Phoenix (40-31) at Portland (44-27)

Cloudy Currently: Portland, OR
Temp: 50° F
  • Game info: 10:30 pm EDT Thu Mar 26, 2009
  • TV: TNT
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Phoenix Suns had an 11-game winning streak against the Portland Trail Blazers snapped in the teams’ latest meeting thanks to a career-high 52 points from Brandon Roy.

The Suns, though, have a much more important streak going right now.

Continuing its push to reach the Western Conference playoffs, Phoenix will look to win its seventh straight game Thursday night when it visits the Blazers, who are counting on Roy to bounce back from one of his worst games of the season.

The Blazers (44-27) had been outscored by an average of 11.7 points in dropping 11 consecutive games to the Suns from March 23, 2006-Nov. 22, 2008. They’d lost twice at Phoenix in November, but Roy turned in his best game as a pro when the Suns visited Portland on Dec. 18.

He scored 52 points in 44 minutes—topping his previous career high of 38— and led the Blazers to a 124-119 victory that snapped their lengthy skid against Phoenix.

“It really felt like a quiet 52 points. He was just knocking down shots,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “You almost expect him to do this night after night.”

The Suns’ win streak against the Blazers may have been broken, but their interest right now is extending their current hot streak. Phoenix (40-31) won its season-high sixth straight on Wednesday, beating Utah 118-114 behind 26 points from Grant Hill to climb within three games of eighth-place Dallas.

“Everyone should have an opportunity to coach a player like him,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “… He’s playing as good as when he was 25. The big thing is he’s healthy. He’s made a lot of big plays for us.”

Hill was excellent during the Suns’ four-game homestand, topping 20 points in three of their wins. He’s struggled mightily on the road lately, though, averaging just 6.7 points on 36.5 percent shooting since the All-Star break.

Hill has averaged 9.3 points against Portland this season, and he’ll have a tough task on Thursday, likely spending at least part of his time trying to slow Roy.

Roy is the biggest reason Portland is in a three-team race to win the Northwest Division, but if the Blazers plan on surpassing Denver and Utah, they can’t afford to lose games like they did Monday.

Portland, home for the first time after a five-game, seven-day road trip, rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to take Philadelphia to overtime, but couldn’t overcome a 5-of-18 shooting night from Roy in a 114-108 loss.

The 76ers shot 22 more free throws than the Blazers, and Roy, averaging 6.5 free throws, attempted just one.

“I feel I struggled tonight so I’m not going to point any fingers at the refs. I didn’t play a very good game tonight,” Roy said after having his streak of 20-point games end at 12. “We drove and tried to be aggressive. They just didn’t give us the calls. So hopefully we’ll bounce back.”

The battle inside between Shaquille O’Neal and Blazers rookie Greg Oden may well determine the outcome of Thursday’s game. Oden missed Portland’s first game against Phoenix, but picked up 10 combined fouls in just 31 total minutes in the other two games, while O’Neal averaged 19.0 points and 11.5 rebounds.

Steve Nash and the Suns, meanwhile, will want to pay close attention to Steve Blake. Portland’s starting point guard scores just 11.2 points per game but has averaged 21.5 in his last two contests.

More importantly, though, he’s hurt Phoenix, scoring 22 in each of the last two meetings.

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Thursday, Mar 26