We’ve had a trap game, I’ve waxed poetic on Pyrrich victories, this season has had more than a few must-wins. Saturday night, the Trail Blazers close out their first extended home stand of the month with a new kind of game against the Phoenix Suns: a revenge game.
Phoenix is the the fourth team the Blazers will be facing for the second time. And although San Antonio beat Portland at home and then lost the next time they showed up in the Rose Garden, the second Spurs game didn’t feel like a revenge game. That was mostly because the first time Portland squared off with San Antonio, the Spurs had only lost one game, and in a season only five games old for the Blazers anything that wasn’t a 30-point blowout was an acceptable outcome.
That wasn’t exactly the case when Portland played Phoenix back on November 21st. That night, the Blazers came in winners of three straight, and the 4-7 Suns were losers of three straight. Then, and now, Phoenix is one of the teams Portland will battle with for draft position while also being one of the teams the Blazers should be better than. On that night in November, just over a month ago, the Suns hung an impressive 114 points on Portland, all the while limiting the Blazers to a measly 87 points. A seemingly re-born Jermaine O’Neal scored 17 points, Marcin Gortat shot nearly 80% from the field, and Markieff Morris played like an All-Star.
If there has been a game this season the Blazers should want back, it was their home loss this month to the Kings. If there has been a game Portland should want revenge for, it was that one last month in Phoenix.
Blazers Starting 5: PG Damian Lillard, SG Wesley Matthews, SF, Nicolas Batum, PF LaMarcus Aldridge, C J.J. Hickson
SunsStarting 5:PG Goran Dragic, SG Shannon Brown, SF Jared Dudley, PF Luis Scola, C Marcin Gortat
Saturday’s game, match-up wise, breaks down almost exactly like Thursday’s game did. Phoenix is big. They’ll play inside out. They’ll try to get out and run. And, if they can get them to fall, they can hurt you with the three.
Portland’s game plan shouldn’t be to hope Phoenix breaks Denver’s two-day old record for futility from deep. They’re focus should be on keeping guys like Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola out of the paint, and if they can’t do that, they should try as hard as they can to limit second-chance points. If that means sending five guys to the defensive glass and sacrificing fast break points, that’s what it means. Portland has won one game giving up 74 points in the paint, conventional wisdom says it’s highly unlikely they’ll win two.
Other than that, controlling the ball to limit turnovers and thus Phoenix run-outs, and running shooters off the three point line should be the key elements of Portland’s defense. Sounds like I’m saying all Portland needs to do is play some defense to win Saturday. It sounds like that because that’s exactly what I’m saying. Phoenix is going to try to outscore their opponents and that’s it. Play a little defense, and this game should be Portland’s for the taking.
What to Watch For
- Can Portland dictate and dominate this game. The Blazers have been “finding a way to win” for a week now. Getting a win by hook or by crook is better than losing, but the key is enforcing your style of play on a game, and using that style of play to keep your opponent totally out of the game. With four straight wins under their belts, and their confidence at an all-time high, now is a good chance for the Blazers to put together a dominate game.
- Who plays. The question every game over these last few. Right now LA is in uniform and scheduled to play. How much and how well he plays is going to be important.
- Luke Babbitt. Luke’s been great for three games in a row. I want to see Babbitt hit more than four threes, and maybe not foul out this time.