Let’s dive right into this one. You know the scenario. Portland enters into today’s Game 4 down 2-1, with their backs against the wall. Make no mistake about it, this is a must-win situation. Just to illustrate how quickly momentum can swing in a series or how intense the highs and lows of the playoffs are, remember how you felt after Game 1? Now think about how long ago that feels? Crazy right. The two beatdowns that the Blazers have received have had some fans thinking it’s over. Well a loss today will change things from ‘if’ the Blazers get eliminated to ‘when’
Make no mistake about it, there’s still a lot of basketball to be played and Portland still has a shot at this. It’s not a big shot, but it definitely is. We’re like that guy who asks a girl on a date and she says ‘I’ll think about it’ (still got a shot). It’s not looking good and we might look a little foolish for believing…but there’s still a chance.
For Portland to have success they are going to have to figure out how to adjust to Phoenix’s gameplan. First they have to come out with aggression, determination and just an unreal energy. There is no excuse not too. The Blazers *need* to get off to a good start. This Blazer team without Brandon Roy and with Batum not at 100% has no room for errors. Portland cannot afford to fall behind early because as we have seen the past two games, a slow start turns into an avalanche real quick. So what I mean by ‘no room for errors’ is the Blazers can’t afford early turnovers or early fouls. This is a team that can’t afford for anyone to pick up two quick ones, lets alone LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Fernandez and Andre Miller all doing it in the first quarter. If those guys can stay in the game that gives Portland a much better chance than in Game 3.
Offensively they have to figure out the Suns puzzle. It sounds simple but Portland just has to find ways to put the ball in the bucket. That right there slows Phoenix’s transition game, which is half of Portland’s problems. The rest of Portland’s offensive problems have not changed from Game 2 or 3. The Blazers need aggression and quick decisions. When the Blazers are taking shots late in the shot clock…it’s ugly. LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Miller are going to get all of the attention from Phoenix’s defense. The Blazers need one of these guys to go off and figure out how to make Phoenix pay for it. They need help though, they need help from Rudy Fernandez, Martell Webster and Jerryd Bayless. One of those guys has to make Phoenix guard them if Portland wants LMA and Andre Miller to be freed. It’s simple, if they don’t Portland will more than likely continue struggling.
Defensively, the Blazers have to figure out the pick and roll. Phoenix’s little tweaks have worked out well because now there is more of a pick-your-poison aspect to it. You’ve got Nash attacking, Amare rolling forcing you to help, Hill sometimes and then shooters on the weakside. It’s not easy but if Portland can corral it things will get better. Also, Portland has to get back to the little things. Everything has looked a step slow over the past two games, whether it be getting back in transition, boxing out or closing out to shooters. Be sharp, do the little things right and be solid.
Obviously whatever you do, you cannot leave Jason Richardson open. Can’t. Do. It. There’s a reason Phoenix is 28-3 on the season when he scores 20+ and 10-1 when he scores 25 or more. Portland has to find a way to cool him down because when he’s going as a viable third option, Phoenix morphs into a completely different team. When he’s not, this is a team that can be had.
Only a couple hours away from Game 4. Time to see if the Blazers can wiggle their big toe, or end up in the back of an obscenely named pickup truck paralyzed from the waist down.
Tags: Andre Miller Blazers Game 4 Blazers Suns Blazers Suns Game 4 Jason Richardson Jerryd Bayless LaMarcus Aldridge Martell Webster Phoenix Game 4 Phoenix Suns Portland Game 4 Portland Trail Blazers Rudy Fernandez Steve Nash Suns Blazers Suns Blazers Game 4