The Suns look to head into the break by extending their season-high winning streak to six Wednesday night when they host the Trail Blazers, who hope to avoid an eighth loss in 12 games without Brandon Roy(notes) and a 10th straight defeat in Phoenix.
Portland (30-24) was 26-17 and two games behind Denver for first place in the Northwest Division on Jan. 20, but Roy’s sprained right hamstring has caused him to miss the team’s past 11 games.
The Trail Blazers have fallen to fourth place in the Northwest and eighth in the Western Conference, while the Suns (31-21), who once looked to be quickly fading, have started climbing again in the standings.
Phoenix had dropped seven of nine before reeling off five straight wins, the last four on the road.
Amare Stoudemire has been the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks, and based on how he’s played over those games, his value has gone up. The West’s starting center for Sunday’s All-Star game, Stoudemire averaged 27.8 points and 12.3 rebounds in leading Phoenix to a perfect 4-0 trip.
“You’ve got to understand, 10 days ago we were out of the playoffs,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “Now we’re in fifth and (barely) out of fourth place. … But we’re also 3 1/2 games from being out of the playoffs. I think it’s going to be that way the next 29-30 games. Every week I think somebody will jockey for position and something will change.”
While Stoudemire’s recent resurgence has been paramount to Phoenix’s success, so has the insertion of Robin Lopez(notes) into the starting lineup. Gentry put Lopez in for the perimeter-oriented Channing Frye(notes), and Lopez, who didn’t get off the bench Dec. 17 at Portland, has responded by averaging 12.8 points on 64.7 percent shooting in the past 11 games.
“Now guys can’t totally focus on me out there,” Stoudemire said. “They’ve got to worry about him as well because he’s a force to be reckoned with definitely on the boards.”
Stoudemire and the Suns should feel pretty good about their chances for a sixth straight win. Phoenix has beaten Portland nine straight times at US Airways Center by an average of 16.9 points
The Blazers have won the series’ last three games at home, with the Suns’ December visit registering as an impressive escape. Phoenix led by 11 after three quarters, but Jerryd Bayless(notes) had 16 of his then-career high 29 points in the fourth to spark a come-from-behind 105-102 win.
The Blazers are just 4-7 in the games Roy has missed, and Bayless’ production has started to fall off. After averaging 14.0 points in his first nine starts, Bayless averaged 6.5 in his last two games before Nate McMillan inserted Nicolas Batum(notes) for Tuesday’s visit from Oklahoma City.
It didn’t help. Portland shot 40.3 percent in an 89-77 loss, its lowest point total since scoring 76 against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 28, 2008.
“It was bad, a bad effort tonight,” McMillan said.
Webster left Tuesday’s game after a hard fall on his back, but returned and should play Wednesday.