Suns hold off Blazers 102-98By ANNE M. PETERSON , Associated Press
Feb. 20, 2013 1:56 AM ET
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Goran Dragic got right to the point after dishing a career-high 18 assists against Portland.
"It was really fun," said a smiling Dragic, who also had 16 points in the Suns' 102-98 victory over the Trail Blazers Tuesday night. "I would like to thank all my teammates — they were hitting shots."
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Suns.
"I think he was aggressive as he always is, and he made plays," Suns coach Lindsey Hunter said of Dragic's career night. "It was amazing but it was fun to watch because everybody was getting involved."
Wesley Johnson came off the bench to score a season-high 14 points for the Suns, who opened the game with a 12-0 run and led by as many as 19 points before holding off a late Portland rally.
J.J. Hickson had 25 points and 16 rebounds for his 28th double-double of the season for the Blazers, who lost their sixth straight to match their season-high.
The Blazers pulled to within 96-92 on rookie Damian Lillard's 3-pointer with 3:57 left in the game. Marcin Gortat's dunk and Luis Scola's layup slowed the rally, but Nicolas Batum made a 3-pointer to close the Blazers within 100-95 with 2:35 to go.
Nolan Smith made a free throw and LaMarcus Aldridge added two more with 20.5 seconds left to make it 100-98. After Dragic made a pair of free throws for the Suns, Lillard's 3-point attempt fell short as time wound down.
"Like we always do, we made it a game down the stretch," said Lillard, the reigning rookie of the month who finished with 24 points. "We just couldn't catch them."
Portland was without starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews because of a sprained left ankle and elbow that he hurt in the first quarter of Portland's 99-63 loss to New Orleans just before the All-Star break. That loss capped a six-game Portland road trip, which started with a victory at Minnesota but concluded with five-straight losses. The Blazers hadn't played at home since Feb. 2.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts said he didn't want to use Matthews' absence as an excuse.
"Obviously, Wes is a very important part of the team, but I think we showed that we can still compete without him," Stotts said. "If he's not in there, everybody has to step up a bit."
The Suns (18-36) lost to the Lakers at Staples Center 91-85 last Wednesday. Phoenix is a league-worst 6-23 on the road this season.
It was the first of a back-to-back for Phoenix, which visits the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday as trade rumors continue to swirl around the team. Coach Lindsey Hunter said before the game that his focus is on the Suns, which has the worst record in the Western Conference.
"I'm sure if something gets serious, I'll know about it," he said. The trade deadline is Thursday.
Last season at the deadline the Blazers fired coach Nate McMillan and traded away both Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby. This season most trade talk is about Hickson, who must agree to any deal.
The Suns jumped out to a 12-0 lead to start the game, led by Scola with six points. Portland did not score until Hickson's jumper with 7:17 left in the first quarter. The Blazers were playing catch-up the rest of the way, and trailed 36-23 at the end of the quarter.
The Suns extended the lead to 40-25 on Johnson's 16-foot-jumper and led 63-47 at the half.
Phoenix went up 71-56 on Jared Dudley's long jumper, but the Blazers pulled within 71-63 on Aldridge's bank shot. Portland couldn't get closer than eight points and trailed 84-73 to open the fourth quarter.
Portland pulled to with 96-89 on Aldridge's layup and freer throw before Lillard's 3-pointer.
"We played well, especially the first two quarters and then they played better defense," Dragic said. "We were struggling a bit, especially in the fourth quarter. In the last three or four minutes we couldn't get a clean shot, but we fought until the end. It was a great win for us."
Notes: Portland had won the last seven games against the Suns at the Rose Garden.... Hickson's 28 double-doubles match his career high for a season. ... Baltimore Ravens tight end and former Oregon Duck Ed Dickson was at the game and even threw T-shirts into the crowd during a timeout. ... Dragic has six games this season with double-digit assists. ... Blazers owner Paul Allen, on the passing of Lakers owner Jerry Buss, said: "At a time when professional basketball needed an infusion of new thinking and vision, Dr. Buss stepped forward in ways that truly redefined our game on and off the court." Buss died on Monday.