallas Mavericks by 22 points in the third quarter on Wednesday before frantically charging back for a 107-105 home triumph.
The game had makings of a continuation of last season’s Western Conference semifinals when the Mavericks won the final two games by an average of 30 points to send the Suns home early.
But this time, Phoenix got off the mat and newcomer Damion Lee made a tough 10-foot fallaway with 9.7 seconds left to give the Suns the victory.
“Ball was in my hands, just go make a play,” Lee said. “I know people are giving me the credit with the game-winning shot, but this was a total team effort.”
Lee, who spent the past four seasons with the Golden State Warriors, played the entire fourth quarter. He scored all 11 of his points in the period and knocked down three 3-pointers.
Devin Booker paced Phoenix with 28 points and nine assists but backcourt partner Chris Paul was seated on the bench in the final minutes.
Paul was 1-of-6 shooting while contributing six points and nine assists. He also had trouble guarding Dallas star Luka Doncic, who scored 35 points.
So with backup point guard Cameron Payne playing well and the Suns erasing a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit, coach Monty Williams declined to re-insert Paul for the final minutes.
“Cam came in and we had a good rhythm and I just felt like it was the right move to just stay with Cam,” Williams said. “Chris was engaged and telling guys (what to do). It was almost like he was out there. … Cam did such a good job that I just rolled with it.”
As for the Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard was back in action for the first time in 9 1/2 months and had 20 points and eight assists in Wednesday’s 115-108 road victory over the Sacramento Kings.
But the six-time All Star was just 5-of-18 shooting in his return from an abdominal injury that limited him to 29 games last season.
“We had to do a lot of things to get this win,” Lillard said. “It wasn’t just our ability, it was our togetherness and our grit. The fact that we could get one like that, it should give us a lot of confidence moving forward.”
Lillard was one of three Trail Blazers to score at least 20 points. Jerami Grant, acquired from the Detroit Pistons in the offseason, scored 23 points and Anfernee Simons added 22.
Josh Hart nearly made it a quartet with 19 points in the balanced effort.
“I just like to play the game the way that the game should be played,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “We have a generational guy in Dame (Lillard). He’s going to have his nights. We got to have other guys be there when it’s actually not his night and you can actually go win a game or go steal a game.”
The Trail Blazers will be without guard Gary Payton II (core muscle) for the second straight game. Phoenix hopes to have guard Landry Shamet (hip) after he missed the opener.
Suns forward Cameron Johnson left the Dallas game in the fourth quarter due to cramping issues. He is expected to be fine. Johnson had 15 points in 27 minutes.
Phoenix went 3-1 against Portland last season and has won six of the past seven meetings.
–Field Level Media