The Portland Trail Blazers are the only team to defeat the Phoenix Suns this season, and they have done it twice.
Portland will look to add another win over the powerful Suns when the teams finish a back-to-back in Phoenix on Saturday night.
The Trail Blazers won the front end in dramatic fashion on Friday night after Jerami Grant knocked down a fadeaway baseline jumper at the buzzer for a 108-106 victory.
Grant scored a season-high 30 points during a contest in which Portland let a 15-point, third-quarter lead get away and later went toe-to-toe down the stretch with a Phoenix squad that played in the 2021 NBA Finals.
And the Trail Blazers did it without their starting backcourt of Damian Lillard (calf) and Anfernee Simons (foot).
“We’re resilient,” Grant said. “We got a lot of depth and we got a lot of guys who can step up to the plate and score.”
Grant’s winning basket came on a play that was drawn up as a lob during the timeout. But Phoenix big man Deandre Ayton was positioned to stop it so Justise Winslow put more air under his high-arching crosscourt in-bounds pass with one second remaining.
Grant was able to gain separation from Ayton to make the catch and knock down the shot. He was then mobbed by his teammates.
“I knew I had to shoot it when I got it,” Grant said. “We had one second left and we went for the lob. It didn’t work but Justise made a good pass.”
Suns coach Monty Williams was more apt to place the loss on his team being outscored 34-21 in the second quarter.
He didn’t have an issue with the final-second defense.
“They throw it over the top and (Grant) makes a circus shot,” Williams said. “We forced that kind of a pass. He made a tough shot.”
Devin Booker scored 25 points for Phoenix and Ayton had 24 points and eight rebounds after missing the previous two games with an ankle injury.
The loss halted a five-game winning streak and Booker is well aware that the Suns’ only two losses have come against Portland. The other was a 113-111 overtime setback in Portland on Oct. 21.
He also noted that the Trail Blazers fared well without Lillard and Simons. It was the third straight game that Lillard missed.
“We’re just going to play,” Booker said of Saturday’s rematch. “Obviously, those are their two go-getters and they played well without them. Throwing them into the mix (Saturday would be) a bonus for everybody and everybody has more confidence. This should be another tough game.”
Portland coach Chauncey Billups said that you can oddly find a benefit when you play without your top shooters.
“When you’re missing guys like (Lillard) and (Simons), you become less predictable,” Billups said. “You never know where the ball is going and that’s tough to guard.”
It is unclear if Phoenix will have forward Cameron Johnson available on Saturday. He injured his knee in the first quarter and departed after playing five-plus minutes.
Another issue for the Suns was that point guard Chris Paul attempted just four shots — making one while scoring seven points. Paul did have 11 assists.
Phoenix did receive solid fourth-quarter play from Damion Lee, who scored 11 of his 13 points in the final stanza.
“D-Lee came up big,” Ayton said. “D-Lee is a champion. You can see that competitive spirit in him. Nothing bothers that dude and it is so contagious.”
–Field Level Media