Portland (20-47) at Phoenix (45-21)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Phoenix, AZ
Temp: 76° F
  • Game info: 9:00 pm EST Thu Mar 23, 2006
  • TV: FSAZ
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Phoenix Suns could finally have Amare Stoudemire back in the lineup as they look to avoid a season high-tying third straight loss in a matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The 6-foot-10 Stoudemire led the Suns in scoring last season at 26.0 points per game, but hasn’t played this season after undergoing surgery on his left knee in October.

After participating in 5-on-5 drills with teammates for the third time in four days, Stoudemire said Wednesday there’s an 80 percent chance he’ll play against Portland. He said he would decide on Thursday morning.

“If it feels good, then it’s possible that I’ll play,” Stoudemire said. “The way it’s feeling, it feels pretty good. I feel like I’m real close.”

Phoenix has a six-game lead over the second-place Los Angeles Clippers in the Pacific Division despite not having Stoudemire all season, but has lost back-to-back games for the first time in two months after falling 107-99 to Utah on Tuesday. The Suns haven’t dropped three straight since Dec. 10-14.

Steve Nash led Phoenix with 20 points, but the team had its fourth-worst shooting performance of the season after going 12-for-46 from the floor in the second half.

“Everybody can speculate why we dropped the ball there in the second half, but the bottom line is we did,” said Raja Bell, who scored 18 points against his former team.

The Suns went into halftime with a 12-point lead, but allowed the Jazz to end the third quarter on a 36-18 run. Utah outrebounded Phoenix 34-16 in the second half.

“I think we were soft defensively,” Nash said. “They got easy layups and on the offensive end we went through a big drought.”

The Suns have lost four of their last seven, including a 111-101 defeat at Portland on March 12.

While the Suns are the league’s highest-scoring team with 108.2 points per game, the Blazers are the lowest with 88.5 a contest. In the first meeting between these teams this season, Phoenix routed Portland 130-85.

The Blazers have dropped five straight and 19 of 22 after losing 100-93 to Milwaukee on Monday in the second game of a home-and-home series. Portland cut a 15-point deficit to one with just under 2 minutes left, but allowed the Bucks to score the final six points of the game.

“This is the NBA. It is not a rec league,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. “I should not have to ask for focus or hard play from anyone. … You’re down by 15 and get back in the game by playing scrappy, playing hard. I’m wondering where that is at for 48 minutes.”

Zach Randolph led Portland with 23 points and 10 rebounds for his 21st double-double of the season after sitting out a 97-93 loss at Milwaukee Saturday because of a bruised knee. That defeat was the Blazers’ 10th straight on the road, and they haven’t lost 11 in a row away from home since a 13-game skid in 1985-86.

Portland has lost three straight and nine of the last 11 meetings in Phoenix.

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