The Portland Trail Blazers, playing without Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons, seemingly didn’t have much chance Friday night against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center.
But there they were, scrapping on defense, grinding out possessions to put up points on offense, and actually controlling the game throughout.
Not surprisingly, the Suns ultimately came back and the game stood at 106-106 with one second remaining.
That’s when Blazers forward Jerami Grant caught a long inbound pass and hit a baseline, fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to give the Blazers a 108-106 victory.
The Blazers bench stormed the court to celebrate while a stunned crowd of 17,071 largely stood in silence.
What the Blazers lacked in offensive firepower, they made up for in length and size. Portland replaced the 6-foot-2 Lillard and 6-3 Simons in the starting lineup with the 6-6 Justise Winslow and 6-6 Shaedon Sharpe.
That allowed the Blazers to become far more physical and thus more disruptive on defense.
That became most evident in the second quarter when the Blazers forced six turnovers and held the Suns to 28.6% shooting. Portland won the quarter 34-21 to go up 59-49 at halftime.
The Suns figured things out in the fourth quarter, but the fight in the Blazers never let up.
Winslow just missed a triple-double with 12 points, nine assists and nine rebounds. Grant had a game-high 30 points.
The Blazers shot 50.9% from the field and 43.5% on threes.
The Suns received 25 points from Devin Booker and 24 points and eight rebounds from center Deandre Ayton.
Portland held the Suns to 42.9% shooting and forced 17 turnovers, which is also what the Blazers had./
WHAT IT MEANS
The Blazers (6-2) beat the Suns (6-2) for the second time this season, with a third matchup set for Saturday. Portland demonstrated a level of fight it must possess to make a run at earning a playoff berth in the Western Conference.
The movement of Winslow to point guard created a void at backup power forward behind Grant. That led to rookie Jabari Walker seeing the most meaningful minutes of his young career. Walker, a second-round pick in the 2022 NBA draft, saw nine minutes of action and produced two points and three rebounds. His best play came on a very slick pass inside to Drew Eubanks, who scored on a dunk that made the score 88-80 early in the fourth quarter.
The Blazers face the Suns again at 7 p.m. Saturday.
— Aaron Fentress reported from Phoenix.
— Aaron Fentress | afentress@Oregonian.com | @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook).
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