NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, February 19th (All times Eastern)
Phoenix Suns (17-36) at Portland Trail Blazers (25-28), 10 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Two teams that desperately needed the All-Star break to collect themselves return to action Tuesday night when the Portland Trail Blazers host the Phoenix Suns.
The Blazers limped into the break losers of five straight on a road trip. They've fallen out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but have five of their next six games in the Rose City.
Portland is three games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Thanks to the emergence of presumptive Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard, the Blazers have contended for the postseason maybe a little earlier than expected.
"I think we definitely overachieved this year," forward LaMarcus Aldridge said at All-Star Media Day. "I don't think anyone had us being that good. If we can come back and be solid in the second half, it's possible."
Aldridge played in his second All-Star Game on Sunday and Lillard was a big part of All-Star Weekend. He participated in the Rising Stars Challenge, scoring 18 points, on Friday night, then went out and won the Skills Challenge Saturday night.
"I think the biggest thing for me was to try not to be too cool and speed through it, but take my time with the passes and shots," Lillard said after the competition. "And when I'm making a pass, I basically try not to run away before it goes in so I don't waste time."
Guard Wesley Matthews is questionable Tuesday with a left-ankle issue.
The Suns headed into the All-Star break on a four-game losing streak and questions abound.
Phoenix will probably try to be one of the most active teams at the NBA trade deadline, which is Thursday. They've been linked to reports for Atlanta's Josh Smith and New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert, but the fact is, the Suns don't have many assets to attract trade partners.
The Suns are last in the Pacific and Western Conference. Jared Dudley is a name that's been bandied about in trade rumors, but interim coach Lindsey Hunter is just focusing on the now.
"Everybody looks good. Appears to be healthy," said Hunter. "I do see signs of us starting to get certain things. The goal still remains the same. We'll keep building and cultivating what we do."
The Suns are 4-8 since Hunter took over for Alvin Gentry and rank 22nd in opponents' scoring and 29th in opponents' field-goal percentage.
Phoenix and Portland have split this season's two matchups with the home team winning each time. The Suns have lost seven straight in Portland.
02/19 10:29:39 ET