Suns-Trail Blazers preview

Posted: Updated:
By Natalie Rivers By Natalie Rivers

(AP) -- A road-heavy portion of the schedule wasn't kind to the Portland Trail Blazers.

A visit from the struggling Phoenix Suns may help them improve their status as one of the NBA's best home teams.

Portland seeks its sixth straight home victory over Phoenix when the teams meet Friday night.

The Trail Blazers (11-8) are coming off a stretch of playing seven of nine on the road after losing 101-93 at Golden State on Wednesday. They went 2-5 away from home during that span and fell to 3-7 on the road.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored a team-high 18 points and Marcus Camby added 16 rebounds for Portland, which nearly rallied from a 20-point deficit.

"As a team, we did not play well. As a unit, we need to play better," coach Nate McMillan said. "We're not going to single anybody out. There are some things that we all needed to do better."

The Blazers' first meeting with the Suns came in Phoenix, a 102-77 loss Jan. 6 which contributed to their averages of 90.4 points and 40.9 percent shooting on the road.

The numbers are stark contrasts to those at the Rose Garden, where they're averaging 103.4 points - fifth-best in the league - and shooting 45.8 percent while going 8-1.

Portland is averaging 114.0 points during its five-game home winning streak against Phoenix, which has lost seven of 10 since beating the Blazers earlier this month.

The Suns (6-11) dropped their second straight Tuesday, 99-96 to Toronto. Marcin Gortat had 21 points and 12 rebounds to record his ninth straight double-double, and Steve Nash added 17 points and 14 assists for Phoenix, which led by 14 at one point.

"Obviously we were struggling for energy and I think that was the key, especially in that third quarter," Nash said. "They beat us on all the second-effort plays. They made a lot more of the plays, hustling for loose balls or running the floor, little things like that."

The Suns will play without backup center Robin Lopez, who was suspended for one game following an altercation with a referee Tuesday. Lopez was ejected after making contact with an official after disputing a foul call.

No matter who is in the lineup, the recent high-scoring Suns teams seem to be a thing of the past. Phoenix is averaging 89.7 points while going 3-6 on the road, where it has yet to crack the 100-point mark.

Nash's 31.9 minutes per game are his fewest since averaging 31.7 for Dallas during the 1998-99 season, and his 10.4 assists per game are his least since 2008-09.

Nash had 17 points and nine assists in the first meeting with Portland, when Jared Dudley led six Suns in double figures with 18 points. Aldridge was the only Blazers starter in double figures with 14 points.

Phoenix has won consecutive meetings for the first time since taking 11 straight in the series March 23, 2006-Nov. 22, 2008. It hasn't won in Portland since a 111-98 victory March 18, 2008.