Second verse, same as the first. And breathe.
Unlike in Game 1 where you breathing after an exhilrating win, this time you need to take a deep breathe and be ready to take this for what it is. The Phoenix Suns, with their backs against the wall, in a must-win situation beat up on the Blazers to the tune of 119-90.
Yes, there was nothing pretty about this one. As a matter of fact about the only good news about this blowout was that I indeed did get to rev the DVR up a little earlier and start up Glee (kidding). Yes, Portland got blown out. However, please, despite the nasty loss I beg of you do not begin with the ‘sky is falling’ type.
This is the playoffs, this type of wins happen all of the time. Remember, this is a 50-win team, minus their franchise player who own home court advantage in a playoff series. The Blazers did their job which was to win one in Phoenix, do not forget that. Now ask yourself this: would you feel worse if the Blazers lost a close one, or if they had a game like this? These are the kind of games you can put behind you. Think back to last year and remember how all the onus was on Portland to win a game in Houston. Phoenix, as great as they played, still has to win in Portland. The control still remains in the Rose Garden.
The real bummer in this game is not the outcome, but instead the injury to Nic Batum’s right shoulder. As I write this it has been reported that is a right shoulder strain with an MRI to follow. That absolutely has me more bummed than anything else. Losing Batum would be like failing a test, having your girlfriend dump you and then getting in your car to go home but it won’t start and now your phone is dead. That bad.
Now all of what I said in the first paragraph is great and true but it does not take away from the fact that Portland got their teeth kicked in, Bully Beatdown style in the desert tonight. And I know that will sting with a lot of you, it’s never fun to see you squad get beat up like that under the bright lights. I just don’t feel like this was a momentum-swinging type loss.The playoffs are like a chess match with every team making their next move. Phoenix made their move and now Portland has to counter.
The one thing we talked about coming into this game was adjustments. Phoenix, after losing, simply made the right adjustments. They zeroed in on Andre Miller and were effective in taking him away. They put Grant Hill on him, applied ball pressure on him from the start and for the most part it was a great move. It never really felt like Dre was able to get into any sort of rhythm. Miller was held to 12 points (off 11 shots), 3 assists and only 4 free throw attempts. We sad for Portland to have a chance to win, they need Miller to be effective. He was not. Nod your head to Alvin Gentry for this. Offensively, the Suns also opened the floor up a lot more, using more movement off the ball–whether that be cuts away from the ball, or setting downscreens. It worked. Also, they made a slight tweak in the pick and roll where the man in the weakside corner would cut to the basket. Subtle, but now that guy who was able to help so much on Amare and only have to worry about closing out to a three pointer, had to worry about something different. They ended up with more options and more space for Nash to attack or dump it off to Amare.
Before I get too far…have to get to Grant Hill….goodness gracious. 20 points, 10-of-11 shooting. He definitely turned the clock back to 1995 or had some Sprite and some Chicken Nuggets or something. Also, anyone find it funny that in Game 1 we dusted off our old relic to lead the way and in Game 2 Phoenix said ‘Oh yeah, here’s Grant Hill…he’s older’. Will Juwan Howard drop 17 in Game 3? At this rate….you never know.
From the start you could tell something was different from the home team. Phoenix looked to impose their tempo on Portland, and succeeded. As expected the Suns were in attack mode from the jump. One of the big questions coming into this one was would Portland be ready for the increased focus and intensity? Not so much. When Phoenix is running like that and making shots like that it’s hard for any team, let alone this Blazer team to keep up with them. It was a completely different Phoenix team. They were getting layups, dunks and getting to the free throw line…all things for the most part we couldn’t say after Game 1. Of their first 14 points, 10 of them came from free throws or dunks/layups. The tone was set early and once that Suns train gets rolling it’s hard to stop it.
The Suns just put the Blazers in a hole that they couldn’t get out of. If you look at the guys who struggled in Game 1, they sure did not struggle in Game 2. Steve Nash was in attack mode and was able to get into the teeth of the Blazer defense, something he did not always do in Game 1. 13 points and 16 assists is what Phoenix looks for out of Nash. When that Canadian gets going watch out. Amare got to the line 8 times and shot 50% from the field. I already mentioned old man Hill and how his performance probably made Christian Laettner raise his hands in the air and Thomas Hill cry. Jason Richardson bounced back like Juvenile, dropping 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting and hitting 4-of-5 from deep. They are tough to beat when Richardson plays like that: counting tonight on the season Phoenix is 27-3 when Richardson scores 20+ and 9-1 when he scores 25+. So now we know a major key to this series is not letting Jason Richardson go bananas.
(One positive I would point out, is that Phoenix’s bench did not perform nearly as well early as they did in Game 1. I’m searching right?)
Individually, there is not as much need for a complete breakdown as in Game 1. Offensively as a team there was never really a sense of rhythm or flow. It never felt like Portland was getting the same kind of easy looks they got in Game 1. Of course as the lead grew, things only got more out of hand. LaMarcus Aldridge had a real tough go of it. 11 points may cause some to say ‘uh-oh he’s disappearing again’. In his defense he got into foul trouble in the second quarter and never got his rhythm going. Phoenix was determined to get Andre Miller out of his. Jerryd Bayless showed that he can still get to the rack which is a good sign. The bad sign was his 6 (RAWR) fouls. Martell Webster showed some attack and actually *gulp* drove to the hoop and finished, which scared me because I’m not used to it.
The big story: Rudy Fernandez disappearing like Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz after they made Deja Vu (seriously where did they go). At this point it is just baffling. In 28 minutes, Mr. Fernandez shot the ball just 2 times. It would be easier to swallow him struggling if he went 2-for-11, but just 2 shot attempts? That’s two more shots than you, me, Travis Diener and one more than the Immortal Jarron Collins. Unacceptable considering he is being depended on for so much with Brandon Roy out of the lineup.
I wish I could say I was surprised by the outcome, but I’m really not. Like I said, it’s hard to see Phoenix not having success when they are making shots like that. They just had a sort of desperate determination that is tough to match, champions over the years have struggled to beat teams with their backs against the wall. The same breaks that Portland got in Game 1 were non-existant. Phoenix had a completely different look defensively, looking to push up on the ball against everyone. Even Martell Webster was getting pressured like he was a driver. It was tough to get a rhythm with Aldridge and Batum getting into foul trouble. As always, it all goes back to adjustments. Despite the loss, the series now shifts back to Portland. The Blazers have a major opportunity, in their own building to take care of business. Phoenix did not get an extra win in their column for winning by 29. It’s 1-1 with plenty of basketball to be played, except now it’s in the Rose City. Just hope that Batum is ok, drink some wine, buy a croissant, don’t shower for a while, eat some Nutella, whatever it takes. Because that, more than this loss will determine the series.
Tags: Andre Miller Batum Batum Shoulder Injury Blazers Game 2 Blazers Suns Game 2 Grant Hill Jared Dudley Jason Richardson Jerryd Bayless Lou Amundson Marcus Camby Nic Batum Phoenix Game 2 Phoenix Portland Game 2 Phoenix Suns Portland Game 2 Portland Phoenix Game 2 Portland Trail Blazers Rudy Fernandez Steve Nash Suns Blazers Game 2 Suns Game 2