The Phoenix Suns played much like they have often this season -- they missed plenty of good shots (despite a strong first quarter) and had no consistent rhythm to their offense. But they did have one thing going for them Friday night at the US Airways Center -- the first home-and-road back-to-back sequence of the season for the visiting Portland Trail Blazers.
The Suns, as it turned out, didn't really need to play that well to beat the sleepy Blazers, who arrived around 4 a.m. local time after a late game against the L.A. Lakers the previous night. The Blazers looked extremely sluggish, listless and couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with their shooting, and the Suns took advantage for a 102-77 win.
"Everybody's going to go through that," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "I think that's why you're going to see scores like the one you did (Friday). Do I think that we're 25 points better than they are? No. But I think that given the opportunity to take advantage of something like this, you better do it, especially at home."
Not that the Suns didn't have a hand in the Blazers' demise. Grant Hill locked down the Blazers' Gerald Wallace, aka Crash, after Wallace had dropped 31 on the Lakers Thursday night. With Hill providing the initial rugged man-to-man, when Wallace moved to the hoop the other Suns collapsed to help Hill and force Wallace into four turnovers.
Wallace failed to make a shot on six attempts, Jamal Crawford was a lowly 3-for-14 and star LaMarcus Aldridge was 6 of 14. The Blazers made only 32.5 percent of their shots for the game.
The Suns hit their first six shots of the game and nine of the first 11. The only two misses in that stretch came from the struggling Channing Frye, but the start represented a vast improvement over the cold shooting Phoenix has endured overall so far this season and the Suns ended up shooting 46.8 percent, which was much higher than their 42.1 percent average per game.
The Suns led by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, running the Blazers from the start as Gentry had hoped to do. Portland looked a step slow on defense and made only 28 percent of their first-quarter shots, plus the Blazers could hardly hang onto the ball with six turnovers, three by guard Wesley Matthews.
Steve Nash had 9 points and five assists in the first quarter alone. He made all seven of his shots in the game and finished with 17 points and nine assists, and sat the entire fourth quarter. Jared Dudley scored 18 and Marcin Gortat 12.
The Blazers figured to have an opportunity to climb back into the game against the Suns' sketchy second unit, but failed to do so. Only a running bank shot by Matthews made it 49-34 Suns at halftime.
Both teams got off to rough starts in the second half as the Blazers' shooting worsened. Portland never got closer than 12 points down, and the Suns went up by 20 on a three from Nash to make it 59-29 with 6:11 left in the quarter.
Phoenix's biggest lead was 24 points in the third.
"It's apparent that that's the best we've played all year against a quality team," Gentry said of his 3-4 Suns.
"We knew they were on a back-to-back and we wanted to push the tempo," the Suns' Jared Dudley said.
Hakim Warrick's dunk at the 10:39 mark of the fourth quarter made it 77-57. He had 12 points off the bench and Markieff Morris and Shannon Brown added 13 and 14.
After the dunk the Blazers conceded and emptied their bench.
As planned, Gentry platooned point guards Ronnie Price and Sebastian Telfair in the first half, but while Price didn't really stand out, Telfair looked shaky with the ball and Price got the minutes in the second half and in garbage time with Telfair.