Normally you want to put a 19-point loss in the back of your mind and forget it. And normally I would….but I can’t. The Blazers-Suns series has finally been afflicted by having two days in between games instead of one, and I can’t get Game 5 out of my mind. Why? Because of what I’ve been reading and hearing. People complained about the refs and the rotations and start saying Portland is outmatched and this and that.
Portland dropped Game 5 because of simple reasons. Too much fouling, too many second shots. That’s the heart of the game right there. Portland let Phoenix get 15 offensive rebounds in Game 5. They only missed 29 shots. That means for all the stops that Portland got, they gave *half* of them right back to Phoenix. Think about that for a second…that’s bananas. You know you can’t give Phoenix second chances to attack. You cannot do that and expect to win games against anyone, let alone a potent offensive attack like Phoenix. That’s like asking to lose. You wouldn’t call a girl by someone else’s name and still hope she likes you right?
Those offensive rebounds added up. Portland’s up 23-11, they make Steve Nash miss but Phoenix gets the offensive rebound and scores. Portland’s up 25-19, they get Jared Dudley to miss a three, Phoenix gets the rebound and scores. The next time down, Jason Richardson gets a tip in to cut the lead to two. In the second quarter, Portland got Phoenix to miss but were giving up Channing Frye layups and Lou Amundson tip ins. And I could point out even more examples in the second quarter but I think you catch my drift. It’s impossible to win in the playoffs if you are not getting stops. Portland did the job defensively but they did not finish the stop and it cost them dearly.
Now couple them giving Phoenix offensive rebounds with Portland sending Phoenix to the line 32 times. I know, this where people want to start talking about the refs. No thank you, Coup already covered that. Let’s just be honest: you cannot let the Suns get to the free throw line. Seven of Phoenix’s first nine points in the second quarter were free throws, and this was while the game was still back and forth. If the Suns are able to get easy baskets they become that much more dangerous. Free throws count as easy baskets. Not only that but Portland cannot afford to a) get in foul trouble or b) let Phoenix get in the bonus early. All of a sudden they start attacking more because they know they can get to the line.
And those two reasons are why Portland lost. Plain and simple, if Portland snags some rebounds it’s a different game. No team can give Phoenix second shots and expect to have success against them. Not only that but the performances from Channing Frye and Jared Dudley were tough. If they combine for 39 points, odds are a lot of teams in the Western Conference would not be happy with their result.
I’ll admit the Game 5 loss is a tough pill to swallow, for many reasons. One, Portland had complete control of this game. It’s tough to see Portland jump out to such a huge lead, have such huge momentum and then lose it so quickly. I know it is. It’s tough to see Portland fall when Jason Richardson is missing shots (13 points, 5-for-14 shooting). It’s tough to squander such good offensive performances from Bayless, Miller and Aldridge. It’s tough because this felt like a squandered opportunity. However, that’s all it was: an opportunity. All of the pressure was on Phoenix to win this game, not Portland. This is the playoffs, where a team can get blown out one night and blow that same team out the next. I know it was tough one to swallow, but when you look back don’t come up with excuses or conspiracy theories, just tip your hat towards the Suns like you did the two previous games.
And if you still want to believe in ghosts, witches, conspiracy theories and the effectiveness of blame, make sure to be just as honest when the Portland crowd intimidates the officials tomorrow. Just like they did in Game 4.