McCollum helps Blazers rout Suns for first win of season

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — CJ McCollum scored 28 points to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 134-105 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.

McCollum’s hot shooting set the pace for the Blazers to their first win of the season. Damian Lillard finished with 19 points and eight assists, while Anfernee Simons pitched in 18 points off the bench.

Devin Booker led the Suns with 21 points in the loss.

Lillard made his first 3-pointer of the season with 1:03 left in the second quarter after missing his first 11 attempts behind the arc. Portland led by 20 at halftime, with the only first half mishap coming when Norman Powell left the game with 5:43 remaining in the second quarter due to a left knee injury.

Nassir Little started the second half in Powell’s place.

Portland led by as many as 37.

TIP-INS

Suns: Back-up point guard Cameron Payne was out for the Suns. Payne suffered a right hamstring strain in Phoenix’s win Friday night over the Los Angeles Lakers. “We noticed it last night,” Williams said of Payne. “Earlier in the game he felt OK, but as the game went on it felt like it worsened but he wanted to play. It got worse after the game and last night I had a feeling that he wouldn’t play.”

Trail Blazers: The Blazers were one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA last season and under a new head coach, that is one of their biggest tasks. Billups said the Blazers are “working on” creating their identity but have yet to define it. “I want us to be tough, I want us to compete every single night and I want us to be unselfish on both ends,” he said.

COACHING CONNECTION

Prior to Saturday’s game, Portland head coach Chauncey Billups and Suns head coach Monty Williams shared their admiration for each other, dating back to their days as teammates in the NBA.

“(The Suns) compete really hard on the defensive end and they are one of the teams in the league that actually have an identity,” Billups said. “What I’m trying do is what Monty did when he got (to Phoenix).”

Williams and Billups crossed paths a few times in their playing careers. But it was in their time with the Orlando Magic in 2000, during which Billups never suited up due to injury, that they became close, according to Williams.

Williams, however, was very modest when it came to playing up his abilities as a mentor.

“I typically try to share my mistakes (with young coaches), so they don’t waste time,” Williams said. “Chauncey’s a leader. He led a team to a world title. What can I tell him? But hopefully I can share him what I haven’t done well and he can avoid those same mistakes.”

UP NEXT

Suns: host the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

Blazers: visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday.

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

The Associated Press

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