The Phoenix Suns are back in the same troubles, suffering a bad loss to the Blazers

The Phoenix Suns began Tuesday’s 109-104 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers looking like part of a group responding to a tough two weeks of basketball that is worthy of a call for a reality check.

And then the same team came out.

The worst part of this effort is that the Suns were doing what worked and seeing the benefits of playing connected defense and pushing the pace of the offense away from that. A 36-20 first quarter lead indicated that Phoenix (14-13) was responding to its recent poor form, and if the same mentality continued throughout the game, it was on the verge of putting up its best full-game effort in nearly a month.

The second quarter got a little shaky but left the Suns in a good position before their downright malaise spread throughout the first half. They were overwhelmed, not only with the high offensive tempo but with the movement and movements to start the quarter. The defense fell back to what had been the norm over the past week, and Portland (7-19) beat the Suns 38-20.

Where did the urgency that was all over the pitch in the first 12 minutes go? The Blazers also had the same kind of energy lacking in the first two minutes, a window for Phoenix to break the game open to lead by 25 after taking a 12-point lead in the first half, but Portland saw the opportunity and took it.

A few minutes into the fourth quarter, there was some slight improvement but more of the same. Once the Suns found something with just under four minutes remaining, the jump shots started not falling and their poor half allowed players like Blazers guard Anfernee Simmons to rest, a terrific scorer who has scored nine of his 23 points on fourth down. Mostly good defense. The Suns were up 14 with 4:25 left and that was a lot for them to overcome as they frantically tried to stabilize themselves. It was too late.

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Phoenix got within five with an 11-2 run with 55 seconds remaining, and after a wide-open 3 by Malcolm Brogdon in the corner didn’t fall, Kevin Durant got two free throws in transition and knocked down both to make it a one-possession game with 35 seconds left. Simmons then hit a perfectly protected hard floater to close it out.

Devin Booker and Durant had solid performances in the first half, but both played into the issues we saw in the second half, just like almost everyone else, with the offense flowing into a brutal mode during the third quarter in particular. Phoenix attempted just 23 seconds, making five shots (21.7%), which highlights the lack of ball movement given the Suns’ shooting and scoring threats.

Durant scored 40 points on 16-of-28 shooting to go with four rebounds, five assists, two steals and five turnovers. Booker added 25 points (11-for-25), three rebounds, seven assists and a turnover.

Grayson Allen felt like he was the only guy in a Suns uniform who was fully engaged and playing his tail off all night, and he finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and two steals. These are the three Suns players in double figures.

Portland shot 14 of 28 (50%) from 3.

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