Grant gets another game winner, this time against the Suns

PHOENIX — Jerami Grant has played eight games in his career as a Trail Blazer.

He already has two winners.

After finishing the Lakers in Los Angeles with a go-ahead in Portland’s last road game, Grant went one better in their next road game, hitting a buzzer-beating base fadeaway to secure a 108-106 victory over the Los Angeles. Phoenix Suns ahead. of a sold-out crowd of 17,071 Friday night at the Footprint Center.

“Jerami was amazing all night,” Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups said. “He was just in attack mode all night, I was happy with that. I think the last game or before I said we were still getting to know each other, finding ways to put him in positions that he love and tonight he was amazing. He carried us all night and that last shot was just beautiful. As soon as he left his hand I knew it was good. It was just good to see it get a clean look.

The Trail Blazers are now 6-2 overall, good for first place in the Western Conference standings and 3-0 on the road this season. The Suns have lost just two games so far this season, both to the Trail Blazers.

“We’ve played (Phoenix) at home before, like I told you before, this team plays basketball better than anyone,” Billups said. “But it’s really about us. We just wanted to go out, try to play physically, try to play both sides together.

Despite playing without a third of her roster – Anfernee Simons (left foot) joined Damian Lillard (right calf), Gary Payton II (competition reconditioning) and Trendon Watford (right hip) on the inactive roster on Friday night — The Trail Blazers beat the Suns 34-21 in the second quarter to take a 59-49 lead at intermission.

But as is almost always the case in the NBA, especially when it comes to top teams, the Suns made steady progress in the second half, eating into the Trail Blazers lead. Phoenix cut the lead to six early in the fourth, and although Portland continued to play admirably, especially given their numerical inferiority, they couldn’t stop the home side from leveling the game with just a bit. more than four minutes to play.

And when the Suns took their first lead since the start of the second quarter at 101-99 with just under three minutes left, it seemed likely that the Trail Blazers’ impressive effort would end up being wasted.

But Portland, as they had done all game and all season under Billups’ tutelage, refused to give up. Jusuf Nurkic converted a reverse layup on an assist from Justise Winslow, who started in place of Simons, to tie the game on ensuing possession. And after a tip from DeAndre Ayton in the game the lead goes to the Suns, Nurkic regained the lead at 104-103 with, a three-point clutch, his sixth straight mark from depth in the past three games.

However, Booker, whom Portland kept in relative control for most of the night, hit a three on the ensuing possession to regain the lead. But Nurkic wasn’t done either. as he managed to correct a miss from Grant and get the back up to level the game again, this time at 106-106 with 23 seconds left.

The Suns had an opportunity to win the game with the shot clock off, but Mikal Bridges was called for a trip as he attempted a layup with just a second left on the clock. Portland would get the ball back and could move into half court calling their final timeout, but with so little time left the game looked destined for overtime.

But Winslow and Grant, who have known each other since winning gold as teammates at the FIBA ​​Americas U18 Championship in 2012, had other ideas.

Winslow, the Trail Blazers’ designated starter this season, threw a near-perfect two-handed cross pass over the Phoenix defense and into the hands of Grant.

“It was a good read,” said Winslow, who noted his passing accuracy was honed in Houston as a prep quarterback. “I think me and Jerami had a good connection, just knowing where he likes the ball and different places. When the timeout came out, I just said, “I’ll find you.” I saw the dude was dragging and figured he wouldn’t be open to the edge but just wanted to get enough air underneath so he could read it like a broad and figure out where he was going. I just kind of threw it up.

With Ayton overplaying the lob, Grant was able to recover the pass and have a clean look at the rim before rising and shooting with 0.2 seconds on the clock.

“I knew there was a second left, I went for the lob,” Grant said. “They kind of cut that, Juste threw the pass back a bit, he kind of pointed me where to go. I grabbed it and knew I had to shoot it.

The ball hit just inside the rim as time expired, racing for the win while sending the Portland bench into hysterics, although Grant himself barely reacted to his second winner in as many games on the road.

“I’m calm, cool, collected, trying to act like I have to be here,” Grant said. “It was a good pass. We had a connection, we’ve known him for a long time. I know how he plays, he knows how I play. It was right there.

Although they wouldn’t have been in position for Grant to hit the game winner in the final second had it not been for the previous 2321 seconds in which he had scored 28 points on 9 of 16 shooting since the field and 9 of 11 on three shots, five assists, two rebounds and one block.

“We knew we had to fill that void for the night,” Grant said of Lillard and Simons, who are averaging 53.0 points per game this season. “I knew I needed to be a bit more aggressive and they made it easy for me. Just lead the team, make easy passes for me to get easy buckets.

Winslow also improved his performance as Portland’s starting point guard on Friday night. The 6-6 forward, who also served as a smallball center this season, nearly had a triple-double with 12 points, nine rebounds and nine assists to go with two steals in 32 minutes.

“Obviously with Ant and Dame there’s more responsibility with the ball,” Winslow said. “I’m a guy that I just try to make my teammates better. If there’s an open guy, I’ll always make the right basketball game. It’s a good group for me. I think my playing skills are something that can really be used in this team. We have great shooters around me, so being able to get down, get in the paint, make plays, do sprays, play with a lot of rhythm, it’s just naturally who I am.

But while the winning game came to fruition through Grant and Winslow, victory once again came through an all-out team effort. Nassir Little was a force in 23 minutes, scoring 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field and 2-of-4 shooting from three while grabbing four rebounds and dishing out three assists.

Nurkic scored nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. Keon Johnson had 11 points, two rebounds, two steals and an assist as a substitute for Winslow. Drew Eubanks and Shaedon Sharpe each added 10 points. And Josh Hart put on his typical yeoman effort, posting seven points, nine rebounds and six assists while harassing Booker on defense for much of the game.

“I just thought it was an amazing win for us, so many contributions from everyone,” Billups said. “Obviously Jerami was the shining star but I thought Keon was awesome, Nas minutes were really good, Justise has nine rebounds, nine assists, almost got a triple-double, Drew was really good. Everyone It was an amazing team win for us.

The Blazers won’t have to wait long to see if they can do it again, as they face the Suns again on Saturday night in the second straight game of the third and final game of the season series. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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