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Portland Trail Blazers in fix mode as the Phoenix Suns loom: game preview, time, TV channel, how to watch the stream online

Coach Chauncey Billups stressed during the preseason that the Portland Trail Blazers need to put in second and third efforts on defense to really become a strong defensive team.

The level of defense he was talking about was on display in the final six minutes of the team’s 124-121 loss to Sacramento in Wednesday’s season opener at the Moda Center.

The Blazers were down 117-104 with 5:58 to go, then went into lockdown and reduced their deficit to 122-121 in the dying seconds before falling short.

The Blazers have allowed just seven points during that streak to give themselves a shot at winning. As Damian Lillard pointed out after the game, you can’t expect a team to do everything like this for 48 minutes.

“You know we still had a lot of long blankets but the multiple efforts that we ended up desperately doing because of our backs to the wall, we did,” Billups said. “I just felt like the urgency with which we played in the fourth quarter, defensively, was where we needed to go into most of the game.”

Saturday night would be a great time to start doing just that. The Blazers host the Phoenix Suns, a team that won the Western Conference title last season before losing in the NBA Finals. Phoenix swept the Blazers 3-0 in the 2020-21 regular season averaging 125.7 points per game and beat Portland 119-74 in the preseason on October 13.

“They have a good mix of young guys and veterans,” Billups said. “They are very well led, not only by Monty (Williams) but by Chris (Paul). They have a group that is hungry, they were heartbroken last year… When you go through something like that, it’s a lot in terms of experience.

The Suns, who lost 110-98 to Denver on Wednesday, play the Los Angeles Lakers (0-1) on Friday night.

Billups was an assistant coach for the LA Clippers when they lost 4-2 to the Suns in the Western Conference final. So he spent a lot of time studying the Suns during this series.

“The most important thing is they were executed at a pretty high offensive level, and we had some really good defenders there to keep them up last year,” Billups said. “And they still found a way to overcome it.”

The Suns represent very well what the Blazers want to be.

“They’re a great example of a team to look at and say, ‘Dude, this is a team that has arrived,” Billups said. “They’re playing the right way on both ends of the pitch.”

As part of their own desire to play the right way, the Blazers trained on Thursday and Friday. Billups said the team simply has a lot to clean up. Thursday was devoted to defense. Friday was for the offense.

Billups said he knew how to keep guys cool, so that wasn’t a problem. The goal was to keep talking about the changes to be made and then to review them in the field.

Trail Blazers winger Norman Powell yells after knocking down a three-runner in the fourth quarter as the Portland Trail Blazers open the 2021-22 NBA season against the Sacramento Kings at the Moda Center on Wednesday, October 20, 2021.Sean Meagher / The Oregonian

“This is the only way that at some point it becomes instinctual,” Billups said. “The instincts they have now are the ones that were there before, and that’s quite frankly what we’re trying to get away from. “

For all of the Blazers’ issues of defending against the Kings, the starting unit of Lillard, CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, Robert Covington and Jusuf Nurkic had a good defensive rating of 102.2 in 20 minutes together.

But the Blazers have yet to figure out how to stay focused and not give up on their defensive tenets.

“So many times in the game we kind of gave up on the mission and went back to what we knew from previous years,” Billups said. “So you’ve got to keep talking about it, you’ve got to keep pushing it and come in and walk through it.”

Much like Billups did during his playing days with Detroit, Powell played on a championship-caliber defense in Toronto. He said the Blazers are on the right track but still far from where they want to be.

“I don’t think that’s a bad thing at this point in the season,” said Powell. “The guys are really engaged and talking to each other and trying to figure out the rotations and trying to figure out how we can be a unit, connected on a chain defensively.”

In attack, there was perhaps less to correct. The main catch right now is that the team is struggling to make three, which is unusual. Portland shot 34.3% for the game, following a preseason where he placed last in three-point shooting. But Billups said there was no cause for concern.

“I thought in the preseason the reason our shots were missed was because our camp was tough and our legs were dead,” Billups said. “There is no excuse, there is no rhyme or reason for (Wednesday) night.”

Billups doesn’t expect nights like this to become a trend. In fact, he thought the team had done well to get good shots, but they just weren’t falling.

“I don’t think we forced too many contested three (Wednesday) nights,” he said. “We took a lot of bad ones in the preseason, and if you take bad threes you’re probably going to miss a lot, which will impact that percentage. I thought we did some really good things offensively. We just couldn’t do all three. But you score 121 points and don’t do three, that should be enough to win games if your defense is strong.

BLAZERS FROM PORTLAND TRAIL VS. PHOENIX SUNS

What: Trail Blazers (0-1) vs. Suns (1-0 entering Friday), 7 p.m. Saturday.

Or: Moda center.

Radio: Rip City Radio (KPOJ 620 AM)

TV channel: Root Sports (in Portland: Comcast 34/734, DirecTV 687/688)

Watch the game live online: You can watch this game live for FREE with fuboTV (free try). You can also get this game on DirectTV Streamthe “CHOICE” package of (promotional offers), if you no longer have trials on fuboTV or if you simply prefer this platform and its pricing plans. If you already have a cable or satellite provider that broadcasts Root Sports and want to watch online, you can watch this match live on Root Sports Live.

CHANCES

Not available. The Suns play Friday night.

INJURIES

Jackets: G / F Tony Snell (sprained right foot) came out.

Suns: N / A.

FOLLOWING

The Blazers hit the road for their first regular-season game away from the Moda Center when they play at 7:30 p.m. Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers.

– Aaron Fentress | [email protected] | @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook).

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