(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
"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
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.
The Sports Network