Suns whip Blazers, move into final playoff spot

There’s no place like home.

You don’t have to tell the Phoenix Suns, whose happy homecoming included a 125-107 pasting of the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers Monday night at U.S. Airways Center. Portland was without the services of LaMarcus Aldridge, Raymond Felton and Nicolas Batum who did not play due to injuries.

“We knew we had to put them away early,” forward Jared Dudley said after his 18-point performance. “The second half we really took it to them. This team was short-handed and we took advantage of that.”

The Purple Palace was a sight for sore eyes after Alvin Gentry’s team played seven of their last eight on the road in the midst of their final push towards the post-season.

With the win, Phoenix (32-29) takes over the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference ahead of Houston by virtue of conference record (Phoenix 22-21, Houston 21-23).

The punchless Blazers (28-34) didn’t put up much of a fight as the Suns led from start to finish. It was Phoenix’s eighth-straight win over sub-.500 teams since the All-Star break.

Marcin Gortat got the Suns off to a nice start with 10 first-quarter points and Shannon Brown added nine as Gentry’s team jumped out of the gates, something that was posted on the Suns to-do list entering the contest.

Entering the third quarter with a 12-point lead, Phoenix continued to push the tempo, stretching the lead to as many as 23 before coasting to the 18-point win.

“When we’re playing the right way, not many teams can stick with us,” explained Shannon Brown who scored 16 points in a team-high 30 minutes.

Gortat paced the Suns with 20 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Steve Nash added 13 assists.

“We needed that,” Gentry said. “We just did a good job offensively. It was a good total team effort.”

The Suns will take Tuesday off before welcoming Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder to Phoenix on Wednesday night.