Time to start over: Blazers stumble in opener
PHOENIX SUNS 104, Portland Trail Blazers 91
Wednesday night, US Airways Center
Not many for Portland, although Damian Lillard scored 32 points in 42 minutes, and LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points in 39 minutes.
The Blazers cut a 17-point deficit to five at 96-91 with 3:15 remaining, before Suns guard Goran Dragic made back-to-back jumpers as Phoenix scored the game's final eight points.
Suns starting power forward Channing Frye, an ex-Blazer, played in his first regular-season game in 557 days. He missed last season with an enlarged heart.
Frye went 22 minutes, collecting 7 points and 3 rebounds, after getting the starting nod due to the NBA's suspension of Markieff Morris for elbowing Serge Ibaka in a preseason game.
"It felt good...man, I'm here." Frye said. "I felt like I belonged."
WHAT IT MEANS
The Blazers are 0-1, having lost to a team that was 25-57 last season.
Portland still has work to do on its defense, especially against the pick-and-roll.
The Blazers' revamped bench (Joel Freeland, Mo Williams, Dorell Wright and Thomas Robinson were the only subs to see action Wednesday) needs to contribute more.
Williams was 1 of 9 from the field, including 0 of 4 in 3-pointers, and the foursome totaled 12 points and 9 rebounds in a combined 55 minutes, going 4 of 17 from the field, with 5 assists and 5 turnovers.
For the Suns, Jeff Hornacek won his coaching debut.
Lillard and Aldridge became the first Blazers to score 28 or more points in the same game against the Suns since Brian Grant (34), Isaiah Rider (35) and Arvydas Sabonis (31) did it on Nov. 14, 1997.
Nicolas Batum led Portland in rebounds with 13, but had only 7 points in 37 minutes.
Phoenix guards Dragic and Eric Bledsoe combined for 48 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds.
Suns center Miles Plumlee had a career night in his first NBA start. The second-year, 7-footer from Duke led all rebounders with 15, and added 18 points. Plumlee, acquired in a deal that sent Luis Scola to Indiana, had totaled 13 points and 22 rebounds in 55 minutes (14 games) with the Pacers last season.
On the other hand, Portland's new starting center, Robin Lopez, managed to snare just two rebounds in 34 minutes, while adding three points and two blocks.
The Suns shot 51.8 percent from the field to Portland's 40.7 percent.
Phoenix led in fast-break points 31-19.
Portland trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half and 17 in the second half.
The Suns had four players score at least 18 points (Dragi? 26, Bledsoe 22, Miles Plumlee 18, P.J. Tucker 18) for the first time in a season opener since Nov. 3, 1989, when Armen Gilliam, Eddie Johnson, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle and Tom Chambers) did it against Golden State.
The 13-point victory was the Suns largest in a season opener since 2004-05 against Atlanta (112-82).
Phoenix had lost five consecutive season openers against Portland.
Lillard: They kind of shocked us. They played at a real fast pace, and their guards finished some tough shots. They kind of got us out of position with the pace that they played at. It was tough to guard them, and it wasnt a help that we got off to a slow offensive start.
Aldridge: "Bledsoe played great. The big fella down low, Plumlee, played great. They had guys that made plays. Its their opener, and they have a bunch of new players, young players who are getting their first opportunity to play, to start. They just had more energy than us. We fought back, but it just wasnt enough.
Portland coach Terry Stotts: The Phoenix Suns outplayed us. They were ready from the get-go. They got out and ran. All the things that weve been working on, we had a setback today. Transition defense, we were slow reacting to that. Their guards did a good job of penetrating, and we gave up too many shots at the rim. We fought through not necessarily shooting the ball well in the first half, battled back and were in a position to win the game with three minutes to go, but they outplayed us.
Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek: I got a little worried when it got down to five, especially with a young team to see how they react. But they made a couple nice stops. That is the key for us. When we get stops, we are able to fast-break.
In other NBA upsets on Wednesday, Philadelphia stunned Miami 114-110, and Cleveland knocked off Brooklyn 98-94.
The Blazers go to Denver for a 6 p.m. Friday game at Pepsi Center (CSNNW).
The Nuggets also are 0-1. They lost Wednesday 90-88 at Sacramento.
Former Blazers big man J.J. Hickson started at power forward in his Denver debut and had 12 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks in 33 minutes. He was 6 of 10 from the field.
Another ex-Blazer, veteran point guard Andre Miller, came off the bench for 12 points (6-for-9 field-goal shooting) in 21 minutes.
Guard Ty Lawson led Nuggets scorers with 20 points, but Denver made just 5 of 15 from 3-point range for new coach Brian Shaw.