Blazers/Suns Game 5 Pre-Thoughts

Portland Trail Blazers guard Roy heads down court after making a basket aginst the Phoenix Suns during Game 4 of their NBA Western Conference playoff series in Portland

"So what's the big deal, I mastered the art of the tiny fist pump in 8 days? Oh you're more impressed by the knee thing. Makes sense I guess." (Source: YardBarker.com)

There’s a lot on the line tonight. The story will be which team comes out and plays like it.

It’s amazing how much simpler things get when you reach a Game 5. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Game 5’s are just like booty calls. Why? Because you know exactly what you’re going to get out of them.

By Game 5, both teams know each other. The majority of the questions have been answered. Generally speaking, the key adjustments have been made. And if they haven’t…you’re probably not in the best of positions to compete in the series. Both teams know what to expect from each other. By Game 5, neither team cares what the others middle name is, it’s just time to throw down. This is where the cliches start kicking in: it’s about who wants it more. About which team can impose their will on the other. I’ll stop there.

Phoenix, obviously will be looking to be more aggressive than they were on Saturday. From reading and hearing the comments from the Suns, they are coming in with a high level of confidence. Honestly at this point, it’s almost bordering on a little bit of arrogance. A little bit of ‘If we do what we do they can’t beat us’ type feel. Despite it being a 2-2 series, they feel as if the reason they have lost is because they missed shots. And they have said it multiple times. One of Phoenix’s main objectives for tonight is improving offensively. You hold a team like Phoenix to 87 points and you expect them to want to rectify that.

(Sidenote, I like how this becoming a real playoff series. In my eyes, as a fan, it’s not a playoff series until guys from the other team start bugging you. That started happening for me in Game 4. Clearly Amare has embraced the role of lead villain, but the rest of the Suns are starting to wear on my nerves. Especially that damn Robin Lopez…and he’s not even playing! Come on Jarron Collins scoring doesn’t bug you?!?! Liars.)

A major key coming into this one is Portland’s ability to stop Phoenix’s transition game. Last night on TNT they put up a great stat showing Phoenix’s fast-break points and how it’s correlated to winning. In Games 1 and 4 they only scored 4 fast break points, both games they lost. In Games 2 and 3 they recorded double-digits in fast break points, both games they won. Phoenix is a completely different team when they can score in transition and Portland has got to take care of that from the start.

On the flip side, for Portland they have to continue to find ways to get offensive rebounds. Now that’s a slippery slope because you can’t just recklessly crash the boards. If you do and you don’t get it Phoenix is scoring on you on the other end. I’ll take more tapouts from Marcus Camby and Juwan Howard please.

Another key to this one is how good of a start the Blazers get off too. It’s been simple, when Portland gets off to a good start in this series they are right there all game. When they don’t they get run off the court. Phoenix and their crowd realize the importance of this game and there should be a ton of energy coming from the home team. The Blazers have to be ready to match that to start and go from there. If not, as we’ve seen before, things could get ugly.

If Portland wants a victory, they really need to know where Jason Richardson is at all times. We all know what Nash and Amare can do when they get rolling. But the key to the Suns really playing well is Richardson. On the series, he’s averaging 25 points a game, shooting 54% from the field and 51% from behind the arc. In this series he’s proven that he is an impact player. In Phoenix’s two losses he’s shot 10-for-28 from the field (35.7%) and 4-for-14 from behind the arc (28.5%). If he’s able to knock down shots, Portland will be in trouble. If he’s not they have a chance.

Offensively, Portland has to keep executing. A major key to getting off to a good start is finding ways to put the ball in the basket early. One of the underrated stories about Game 4 was Portland’s balance offensively. Seven players scored 8 or more points and five were in double figures. That’s big, because if Portland can score that in itself helps stunt Phoenix’s transition game. I’m interested to see how Phoenix play LaMarcus Aldridge tonight. I’m also interested to see how Andre Miller responds in Game 2 with Roy back. The one thing about Roy’s return is for the first time it really spread out Phoenix’s defense. Roy’s return has made life easier on everyone else, let’s see what Phoenix has up their sleeve tonight.

My favorite part about this game? Almost any result is realistic. I don’t know about you but I can imagine Portland pulling a close one out about as much as I can imagine them losing by 27. There’s a lot on the line here. The loser gets put on the brink of elimination. Phoenix recognizes the importance of this game and I know they do not want to go to Portland down 3-2. A lot of the pressure coming into this one lies on their shoulders. Portland on the other hand is going to have to find a way to get themselves ready to play. They won’t have the Rose Garden crowd, they won’t have the fuel of two embarrassing blowouts, they won’t have Brandon Roy’s comeback. They have to do whatever it takes to be ready for this one.

I think the good thing about this series is generally speaking you can tell how it’s going to end up relatively quick. Portland sticks around in the first quarter, you know it’s a game. They don’t…you know the rest. Which means if Portland doesn’t show up in the desert, I’ll be watching Pamela Anderson on Dancing With The Stars a little earlier than I had wanted.

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Tags: Amare Stoudemire Andre Miller Blazers Game 5 Blazers Suns Blazers Suns Game 5 Blazers Suns Playoffs Brandon Roy Grant Hill Jarron Collins Jason Richardson LaMarcus Aldridge Nic Batum Phoenix Game 5 Phoenix Suns Portland Game 5 Portland Trail Blazers Steve Nash Suns Blazers Suns Blazers Game 5 Suns Game 5

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