News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Dec. 16, 2021: The Phoenix Suns are set to host two Eastern Conference sides in the coming days following an important overtime win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night. They had to dig pretty deep for this one, with Bahamas-born DeAndre Ayton returning to play 45 minutes after missing two games with the flu and losing 10 pounds as a result of illness.

The Suns are short on manpower at the moment leaving Ayton and Chris Paul to shoulder most of the burden as they helped last season’s NBA finalists to a 111-107 victory over a Blazers team capable of beating any opponent on any given night simply given that they employ one of the league’s brightest point guards in Damian Lillard.

On a night when Steph Curry broke Ray Allen’s record for most NBA threes, Paul and his team pulled out all of the stops to take their record to 22-5, right behind Steph’s Golden State Warriors, who lead the West, as well as the NBA, at 23-5.

“This is big for us,” Paul said. “After that loss last night in LA, being down a lot of guys, we’re a no-excuse team. We came in here and said, ‘We don’t want to lose two in a row.’”

The Suns will welcome the Washington Wizards on Thursday and BetMGM Arizona will have them down as favorites; the Suns have beaten the Wizards in 17 of their last 29 games. Major bookmakers have odds of 9/1 set on Phoenix winning the title this season after falling short in the finals and only the Brooklyn Nets, Warriors, and Milwaukee Bucks are ahead of them in such regard.

The reigning Western Conference champions are 14-13 against the spread this season and, when playing at home, are 7-7. The Wizards, meanwhile, are 12-15-1 ATS and 4-11-1 on the road.

The Suns went on an 18-game winning streak, from October 31 to December 3, scoring over 110 points in 13 of those games. The Warriors ended the streak with a 118-96 victory but the Suns bounced right back with wins over the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics before losing to the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this week.

They could not be separated from the Blazers on Tuesday night as the buzzer sounded off while they were locked at 102 apiece. They got the job done in overtime.

“I told the guys, it was just a lot of character and integrity to be able to play on a back-to-back with that kind of energy against a team that was sitting there waiting for us,” head coach Monty Williams told reporters after the win.

It’s worth noting that Phoenix has been without its top producer in Devin Booker. The guard is working on a return after missing games due to a hamstring injury; Williams only has 10 players at his disposal at the moment. His teammates did their part in Tuesday’s win – Paul and Ayton came up big, keeping things high-tempo as the veteran point guard showed why he earned the nickname “Point God.”

He did an excellent job of exploiting the Portland defense with his passing, finding Ayton in seams to allow the center to have his way at the rim. His assists were responsible for 12 of Ayton’s field goals.

Ayton was also impressive in getting into his spots and rolled off screens intelligently. He continues to develop into one of the best big men in the league.

“We went all the way to the Finals. I’ve seen every coverage possible they could possibly throw at us,” Ayton, who led the Suns in scoring with 28 points on the night, offered. “Now it’s just me being a better basketball player, taking what the defense gives me.”

On the flipside, the Wizards have dropped down to seventh in the Eastern Conference standings after a hot start to the season that saw them win 10 out of their first 12 games. As of November 18, however, they’ve recorded 11 losses from 16 outings.

They’re coming off of a 123-98 loss to the Denver Nuggets but will hope to pick up a win when they play the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.

The Suns are the team more likely to win Thursday’s matchup, even down several players. Coach Williams has implemented a winning system in Phoenix led by the savvy Paul and, despite the internal turmoil, look primed to battle it out for dominance out West.

The Los Angeles Lakers no longer threaten to be the only challengers to the Warriors in the conference and have since lost their place as second favorites for the title after going into the season right behind the Nets. Phoenix will hope to retain momentum after a confidence-boosting win but the Wizards will be motivated to lift themselves in the standings, having proven that they they can compete with the league’s elite this season.

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