Game Preview: Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns

Hello all, and welcome to tonight's installment of...that's right, you guessed it!  The Dating Game!

Say hello to contestant number one, the Portland Trail Blazers!  A few points about the Blazers: enjoys long walks on the beach, has had some injury problems, but is willing to fight for what it loves!

And on to contestant number two...the hometown team, your Phoenix Suns!  The Suns have recently turned their losing ways around, found a new spark and chemistry, and are once again as happy as a clam!  (Assuming, of course, that clams are actually happy.)

Stay tuned to see what happens next!

All facetiousness aside, we're looking at a game that will likely be exciting, frustrating, yet altogether (hopefully) rewarding.  Just like any relationship you've been in.  Okay, not any relationship...that crazy girl you dated in high school is an exception, rather than the rule.  But I digress.

Injuries

The Portland Trail Blazers are just now getting key players back from injuries.  The last time we played the boys from Oregon, they were missing: Greg Oden, Travis Outlaw, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez, and Jeff Pendergraph.  Shortly after our game, even big man Joel Przybilla went down for the season.

This time, the injury story is a little less gruesome for the Blazers.  Brandon Roy is out with a hamstring injury, but they've gotten back Pendergraph, Fernandez, and Batum.  They're still without sixth man Travis Outlaw, and as I mentioned earlier, have lost Joel Przybilla for the remainder of this season.  So what does all this mean?

It means nothing, really, if we don't play up to our strengths.  Last time we met, a young and feisty guard by the name of Jerryd Bayless went off for a career high 29 points, and we gave up an 11 point lead in the fourth quarter, only to lose by 3.  That one hurt.  Last night, when the Blazers played the Thunder, despite the losing effort, Dante Cunningham went off for a career high 14 points on an efficient 7-10 shooting.  That kind of stuff tends to happen when you let it.  So, if the Suns don't come out firing and attack this tired team early, we could be in for a long night.

Matchups

Andre Miller, after all the preseason hype/early-to-mid-season clamor, has finally begun to play well.  One thing Miller has enjoyed doing to Steve Nash (and, well, a lot of other guards) is utilize his post game.  The dude is built like a horse.  He's 6'2", so Nash has the height edge on him (only an inch, but hey, he's still taller), but he's 200 pounds.  Compare that to Steve's 178 pound frame, and take into account his propensity to...well, not play defense, and that spells disaster.  Unless you're Miller, then that spells success.

What I would look for the Suns to do is match up Jason Richardson on Andre Miller.  Both guards have a semblance post game, and Richardson is a much more aggressive post defender.  Nash can stay step for step with Blake (he's an older white dude too), and last night, despite Blake's 0-5 shooting performance, the Blazers decided to run Miller at the point and Blake at the off guard.  This has been something we've seen almost all year (including the beginning of the year, when Mr. McMillan had no idea how to utilize refused to adequately use his newly acquired guard), and look for the Suns to do a lot of switching on the guards.

Another matchup I look forward to watching is the battle of the frontcourt.  The Blazers, like the Rockets, give up a lot of size with their big men (Aldridge, Old Man Howard, and the rookies Pendergraph and Cunningham), but they are scrappy as all get out.  Pendergraph (dating back to his days at ASU) has shown that he has a motor that doesn't stop going.  Howard (yes, Juwan Howard is still in the league), has been old reliable for the past month or so (since Przybilla went down), but I don't know if he'll be able to sustain it.  Keep in mind, they are on a back-to-back game, and he's got a lot of miles on those legs (over 35,000 career minutes...Allen Iverson is only at 37,500 and change).

Keys to the Game

 

  • Keeping Miller and Bayless out of the paint.  Those two are lethal when they drive, whether they kick it out for an open shot, or finishing with contact.  Both are pretty good at, well, both.
  • Owning the paint.  With Brandon Roy being out of last night's game, the Thunder were able to effectively take LMA out by fronting him and not allowing him to explode and take over the game.
  • Take advantage of the size matchups.  There is no reason that Amare and Lopez shouldn't have big games tonight.  Yes, the Blazers are scrappy, but with Amare playing out of his mind and Lopez playing extremely well, it's not too far fetched to say that they should both own their respective starting counterparts.
  • Stay on the shooters.  Rudy and Blake can get hot early and make us start the catch-up game (I hate that game, by the way), so go over screens and stay home on your man.  The Webster/Miller/Bayless trio can fill it up from time to time, but they're streaky.
  • The Suns have had 4 days rest.  The Blazers are playing on the second half of a back-to-back.  We're playing at home (where we're 18-6) and they're on the road (obviously, and where they're 12-13).  There is absolutely no reason we should see any lack of energy.
  • Keep the new found trade rumor excuses to a minimum.  Yes, I'm looking at you, Amare.
Bottom Line

The Blazers, for all the injuries they've had, are still sitting at 30-24 and the 8th seed in the highly competitive West.  They're only two games back from us.  For all the drubbing we dealt them in years past, it seems like the universe may finally on their side of this matchup.  I get it.  But...

Go out and win, Suns.  I won't accept anything else.

(Oh, and P.S.  Thanks to everyone who welcomed me to the team!  I'm excited to be more of a regular part of this great community.  You're all awesome!  Except for...nah, I'm just kidding.)




[Note by Seth Pollack, 02/10/10 2:34 PM MST ]


Adding some links to this...

On Sports 620 KTAR they ask this question...could tonight be Amare's last home game as a Sun? Gambo also reports the Suns aren't interested in Beasley or any other Heat players so a deal with the Heat is unlikely. Per Gambo.

Nash on KTAR today as well...

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