Phoenix vs. Portland: How the Blazers Won Their 5th Straight to Move over .500

Alex TamCorrespondent IIIDecember 23, 2012

Dec. 22, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) drives to the basket on Phoenix Suns shooting guard Jared Dudley (3) during the fourth quarter of the game at the Rose Garden. Lillard scored 25 points as the Blazers won the game 96-93. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Phoenix Suns, 96-93, on Saturday night at the Rose Garden.

The Blazers moved above .500 for the first time since the first week of the regular season when they were 2-1. Portland had fallen as many as four games below .500 at 8-12 before embarking on its current five-game winning streak.

The Blazers had four players in double figures, led by Damian Lillard's 25 points and seven assists. J.J. Hickson continues to play at a high level, recording his seventh straight double-double with 19 points and 15 rebounds.

LaMarcus Aldridge made his return to the lineup after missing the last game due to an ankle injury suffered two games ago. He had a solid game with 17 points and nine rebounds.

Here are the grades, breakdown and analysis of another Blazers victory.


Player of the Game

Damian Lillard: 25 points, 7 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 7-of-13 FG

Lillard scored 18 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, continuing his late-game heroics.

Blazers color analyst Mike Rice labeled Lillard as a combination of Brandon Roy and Clyde Drexler late in the game after the rookie knocked down a big jumper with 41 seconds to go for a 96-91 lead.

The national media is certainly taking notice game by game on Twitter, and Lillard is definitely legit.


Key Moment of the Game

The Suns grabbed a 73-63 lead with 3:45 left in the third before the Blazers made their turnaround.

Lillard, Luke Babbitt and Nicolas Batum helped Portland close the quarter on a 12-2 run to tie the game. Phoenix never led by more than one in the fourth, and the Blazers immediately had an answer every time to grab the lead right back.

Lillard scored nine of the Blazers' final 12 points to cap another win.


Lillard Watch

Lillard now has eight games with at least 20 points and seven assists, tied for third most in the NBA with Stephen Curry and sits behind LeBron James and Russell Westbrook (via Trail Blazers PR on Twitter).

He is quickly growing a reputation as a clutch player and should definitely be the Rookie of the Year favorite.



Tweets of the Night

Ooooohhhhhh, Mr. Amazing [@dame_lillard] He looks like Brandon Roy and Clyde Drexler all in one.

— Mike Rice, Blazers broadcaster, (@blazersmikerice)


"I think we're capable of being a playoff team." - @Dame_Lillard post-game

— Portland Trail Blazers (@pdxtrailblazers)


Jermaine O'Neal; "Good to see this building rocking again ... brings back a lot of old memories when you can barely hear yourself breath."

— Mike Tokito, The Oregonian (@mtokito)


Man, Damian Lillard's game is nice


— J.A. Adande, ESPN, (@jadande)


What They Said

“Coming into the season, a lot of people said we were rebuilding and that we weren’t going to be that good,” Lillard said. “But we worked hard and we wanted to come out and compete and give ourselves a chance to win games. We’ve just been sticking with it this whole early part of the season and we’ve been able to win some games.” (via Joe Freeman of The Oregonian)

"I'm not going to say we're that good but I think we're capable of being a playoff team as long as we keep doing what we're doing," Lillard said. (via

 “It was sometimes too late because he’s so quick and get there too late,” Goran Dragic said of Lillard. “He made some tough shots, two stepbacks on me and Shannon." (via Paul Coro of Arizona Republic)


Final Grade: B

The Blazers won their fifth straight game for the first time since Feb. 5-16, 2011 when they won six in a row (via Trail Blazers PR on Twitter).

Earlier in the season, Portland's bench was awful as it struggled to muster more than 12 points. Now, the Blazers are getting some consistent production as the bench totaled 22 against Phoenix. It's not a spectacular number, but it's made a huge difference during the streak.

The Blazers five-game winning streak is tied for the second-longest winning streak in the league right now with Toronto and behind the Los Angeles Clippers (12).