As I stated in the preview, only Jason Richardson can stop Jason Richardson. Tonight J-Rich proved me right as he shot 13-19 from the field, including 8 three pointers en route to a 42-point performance, leading the Suns to a 108-89 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, in Portland.
The Suns lead the first round playoff series 2-1 and play again in Portland Saturday afternoon.
Tonight Phoenix picked up exactly where they left off on Tuesday evening. With the exception of the first few minutes of the game, the Suns were back at it, pushing the ball, shooting well, and executing their offense with precision. Portland found themselves in early foul trouble, and within the first 5 minutes of the game, one of the few viable offensive Blazer options, La Marcus Aldridge found himself on the bench with 2 fouls. The Suns responded with a 24-12 run and ended the quarter up 34-16 after shooting 60% from the field while limiting Portland to 30%.
Things got fun in the second as the Suns went on a 16-8 run while tightening up the defense for a spell. The Blazers were pushed to use every second of the shot clock and often put up some ugly, rushed, and or highly contested shots. Two Steve Nash free throws boosted the Suns lead to 31 points, 66-35 as the half closed.
In all probability, Nate McMillan may have either verbally thrashed his team or perhaps brought out and old sappy war story from his playing days, because the Blazers took the floor in the 3rd ready to do battle. LaMarcus tussled with Amare under the basket resulting in a double technical foul. Suddenly the calls got stranger and the Blazers tried their own version of bully ball, especially on Amare Stoudemire. The infamous Rose Garden crowd, who booed their home team in the first half, became an ally and the Blazers played with newfound focus and aggression. Most importantly, they hit shots while the Phoenix Suns did not. The Suns went 5-14 from the field and committed 7 turnovers, while managing 15 (fifteen) points.
In the 4th, the Blazers continued trimming the lead as a resurgent LaMarcus Aldridge and Jerryd Bayless teamed to begin the 4th quarter on 17-8 run. After a J-Rich 3 with 7.5 minutes left, Rudy Fernandez dropped 3 straight from beyond the arc. With the Portland crowd going insane, the Blazers had shaved off 20 points of the Suns 2nd quarter lead and found themselves down 91-80. But the Suns went on a 10-0 run punctuated by a Stoudemire layup which brought the Suns back up 18 with 3.50 left.
With the Suns in the bonus, it was a free throw shooting contest from that point on. Nash hit two to go up 100-80 with 3 minutes left. The crowd was silenced, and the Blazers had nothing left in the tank. Amare Stoudemire then drove for two and it was Phoenix Sun 2nd unit time. Amare, Nash, and J Rich were replaced while Nate McMillan decided to leave his starters in for the next 2 minutes.
Even Channing Frye hit a shot!!!! Of course his size 18 was on the line and it was ruled a 2. But 2's better than nothing Channing! Hang with it, man.
Suns up 2-1, are they Blazers irreparably broken?
- JRICH. Career highs in three pointers made (8), and total points, (42). This man has found his stroke.
- Amare. 20 points, 2 blocks, 2 steals, and 4 rebounds. The man missed 5 free throws, but I'm willing to overlook that in light of the beating he took at the hands of the Blazers. He took the punishment, for the most part and didn't let it affect him like it may have a few years ago.
- Grant Hill. 8 points, 7 rebounds. Andre Miller went 4-11 BTW, so nice D, Grant.
- Steve Nash. 13/10/4. Not the greatest of games for Steve (3-8) from the field (someone mentioning him tweaking his ankle), but with JRICH going freaking nuts, Steve can afford to give the weight to someone else for a game.
- Goran Dragon Dragic. 10 points in 10 minutes off the pine and 3-6 from three point range.
- SUNS D. for most of the game they swarmed and trapped and disrupted the Portland flow. The Blazers were held to 4 quarters under 30 points, 44% shooting, and 89 total points.
"With Steve (Nash) coming off the screen, it seemed like I was open every time. I was surprised they kept on leaving me. I know in Game 4 it's going to be a different story. They're probably not going to leave me. There is not going to be that many open looks. It's going to be somebody else's night if it's not mine...I've only been in the playoffs twice. I spent seven summers at home. Right now, I'm just not taking anything for granted. I'm leaving everything on the floor."
Game 4, Saturday
My guess is Batum's done, but that doesn't matter. The Blazers saw what worked tonight. Play tough, foul hard, at least go out like men instead of um, I dunno, skirts? Yes the Suns responded, never gave up the lead, but they showed signs of caving in the 3rd.
The Blazers came out in the first looking lost and meek. Their own fans were booing them. But they manned up n the 3rd and it changed the complexion of the game, for a little while at least. It's all they have left. LaMarcus and Bayless are the only consistent threats now that Miller has been boxed up. And let's face it, with the Suns it's pick your poison. Amare wasn't much of a factor and he still scored 20 points. Jason Richardson has proven that he can and will hit shots. The only way you eliminate him is pray he loses his touch, double team him, or bring a man out on him instead of trapping Nash on the pick 'n roll. If the Blazers do the latter, then there's more room for Nash to create, and more room for Amare to operate in the paint. Choose your poison, Portland.
The Suns bench needs a wake up call. Tonight, Frye, Dudley, and Amundson were a combined 3-12 from the field. Most of that is on Frye. I applaud his 7 boards tonight but on the offensive end, Channing has been atrocious. Tonight he was 0-6 from beyond the arc. I would think playing in the PTL would motivate him beyond belief. Perhaps it's going the opposite way. Nerves? Come on Channing, you're better than that.
Post Game Audio via Ben Golliver from Blazers Edge