Suns Head to Portland

When the Suns met the Trail Blazers two weeks ago, they were having a hard time adjusting to life with Shaquille O'Neal.

Phoenix appears to have solved those problems.

The Suns look to win five straight games for the first time in three months and move closer to first place in the Pacific Division when they visit Portland on Tuesday.

Oddsmakers from have made Phoenix –3.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 209 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on Portland +3.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

The Suns (44-22) hoped O'Neal would help bolster their inside presence when they acquired the 14-time All-Star from Miami on Feb. 6. The 36-year-old O'Neal, however, didn't immediately jell with Phoenix's up-tempo style.

The Suns had the best record in the Pacific at 37-16 before O'Neal joined the lineup, but went 3-6 in his first nine games, dropping them four games behind the division-leading Los Angeles Lakers. Phoenix has managed to turn things around though, winning its last four games to move within one-game of the first-place Lakers.

The Suns raced past Sacramento 127-99 on Saturday, shooting 60.8 percent from the floor and 11-of-19 from 3-point range. Phoenix has won its last three games by an average of 19.0 points, while shooting 58.4 percent from the field.

On Saturday, the Suns were up 37-34 after the first quarter, but blew open the game in the second, outscoring the Kings 42-14.

"It's beautiful. It's totally beautiful,'' Amare Stoudemire said. "When you're playing great basketball and you're playing team basketball, there's no sport greater - when you're just enjoying yourself and everybody gets along.''

Stoudemire had 30 points on 10-for-15 shooting and 10 rebounds against Sacramento. He is averaging 31.7 points on 66.0 percent shooting and 11.3 boards in his last three games.

Steve Nash finished with 18 points and eight assists on Saturday, while Gordan Giricek had a season-high 23 points off the bench.

"I've been on a lot of good teams,'' said O'Neal, who had 17 points on 6-of-6 shooting and eight rebounds versus the Kings, "but this team actually has every piece from one to 12. It probably is the first team I've played on that has every piece one to 12.''

In the Suns' first meeting of the season with the Blazers (35-32) on March 4, O'Neal had six points on 1-of-5 shooting and 13 rebounds in a 97-92 victory at the Rose Garden. Stoudemire had 22 points and seven rebounds in that win, while Nash had 19 points and four assists.

The Suns have won seven straight and 11 of their last 12 games against the Blazers. Phoenix also has won the last four at the Rose Garden, where Portland has split its last 12 overall games.

The Suns, who play six of their next seven on the road, have not won five in a row since Nov. 30-Dec. 7.

Portland opened a three-game homestand Saturday with a 107-96 victory over Minnesota.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 26 points and five rebounds, while Brandon Roy finished with 25 points and eight assists.

"By now we know each other and each other's shots that we're going to take,'' Aldridge said of the chemistry between him and Roy. "The coaches know what we both can do so we can incorporate both things now. I think we have a good rhythm.''

Aldridge is averaging 23.7 points - 6.2 better than his season average - in his last six games, while Roy is averaging 24.3 points - 4.5 more than his season average - in his last three.

Roy had 25 points against the Suns earlier this month, and is averaging 24.6 points in his last three games versus them.

Aldridge, though, has not had the same success against Phoenix. He had 11 points on 3-of-15 shooting against the Suns two weeks ago, and is averaging 6.0 points in five career games versus them.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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