SUNS AT TRAIL BLAZERS, 10 P.M. ET

TV: League Pass

  • Phoenix guard Goran Dragic missed the Suns’ Tuesday practice session to be with his wife for the birth of the couple’s son, Mateo. Dragic flew to Portland this morning and is expected to be in the starting lineup tonight.  Dragic, who missed the Suns’ previous three games with a sprained ankle, had 26 points, nine assists and six rebounds in a 104-91 season-opening victory over Portland.
  • Dragic and Eric Bledsoe combined for 48 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds in the first Phoenix-Portland matchup. First-year coach Jeff Hornacek has used the two natural point guards together in a lineup that averages an NBA-best 23.3 fast-break points a game. The Trail Blazers gave up 31 fast-break points to Phoenix in the first meeting.  “It has become a game of penetration,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “When guards get into the lane, it becomes their way of playing inside/out. Bledsoe and Dragic played very well against us, both in the halfcourt and transition.”  The first Phoenix-Portland meeting, Stotts said, “was eye-opening as far as the improvement we needed to make defensively. It refocused attention on what we needed to do. Transition defense is a priority tonight.”
  • Phoenix ranks fifth in the league in scoring defense (96.0) and sixth in opponents’ field-goal percentage (.430). “Everybody talks about how much they go up and down the court on the offensive end, but they’re doing a terrific job defensively,” Stotts said. “They’re doing it with energy and focus.”  “We’re doing a great job protecting the basket,” Hornacek said. “We’re playing hard and being physical. We’re not giving up a lot of easy buckets. The guys are playing defense with desire. We have guys willing to put in the work. they play hard every play.”
  • When the Suns — off to a 5-2 start — traded veteran center Marcin Gortat before the regular season began, it was assumed the organization was “tanking” the season to position itself for a lottery pick in the draft. “That’s what they say,” Hornacek said. “I told the guys earlier in the season, ‘You’ll hear that, but you won’t hear that from coaches and you know you’re not going to hear it from players.’ We’re all too competitive for that. We’re happy with how it’s started. but we feel we can still play better.”

Kerry Eggers

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