Road Takes: Suns feast in the paint on opening night

Defense. Defense. Defense.

It was all you heard in this space and in other spaces that cover the Portland Trail Blazers. They signed Robin Lopez to protect the paint, they installed a new defensive system to hang back their bigs on pick and rolls to protect the paint.

52 points in the paint for the Suns and Miles Plumlee is the waiver wire pick up of the day in your fantasy basketball league (unless you picked him in the last round of your salary cap league like me).

Plumlee started off the game 6-6 from the field with an array of jump hooks and great rolls to the rim on pick and rolls. He finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks on the night.

The Blazers struggled in the paint last season and tonight was yet another one of those nights. Another reason why they struggled, something they didn’t do well containing last year either, was dribble penetration.

Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe ran high pick-and-rolls like it was going out of style and each one filled up the stat sheet. Dragic had 26 points, nine assists and six rebounds while Bledsoe had 22 points, six assists and seven rebounds.

Even P.J. Tucker who averaged just over six points a game last season had 18 points and he hit both of his three point attempts after shooting 31 percent from deep last season.

Defensively, it was a struggle and it could have been worse had the Suns shot better than 21 percent from the three-point line.

Offensively, it seemed like it was another case of dej√° vu. Damian Lillard (32) and LaMarcus Aldridge (28) combined for 60 points on the night and no other Blazers scored in double-figures.

A good sign, something that Lillard has promised, was that last year’s Rookie of The Year was very efficient from the field. He shot 10 of 20 on the night on his way to 32 points and it seemed that more of his shots came in the flow of things rather than having to constantly create offense.

Nicolas Batum led the team with 13 rebounds but had an off shooting night, specifically from three, going 1-5 from deep.

The man who has talked up his candidacy for 6th man of the year was the biggest no-show of the night for the Blazers tonight. Williams struggled from the field tonight, going 1-9. You wouldn’t bet on that happening again soon with Williams’ career history but when you bring a guy in to be “instant offense” off the bench, you kind of need those points to be there.

Yes, of course, it’s only one game and the Suns were an energized team with a new coach trying to set a new tone for their future. Eric Bledsoe gives the team a new dimension and he ignited the Suns pressuring the ball on defense all night.

But, the Western Conference won’t get easier than this. It was a disappointing start for a team with playoff aspirations to say the least.

The dream of 82-0 is no longer alive in Portland.

Other notes:

-Robin Lopez scored 3 points and grabbed 2 rebounds in 34 minutes. He did have a couple of blocks but on Plumlee but other than that there wasn’t much from a guy who averaged over 11 points per game and was brought in to anchor the defense. Not the best debut from Fropez.

-Thomas Robinson had good energy in his nine minutes and registered the only positive +/- on the team with a +5.

-The Blazers, in addition to being super proud of their opponents field goal percentage in preseason, were happy about their preseason rebounding numbers where they led the league in rebounds per game. The Suns were +8 on the boards tonight.

-The turnover problem seems to have worked itself out as they only had 13 compared to 15 for Phoenix.

-None of the young wings got off the bench. No Will Barton, no Allen Crabbe, no Victor Claver. Dorell Wright also only took two shots.

-The Blazers play next on Friday at 6PM against the new-look, JaVale McGee-led Denver Nuggets.



Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He's covered the NBA for four seasons. You can also occasionally find his work on's NBA section for their TrueCities series. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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