The following odds are courtesy of Live Odds feed:
|Betting Data||Phoenix Suns||Portland Trail Blazers|
|2018 ATS Home||5-7-0||7-5-0|
|2018 ATS Away||3-9-0||4-8-0|
|2018 O/U Home||4-8-0||6-6-0|
|2018 O/U Away||6-6-0||8-4-0|
It would be dumb to look back now and suggest that the 2018-19 iteration of the Phoenix Suns could have had any legitimate playoff aspirations. The Western Conference is absolutely stacked, and it’s unfair to expect a team with such a young roster to be able to keep up over the course of a long 82-game regular season. However, it is not unfair to have suggested that this team was on the right track.
Through 24 games, though, things look dreadful. New head coach Igor Kokoskov has struggled to find the right mix, and as a result his team has won just 4 of those first 24 games, which is good for the worst record in the entire league. Devin Booker has dealt with some injuries, which has certainly harmed the team’s progress. Booker has been nicked up, and he’s played in just 19 of those games as a result. He’s set to miss tonight’s game in Portland due to a nagging hamstring issue.
Booker is the Suns’ offensive focal point, so it’s no real surprise that they look lost whenever he’s not out there. The 22-year-old is averaging 23.5 points and nearly 7 assists per game this season. He’s not exactly Kawhi Leonard when it comes to defense, but he’s easily one of the most seasoned offensive youngsters in the game.
T.J. Warren, who also brings a steady presence to the offense, will also miss his second straight game tonight with a bum ankle. Rookie Mikal Bridges and second-year pro Josh Jackson will presumably slide into Booker’s and Warren’s vacated starting spots tonight.
The Suns looked completely lost with those 2 in the starting lineup in their last game in Sacramento, as Phoenix slogged their way to a 36-9 deficit at the hands of the Kings after the first quarter that night. It wouldn’t get much closer from there, as the Suns would go on to lose in blowout fashion, 122-105. The final score was not indicative of just how much of a beating the game was.
2 sources of optimism for the Suns are rookies Deandre Ayton and DeAnthony Melton. Ayton sometimes gets lost in the shuffle offensively, but he has put together respectable averages of 16 points and 10.2 rebounds per game through 24 games of his first NBA campaign. He still has a long way to go on defense, but Ayton has been impressive.
Melton hasn’t seen much playing time, but I imagine that will change tonight. He logged 23 minutes off the bench in Sacramento the other night, and he finished with a solid 21 points and 5 assists on tidy 9-12 shooting from the field.
Kokoskov hinted that there could be a starting lineup change tonight, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he means Melton will get the nod. Perhaps he could help bring some stability to a unit badly in need of such a thing.
While the Suns may be hurtling helplessly toward another berth in the draft lottery, the Trail Blazers have higher hopes. The core of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum has been together for a few years now, but we’re still waiting for this team to take the next step. The Blazers are still in search of their first appearance in the Western Conference Finals since the early-2000s.
Portland got off to a hot start, but they’ve been struggling of late. The Blazers are 13-11 on the season, but they’re just 3-7 over the course of their last 10 games. They’re currently in the midst of a 3-game losing streak with all 3 losses coming against Western Conference playoff hopefuls (Spurs, Mavericks, Nuggets). Portland has also dropped 6 of their last 7 overall.
I was skeptical of Terry Stotts’ decision to not stagger the minutes of Lillard and McCollum when the season began. Having one of his 2 stars on the floor handling the offense at all times was a working strategy last season, so I’m not entirely sure why he decided to pull the plug. Evan Turner has been passable in McCollum’s old role as reserve ball-handler, but the bench hasn’t been as potent this year as it was last season.
The Blazers’ struggles can’t be blamed on Lillard, who is in the middle of yet another stellar individual campaign. The All-Star guard is averaging a healthy 27.3 points, 6.3 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game thus far. His 35.5 percent shooting from 3-point range is a bit low by his standards, but that hasn’t stopped him from putting up consistent numbers, anyway.
Jusuf Nurkic should be able to take advantage of Ayton’s mediocre defense. Nurk has averaged 15 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in just 26.3 minutes a night. I’m not sure why Stotts is so reluctant to give Nurkic more minutes, but even if his playing time is limited again tonight he should be able to have his way against Ayton, who has looked at times like he’s completely lost on that end of the floor.
Obviously, tonight’s game gives Portland an excellent chance to find their footing. The Suns looked about as bad as any team I’ve seen all year in their last game, and I imagine they’ll continue to look rudderless with Booker and Warren still sidelined. I’m intrigued by what Melton can give them if he starts, but the overall talent discrepancy between the teams is enough to where it’s hard for me to imagine the Suns keeping up tonight, especially in a tough road environment.
A 13 ½-point spread is a hefty one for the NBA. It’s a big enough spread to give me a bit of pause, but the struggling Trail Blazers know they can’t afford to give a game away to the lowly Suns, especially given their rickety form. A late-game garbage-time cover could certainly come back to bite me here, but there isn’t much not to like about this spot for the Trail Blazers.
Lillard and Nurkic should both be able to feast on the league’s 30th-ranked defense.
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