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NBA Preview: Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns shoot for their sixth consecutive victory when they host the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.

It has been a nice recovery for the Suns after they struggled during a 1-3 start.

Phoenix doesn’t yet resemble the team that charged into the NBA Finals last season before losing to the Milwaukee Bucks.

But stacking up victories is always better than the alternative.

Phoenix’s latest victory was looking like its best of the season when it led by 24 points late in the third quarter. But the Suns had to hold on for a 109-104 road victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night.

“We just have to be better. I told our guys that,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said afterward. “We feel kind of funky about a win like that. We’re not giving it back. We’ve got to learn from it.”

The Suns will be facing a Portland squad that is 0-5 on the road.

The Trail Blazers opened a four-game road trip by falling 117-109 to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night.

“We have good stretches, and it’s not easy to sustain them,” Portland star Damian Lillard said of the struggles.

“We haven’t been great closing out quarters. When you’re on someone else’s home court, you have to close out the quarters. We haven’t finished well enough.”

Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups had similar thoughts about the end-of-quarter difficulties. In the first quarter, the Clippers scored the final 13 points.

“You can’t give up those runs when you’re on the road,” Billups said. “There’s a certain level of focus that you have to have. … We didn’t focus well enough.”

Lillard got off to a slow start this season but has scored 20 or more points in four of the past five games. He tallied a season-best 27 against the Clippers.

“I still feel like I’m not completely rolling but I’m feeling better every game,” Lillard said.

One good sign for Portland is its best win of the season came against the Suns, when it recorded a 134-105 home win on Oct. 23.

CJ McCollum scored 28 points to pace Portland while Lillard had 19 points and eight assists.

In the rematch, the Suns will be without center Deandre Ayton (right leg) for the fourth time in five games. Guard Landry Shamet (right foot) is doubtful.

A bright spot in the win over Sacramento was backup point guard Cameron Payne, who matched his career high of 24 points while playing just 22 minutes.

The stellar performance came in Payne’s second outing after missing five games due to a hamstring injury.

“I saw the Cam Payne that we’re used to — he had a good offensive game going,” Williams said. “The shot-making was there, the penetration to the lane was there, you can see him getting his burst back.”

Devin Booker added 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists against the Kings. He had averaged 32.5 points over the previous two games.

Booker scored a team-high 21 in the recent loss to Portland.

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