Phoenix (9-16) at Portland (11-11)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Portland, OR
Temp: 103° F
  • Game info: 10:00 pm EST Thu Dec 18, 2003
  • TV: TNT, TNT
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Portland Trail Blazers look to put an end to their defensive struggles as they host the Phoenix Suns at the Rose Garden.

Portland has lost four of its last five games, including a 106-99 setback to Milwaukee on Tuesday.

“I haven’t figured us out,” frustrated Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said. “If I have figured out anything, it’s that defense is our problem.”

The Blazers are allowing opponents to shoot an NBA-high .470 from the floor, including .380 from 3-point range, ranking 28th in the league.

“We don’t even contest shots,” said Blazers guard Damon Stoudamire, who had 21 points and 10 assists against the Bucks.

“We are a bad defensive team right now.”

Even 30 points and 18 rebounds from Zach Randolph wasn’t enough for Portland, which is trying to avoid falling below the .500 mark for the first time since Nov. 7, when it was 2-3.

Phoenix snapped a six-game losing streak with a 92-91 overtime win over Seattle on Tuesday night, the team’s first victory since Mike D’Antoni replaced Frank Johnson as coach on Dec. 10.

“We needed to get the gorilla off our back,” D’Antoni said. “We needed to start thinking about the things we were doing wrong. Instead of worrying about expectations, we need to just become a better team.”

Shawn Marion had 19 points and 14 rebounds, Penny Hardaway scored 18 points and Stephon Marbury added 17 for the Suns, who have lost five straight on the road.

“Everybody wanted to get a win,” Marbury said. “We wanted to win for coach, and he wanted to win for us.”

STANDINGS (through Dec. 16): Suns - 7th place, 10 GB, Pacific Division. Trail Blazers - 3rd place (tied), 6 1/2 GB, Pacific Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Suns - F Joe Johnson, F Marion, C Jahidi White, G Marbury, G Hardaway. Trail Blazers - F Rasheed Wallace, F Randolph, C Dale Davis, G Jeff McInnis, G Stoudamire.

TEAM LEADERS: Suns - Marbury, 20.2 ppg and 8.2 apg; Marion, 9.3 rpg. Trail Blazers - Randolph, 22.9 ppg and 11.3 rpg; Stoudamire, 6.4 apg.

2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Suns, 3-1.

LAST MEETING: March 15; Trail Blazers, 120-102. At Portland, Randolph came off the bench to score 27 points and help the Blazers avoid a series sweep.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Suns - 2-9 on the road; Trail Blazers - 11-3 at home.

INJURIES: Suns - F Amare Stoudemire (ankle); F Zarko Cabarkapa (wrist). Trail Blazers - G Derek Anderson (back).

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