By Joe Freeman/ oregonlive.com (TNS)
The Portland Trail Blazers’ final home game of the exhibition season was a sloppy one.
The Blazers scuffled and stumbled their way to a 134-118 loss to the Phoenix Suns Saturday night at the Moda Center, dropping their second preseason game against an NBA opponent.
CJ McCollum had a prolific scoring night, Zach Collins had a solid performance off the bench and Hassan Whiteside unveiled his best outing with Portland. But the Blazers (1-2) were careless with the ball, had hideous three-point defense and trailed by as many as 21 points against a team that rested three starters.
McCollum was one of the few bright spots for the Blazers, recording 27 points, three rebounds and three assists, while making 10 of 17 shots, including 4 of 7 three-pointers. Damian Lillard finished with 18 points and four assists and Collins added 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Blazers.
Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 19 points, Frank Kaminsky recorded 16 points, eight assists and six rebounds and Tyler Johnson and Cameron Johnson each scored 18 points off the bench for the Suns (2-1)
The Blazers committed a turnover on their opening possession and were sloppy from beginning to end. They finished with 22 turnovers, coughing up 15 in the first half. And the Suns turned the miscues into a whopping 34 points and finished with 27 fast-break points.
And when the Blazers weren’t fumbling away freebies to Phoenix, they were playing soft three-point defense, which was the most alarming development Saturday night.
The Suns made 24 of 45 threes, a stunning total against a defense built to swarm the three-point line. Nine different Suns players made a three, including Kaminsky (4 of 7), Tyler Johnson (4 of 6), Cameron Johnson (4 of 6), Oubre (3 of 5) and Dario Saric (3 of 3).
How impressive was the Suns’ long-range shooting?
The Blazers have never allowed more than 21 three-pointers in a regular season game (Cleveland made 21 against them in 2016) and the Houston Rockets own the NBA record for most threes in a regular season game with 27.
“They shot the ball really well,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Some of that is on us. I don’t think we ever made them feel … uncomfortable with their shots and they got some confidence going with it. We didn’t start the game locked in and that set the tone.
“As I told the team, it’s a good lesson. Because on any night, teams can get it going. And they got it going tonight.”
Lillard blamed a variety of issues – including communication, slow rotations and even effort – on the Blazers’ lacklustre defense, which allowed the Suns to shoot 51 percent from the field, including 53 percent from three-point range, and score 23 more points than their previous exhibition high this season.
The only saving grace for the Blazers? It came during the preseason.
“It’s good that it happened and it doesn’t count against us,” Lillard said. “So we can see what happens when we don’t come out and do what we’ve been doing (in practice). We don’t have the luxury to go out there and just try to outscore teams and try to be lazy. It’s good to see how it went down tonight and then look at it, watch film, take what we need to take away from it and move forward.”
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