Last year, in Game 2 of the first round the Portland Trail Blazers faced a must-win situation. This year, they find themselves on the other side of the spectrum: they are playing with house money.
In essence, Portland has done what every team without home-court advantage dreams of: steal it away right off the bat. That means Portland is in a sense playing with house money in this one. All of the pressure is on Phoenix to protect their home-court and save their season. Portland was not supposed to win one in Phoenix, let alone two. Which means win, lose or draw the Blazers did their job for this two-game stretch. This one has big implications. A Blazer win can completely change the landscape of this series. A Phoenix win simply sends the series back to the Rose Garden, still in Portland’s hands.
What to look for in this one? Adjustments, adjustments and adjustments. You are going to hear that word so much during this post-season that it will end up breaking into your everyday vocabulary. It will be interesting to see which team is able to make the correct adjustments.
For Portland, they are going to have to adjust to a very different Phoenix team. For one, the Suns now know that Portland is legit. Ever seen a fight where the overconfident favorite is laughing and smiling until he gets hit in the face? That’s how Phoenix will show up tonight. Portland has to be ready for a more ready and more intense Suns team. There is a certain determination that teams display when their backs are against the wall. Phoenix knows that they need this win.
Offensively, one thing Portland has got to be prepared for is Phoenix zeroing in on Andre Miller. We all know how he carried the load in Game 1. We also know that Phoenix does not have a guard who can cover him. Phoenix may not be a defensive juggernaut but I would bet a large amount of money that they don’t let Andre Miller beat them again. They have already shown a willingness to double team LaMarcus Aldridge. That means guys like Rudy Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless, Martell Webster and Nic Batum are going to have to be ready and aggressive. That is the keyword for those guys, aggressive. If LMA and Miller can find a way to be effective with the extra attention, than those four are going to have to be aggressive. Last year against Houston, the supporting cast was shy and did not make Houston pay for zeroing in on Roy and Aldridge.
Sticking with offense, Portland will have to remain in attack mode. It’s well known how much good comes when Portland is moving the ball and attacking. It is just as well known how bad things can be when the offense is stagnant and shots are taken late in the shot clock. Speaking of stagnant, the bench must deliver a lift when they come in. After Game 1, we know that when Dudley, Amundson and Frye come in for Phoenix they are coming in with energy. That has to be matched.
Phoenix will be looking to bounce back after what they call a ‘poor’ performance. Look for them to be in attack mode from the start. After Game 1 the Suns felt comfortable that they got a lot of great looks that just did not fall. In particular, Amare Stoudemire and Jason Richardson will be looking to re-deem themselves for less than stellar performances in Game 1. Amare struggled to be effective against Portland’s defense, scoring 18 points on 19 field goal attempts. He will be determined to change this. If he can enter beast mode it could bring a completely different aspect to this series. Also, I wouldn’t expect Jason Richardson to shoot 4-for-12 again. Expect Phoenix to be more prepared to handle the switches and make minor tweaks offensively to make Portland’s defensive scheme pay. What those may be, we won’t know until later.
The Blazers have to continue taking away Phoenix’s transition and controlling their pick and roll offense. You cannot stop it every time but Portland has found ways to disrupt Phoenix’s rhythm either by switching, fighting over or not letting them use the ballscreen. This has to carryover to Game 2 as if Phoenix can get running or attack from the pick and roll it could be a different story. If you see Steve Nash weaving through Portland’s D and passing that ball…..yeah, you know what I’m talking about.
Game 2′s are always interesting. There is a thought that maybe a relaxed and determined Blazer team could overwhelm a tight and frantic Suns team. There is also a thought that the Suns could come out and blow Portland out of the water. The time for thinking and hype is almost over. A Game 1 win gave Portland house money, a Game 2 win would give them that Oprah-type money to play with. Very interested to see how this one goes down. Will Portland be satisfied? Will they be ready for Phoenix’s attack? Everything points to yes which means we could be looking at another knock-down, drag-out affair in the desert.
(And if it’s a blowout, best believe I’m revving up the DVR and putting on Glee.)
Tags: Amare Stoudemire Andre Miller Blazers Game 2 Blazers Suns Game 2 Glee Jared Dudley Jason Richardson LaMarcus Aldridge Lou Amundson Martell Webster Nic Batum Phoenix Game 2 Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Playoffs Portland Game 2 Portland Phoenix Game 2 Portland Playoffs Portland Trail Blazers Rudy Fernandez Steve Nash Suns Game 2