Suns 102, Trail Blazers 98

Kerry Eggers, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PORTLAND -- Goran Dragic scored 16 points -- including a pair of free throws with 13.5 seconds remaining -- and dished out a career-high 18 assists as Phoenix held off a late Portland rally to win 102-98 Tuesday night at the Rose Garden.
Luis Scola added 18 points and Jermaine O'Neal came off the bench for nine points and 13 rebounds for the Suns (18-36), who snapped a four-game losing streak.
J.J. Hickson had 25 points and 16 rebounds and Damian Lillard contributed 24 points and seven assists for Portland, which extended its losing streak to six games.
Portland (25-29) trimmed a 19-point halftime deficit to 71-63 with a 7-0 run midway through the third quarter. The Suns entered the fourth quarter with an 84-73 advantage.
Phoenix increased the margin to 90-74, but the Blazers scored six points in a row to get to within 90-80 with 8:12 left.
Lillard's 3-pointer cut the Phoenix lead to 96-92 with 3:55 to go, and it was still 100-95 when Portland's Nicolas Batum bombed in another trey with 2:24 remaining.
Blazer reserve Nolan Smith made 1 of 2 at the foul line to cut the difference to 100-96 with 1:28 left.
LaMarcus Aldridge's two foul shots cut the Suns' edge to 100-98 with 20.5 seconds to go before Dragic put the win on ice at the line.
Phoenix dominated from the opening tip, racing to a 12-0 lead as Portland missed its first eight shots. The Suns were 16 for 22 from the field in seizing a 36-23 advantage after one quarter and increased the margin to 63-44 before settling for a 63-47 edge at the half.
Wesley Johnson came off the bench for 12 points and six rebounds for Phoenix, which shot .600 in the first half and won the battle for rebounds (27-15) and points in the paint (28-18). Scola and Marcin Gortat each scored 10 points on combined 10-for-13 shooting and Dragic contributed nine points and 12 assists -- 10 in the first quarter.
Hickson had 12 points and six boards at the break for the Blazers.
NOTES: Portland's Wesley Matthews (ankle) isn't available tonight. Rookie Victor Claver, who has started seven games in Matthews' absence this season, will start at small forward, moving Nicolas Batum to shooting guard. "(Monday) Wes was optimistic he'd be able to go, but it just wasn't there," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "Hopefully he'll be ready for the Lakers" Friday night. ... Portland (25-28) finished a six-game pre-All-Star break road trip with five losses, including a 99-63 pounding in its last game at New Orleans. "Not only did we lose five in a row, but the last one was not very nice," Stotts said. The break "gave everybody a chance to spread out, collect their thoughts, rest up and come back with a vengeance." ... Phoenix, at 17-36 owning the worst record in the Western Conference, lost its last four games before the break. "Two young teams struggling a little bit," Phoenix coach Lindsay Hunter said. "We'll both be hungry to get something on the other side of the (won-loss) column. We've had some time to get away from it, refresh our minds and get back to it full force." ... The teams have split two games, Phoenix winning 114-87 at home on Nov. 21 and Portland winning 96-93 at home Dec. 22. "Arguably our worst defensive game of the season was in Phoenix," Stotts said. Suns centers Martin Gortat and Jermaine O'Neil have combined to shoot 31 for 42 in the two games against Portland.

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