Big up's to antiwOrm for coming through with the early preview. Clearly, you all want to talk about this game and so do I.
The Suns go into this game in complete and total ownership of the Blazers. As in 11-1 domination, mastery and downright punkedness. 11 wins. 1 loss. And it took a career high 52 from Brandon Roy and a season high 124 for the Blazers to play Suns ball and come from behind and get that one win. One win. Eleven losses.
Time out: I just noticed the Blazers season high is 124 points. The Suns season high is 154 points and the average in the Gentry era is 115. Wow. Time in.
Stop right there hordes of Blazer maniacs.
I know all about how your team is just finally emerging from the NBA wilderness where you've enjoyed years of campfire songs with the Bobcats, Bucks and the rest of your furry friends. I understand that you are "da future" and this year's darling children and yes the Suns might be setting into lottery land but none of that matters now.
Come back when you've evened the score and the series record is closer to .500. In the meantime, 11 and 1. Eleven. And. One.
And after tonight's throw down that will be...
Probably 11 and 2.
Unless B Roy is banged up enough that he allows JRich to hang with him.
Hey Blazers fans, question for you all. Which guard has done a better job against Brandon then Raja Bell over the past few years? Kobe? Wade? You would know that answer better then I, but I will tell you this much, Raja had some of his best defensive games against Roy.
Brandon's game is deceptively simple. He loves to curl off screens around the free throw line extended and get into the middle of the lane and either pull up around the nail or drive the lane and draw contact. Most guards get screened off enough to give Roy plenty of space to make that decision. Bell for whatever reason loved to play in Roy's shorts and rode his ass right around those screens and challenged his shots from behind. Did I ever mention I used to write for Play Girl magazine? Sometimes these things just come out...
Richardson in theory has all the physically ability to stay with Roy. He's stronger, longer and faster (there's that Play Girl influence again) and there's no reason in the world that Roy should be able to drop 52 on #23. Unless of course JRich isn't committed on defense. Go figure.
Assuming Roy is playing well and able to penetrate our lane (I never realized how sexually charged basketball terms were until today...) you will likely see Grant "Not Over The" Hill asked once again cover the opposition's best perimeter threat. With Batum on the floor you can afford to do that. With Outlaw together with Roy and Aldridge it gets dicier.
Here's another question for you Blazers fans?
Is LaMarcus still playing a Dirk-like perimeter game (but without Dirk's shooting ability) or has he finally figured out how to play in the paint?
If the answer is LMA trying to be Dirk-light then I like Matt's ability to D him up. Matt played Dirk tough forcing him to take tough fade away J's. Dirk can make a ton of tough fade away J's. I don't think LMA can. OTOH, if LaMarcus takes Barnes into the paint he can us his height advantage and give the Suns fits. Especially on the glass.
Which will it be Traveling Blazerbillies?
Game Plan for the Suns to extend the domination to 12-1 and keep the playoff hope alive
I don't even really need to go here. The Suns should keep doing what they do which is run off misses and turn overs and mix up the offense with Shaq in the post and Hill and JRich from the perimeter. Throw in some hot shooting from Steve or pretty much anyone else and 115 points is all but guaranteed.
The offensive question mark is our favorite whipping boy Matt Barnes. Will he think that 18 second half points (and 1 of 2 from 3) qualifies him to bomb away from long range? Or will he remember that he scored (almost) all those points off the dribble where he can take advantage of pulling LMA way out on the floor and then drive hard on him (oops, I did it again)
The Suns will win this game on the defensive end
The Blazers average only 95 points per game which is 20 less then the Gentry era Suns. I don't see the Blazers defense being good enough to hold the Suns under 110 let alone 100 so it's going to take an above average offensive performance for the Blazers to once again defend their home court and get their second win in 13 tries against Phoenix.
Consider this. The Suns have scored less then 100 points twice since the all-star break. 98 against the Spurs and 99 against the Magic. The Magic and Spurs are much better defensive teams then the Blazers. The pressure is on the Blazers to score and win this game playing Suns ball. If Nate gets into a battle of wills with Gentry and tries to muck it up and slow it down he will lose. He has the horses to run but does he have the guts to turn them loose?
The Suns have been playing a lot of zone lately.
A LOT of zone. It worked really well against the Warriors and Wizards. Two bad teams that don't move the ball well. Against the Jazz it was less effective but still good enough to keep the Jazz out of the paint (as much) in the second half. Against the Blazers I am more concerned.
Gentry will almost certainly not go to the zone in the first half. He seems to want to let the game develop a bit before giving shooters open looks as opposed to risk getting them hot early. With the Blazers offense so dependent on 3's anyway, I am not sure this will work tonight. Fortunately, the Suns will not need to use it as much against the Roy-led squad who doesn't run a ton of pick and roll and doesn't have centers that can shoot from range.
Think about that. The Suns biggest defensive weaknesses are Nash and Shaq. The Blazers with Blake aren't going to destroy Nash like Parker or Paul or Ellis (or Lou Williams or Aaron Brooks or Rafer Alston) and Oden and Pryzbo aren't going to step out and force Shaq out of the paint to defend them like Nene did the other night before he lost his head and got tossed. And even better the Blazers aren't going to put Shaq and Nash into pick and roll defensive hell like CP3 and Tyson Chandler do.
That leaves the Suns to play man up. JRich or Hill tight on Roy's ass. Switch anything on the perimeter involving Barnes, Hill, Dudley, Amundson or JRich and especially when Rudy is the game. Don't. Leave. Rudy.
The one area that worries me most is rebounding. The Blazers with their two big centers will have a huge advantage when Shaq rests but the teams statistically are neck and neck and 15th and 16th with 41.5 rebound per game. Maybe we will see more Swift or even Robin to give the Suns more size. Swift though looked completely lost defensively if he was forced to do anything involving smart decisions and Robin...Robin is a work in progress.
Despite playing in the Rose Garden and being the second of a back to back, I like this match-up and love the way the Suns are playing. Normally, I would anticipate a let down but this group really does believe and they are playing hard every game. Roy is banged up and the match-ups are favorable.
Suns win 117 - 112
[Note by Phoenix Stan, 03/26/09 3:33 PM MST ]
Just noticed this game is on TNT. Changing my prediction:
Suns lose 65 - 93