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- Portland’s Wesley Matthews (ankle) won’t be available tonight. Rookie Victor Claver, who has started seven games in Matthews’ absence this season, will start at small forward, moving Nicolas Batum to shooting guard. “(Monday) Wes was optimistic he’d be able to go, but it just wasn’t there,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “Hopefully he’ll be ready for the Lakers” Friday night.
“He’s a fine player and a really competitive guy, but it won’t change how we prepare,” Phoenix coach Lindsay Hunter said. “But we have to prepare the same way as if he was playing and not take anybody for granted.”
- Portland (25-28) finished a six-game pre-All-Star break road trip with five losses, including a 99-63 pounding in its last game at New Orleans. “Not only did we lose five in a row, but the last one was not very nice,” Stotts said. The break “gave everybody a chance to spread out, collect their thoughts, rest up and come back with a vengeance.”
- Phoenix (17-36, the worst record in the Western Conference) lost its last four games before the break. “Two young teams struggling a little bit,” Hunter said. “We’ll both be hungry to get something on the other side of the won-loss column. We’ve had some time to get away from it, refresh our minds and get back to it full force.”
- The teams have split two games, Phoenix winning 114-87 at home on Nov. 21 and Portland winning 96-93 at home on Dec. 22. “Arguably our worst defensive game of the season was in Phoenix,” Stotts said. “(Martin) Gortat and (Jermaine) O’Neil have combined to shoot 31 for 42 in the two games, so they’ve done a nice job with their interior scoring.”
- Hunter said the Suns’ main concern tonight will be “our defense, turnovers and trying to limit points in the paint.”
– Kerry Eggers