Suns-Trail Blazers Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- The Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns are both riding season-high four-game winning streaks.
If Portland is going to extend its run - and post its seventh consecutive home win in this matchup - on Saturday night, it might have to do so without LaMarcus Aldridge.
Since falling 98-80 to Sacramento on Dec. 8 to open a season-high six-game homestand, the Trail Blazers (12-12) have regrouped to climb back to the break-even point.
Portland, though, might be without Aldridge, averaging a team-best 21.0 points with 8.0 rebounds, for a second straight game after he rolled his ankle late in Sunday's 95-94 victory over New Orleans. Nicolas Batum scored 22, Wesley Matthews added 20 and J.J. Hickson posted his sixth consecutive double-double with 18 and 18 rebounds in Thursday's 101-93 win over Denver, but the Blazers yielded 74 points in the paint without their big man.
"That was tough, but hopefully I'll play tomorrow," Aldridge said on Friday after going through a light workout.
If he doesn't, Hickson is confident that the Blazers can continue their winning ways.
"We all took it upon ourselves individually to step up and not do anything out of the ordinary, but just do a little bit more and it would make up for him not playing," he said.
With Hickson sidelined (left shoulder sprain), Aldridge did not fare well against center Marcin Gortat and the Suns' frontcourt in a 114-87 loss at Phoenix on Nov. 21. Aldridge finished with a season-low 12 points and seven rebounds in that contest, while Gortat had 22 points and seven boards in three quarters of work.
The Suns, who shot a season-best 59.7 percent in that contest, made 51.2 percent of their shots in a 104-92 preseason victory over the Blazers on Oct. 12.
"I don't know (why we've struggled against them)," said rookie guard Damian Lillard, who led Portland with 24 points in last month's game. "When we play them, they just make shots. We played them at their place both times and they're one of those teams that play really well at home."
Phoenix (11-15), though, has lost its last five away from home and was routed 109-71 - the Suns' most lopsided defeat of 2011-12 - in its last game at Portland on Jan. 27.
However, the Suns are hoping to build off a 4-1 homestand that ended with Wednesday's 121-104 victory over Charlotte. Phoenix set season highs for points, 3-pointers (17) and assists (31).
"The ball was circling around, everybody got their touches and we were making shots," point guard Goran Dragic told the Suns' official website after scoring 21 points with a season-high 11 assists. "SB (Shannon Brown) was huge tonight (with five 3s and a season-best 26 points) and our defense was solid."
The Suns, who last won five straight from Jan. 12-21, 2011, are holding teams to 89.5 points per game during their current surge.
The Blazers are surrendering 87.8 per contest since their last defeat.
The home team has won the last four matchups between these teams. Those games have been decided by 25, 38, 18 and 27 points.
Updated December 21, 2012