We sure have come a long way in a year. It was exactly 364 days ago that Portland and Phoenix squared off in the Rose Garden. And #7, Mr. Brandon Roy himself gave us 52 reasons to love being a Blazer fan. You can’t help but fight the feeling that Roy may have to give us that same kind of output if Portland wants a W tonight.
You ever been running a little late to somewhere and you go to start your car and it won’t start. You try again and it still won’t start. And then there is that moment where you’re sitting there, a little mad, a little scared, trying to figure out what the bleep is going on. That moment of fear is how I feel about the Phoenix Suns coming in to face *this* version of the Blazers. I can’t help it either, I’m not even sorry about it. Phoenix is a high-octane offensive machine. This isn’t the Kings or the Pacers, non-offensive juggernauts who we have struggled with recently. This is a team that lives on offense, a team that is constantly on the attack. They love the three-pointer, the pick and roll, penetration and kick. You name it, they do it. The Suns are averaging 108 points a game, shooting a staggering 49% from the field and 43% from behind the arc. Phoenix is having my favorite/the most underrated comeback since Mariah Carey.
You can attribute the Suns’ renaissance to Shaq being gone, or Alvin Gentry or the return of the fast pace. I have two words for you: Steve Nash. He’s playing so well I almost want to turn this paragraph into one of those Stuart Scott-esque love-fests, where he says a bunch of words and gets all excited..but I won’t because I love myself too much. He’s putting up MVP type numbers and its a shame if he does not get consideration. 18.3 points, 11.2 assists, shooting 53% from the field and 46% from behind the arc. The weapons at his disposal are familiar faces, Amare Stoudemire is averaging 19 and 8 (and tweeted the Blazers have been playing well), Jason Richardson is averaging 15.8 points and shooting 47% from the field and 40% from behind the arc, both up near his career highs. Channing Frye is loving life in the Suns system as he is encouraged to jack up shots. I imagine his happiness is on par with a stripper once she figures out that she’s dancing on a pro athlete. You know about Barbosa and Hill, Jared Dudley and Lou Admunson round on the rotation with their hard work and effort. Like I said, a dangerous team.
There is good news though. As you all know about Phoenix, defense is not their thing. They give up 105 points a game. That combined with their fast pace means you always have a chance to win. In addition to that the Suns are a little shaky when they throw their purple unis on. Phoenix has lost 5 straight on the road. All 8 of their losses this season have come on the road. Say what you want about the Blazers right now but the Rose Garden is still a tough place to play. Portland has a chance to win this game, but as we all know this team has no margin for error to begin with but against a team like Phoenix who loves to run that margin for error becomes slimmer. Turnovers can’t happen and effort/energy has to be there. Obviously there will be a higher emphasis on scoring against this team. You have to put the ball in the bucket to beat the Suns. Roy and Aldridge will have to lead the way but they will need help. After Tuesday people will be chanting for Bayless to rise up, but I’m not ready to put that on him yet. Miller, Blake and Webster have to become better for this team to have a chance over the next month or so its as simple as that. I’m interested to see how a semi-unleashed Bayless plays against the Suns, who wins the LaMarcus Aldridge/Amare Stoudemire battle, seeing if Blake and Martell nail their open looks and if Steve Nash can be contained.
Keys to the game
-Keep Phoenix under 100. I know this is like putting ‘have a threesome’ at the top of your to-do list, but stick with me. They are 0-4 when they score under triple digits. All 4 of those times have taken place on the road so it’s not quite mission impossible. If, somehow, we can keep them under 100 we should win. But that’s as likely as watching ‘I Love You, Beth Cooper’ and genuinally enjoying it.
-Energy and effort on D. With all the penetration, pick and rolls and running the Suns have, Portland is just going to have to come out ready to work for 48 minutes. If they don’t come with a mindset to outhustle and outwork Phoenix, bad things could be on the horizon.
-Attack the basket. Get to the foul line, get some layups, don’t just wait until the shot clock is running down. Put some pressure on Phoenix to play defense, they will give you chances. Plus they don’t have a ton of size inside so get into attack mode.
-Dont let Nash score and pass. Its not much of a reach to say around 50% of Phoenix’s offense comes from Nash either from him scoring or diming. Try and make him one-dimensional. The more he’s able to score and create for others the tougher the Suns become.
This is an interesting battle. I’m more intrigued to see where the Blazers stand than anything. You have to like tests against top teams, especially when you’re facing a little adversity.
Topics: Brandon Roy, Channing Frye, Grant Hill, Jared Dudley, Jason Richardson, Jerryd Bayless, Leandro Barbosa, Lou Admunson, Martell Webster. Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Steve Blake, Steve Nash, Steve Nash Mvp, Suns Blazers