Game 2 in this series was the first test. The Suns passed with flying colors. Tonight's Game 5 is the second test and both teams are ready to battle. Nothing more than that needs to be said about the importance of this game.
Plans A thru C
The Trail Blazers want to slow the pace and keep the Suns out of transition and that starts with their offense putting the ball in the hoop. The Suns want to get stops, get rebounds, force turnovers and run run run.
That's Plan A.
Plan B for the Suns is to push hard anyway even if it's after a make and for the Blazers, they want to be able to get back in transition and slow the Suns even after a miss.
What this game very well could come down to is Plan C. Can the Suns win a low scoring grind-it-out game like they did on March 21st (Suns 93-87) or can the Blazers win a shoot out like they did in December 2008 (124-119)?
At some point this series, one of these teams is going to have to win with Plan C and that team should be the one to win the series.
Brandon Roy is planning for Plan A or B but won't concede winning with Plan C, "I don't want to say we can't do anything but we would like to keep the game a slower tempo. Keep the game in the 90s."
It remains to be seen what impact Roy will have on this series beyond his emotional boost and 10 points in Game 4. Here's what we do know from today's shoot around:
- Nate McMillan said it was a game-time decision on how he would use Roy
- Roy made it clear he was coming off the bench and expects to play 25+ minutes
- He admits that his conditioning isn't where it should be so the idea is that he can go against the Suns bench and avoid some of the initial push from the Suns and come in when the game has slowed a bit
The Suns -- both Dudley yesterday and JRich today -- insist they have to go right at Brandon. "You try to test him. His wind might not be there. Try to run him and get him tired," said Jason.
Brandon is ready for it. Anxious for it, even.
"I hope so. I hope they do. I don't know they didn't last game. I am sure going to play and they're going to come at me, but I look forward to going at them and facing their double teams because I don't think they are going to guard me straight up, because that's a chance they let me get into a rhythm, so we'll see. I look forward to the game. I know they are going to come at us real hard."
It remains to be seen how Gentry plays it. Will Dudley get more minutes on Roy, leaving LB on the bench? I would think so.
Will Hill stay with Miller or will Gentry try and use him to bottle up Brandon, forcing Miller to be more aggressive against Nash, which could disrupt Roy's flow? Who knows.
Coach Gentry said yesterday that he needs to have more patience with his bench and resist the urge to bring Nash back in too early in the fourth quarter. How he handles this decision could be crucial to the outcome.
If Gentry continues to limit his bench players' minutes, they not only could lose confidence but might start pressing to do too much in less time. That unit is at its' best when it is scrappy on defense and letting Goran create offensively for either himself or his teammates.
The Amare Elbows Sage Continues
It turns out all this talk about Amare's elbows wasn't just from crazed internet fans, or a young player over-reacting to a little bump, and it's not even coming from a one-horse town media who's not had a lot of playoff experience in the last decade (2nd time in the past 7 years). No, this comes right from the old Drill Sergeant himself.
The Blazers have asked the league to take a look at Amare's elbows and so far have not received a response.
Nate McMillan responded this way when asked how he would keep his team from over-reacting should they face Amare's deadly 'bows,
"It's hard to do when a guy's putting his elbows up in your face constantly. The league has to really pay attention to that. For us, we got to let the officials handle that and get to the next play but you also have to protect yourself in situations like that. I thought the technical foul that Nic (Batum) had the other night, you know those types of plays the officials have to be on top of that. We can't allow that to get into our heads. That technical foul could have really been a big play."
I got to say I am surprised by that coming from an old Warrior like Nate. Maybe he's just trying to get into Amare's head and make him play more cautious or maybe he's attempting to go Phil Jackson and influence the referees a bit. But hearing him talk openly about Amare's elbows was not what I was expecting.
The Suns didn't take the bait. They talked about the physicality of the playoffs while off the record there's some mention of a certain Blazer elbow to the neck of a Suns player.
I think it is fair to say that this game has the potential to get nasty.
I did love Brandon Roy's response when asked by the Portland media what he thought of Amare's elbow play, "I'm having fun with it. I don't have anything personal against those guys."
It is a new thing for Suns fans to be painted as the villain. Not a bad thing, though. I still think as long as they are whining about elbows and what not, the Suns have the upper hand. Might as well go hit him again, if they are going to complain about a little bump like that.
It's not as if the Suns needed any more reasons to stay mad going into Game 5.
Asked if he was still mad, Jason Richardson said, "Definitely still there. We knew we didn't come out the way we were supposed to come out. We didn't do the things we did in Games 2 and 3. We played to their pace. We're definitely pretty mad about ourselves, our performance in Game 4, so we'll definitely come out with a lot of energy and pick the tempo back up."
It's the playoffs and it really should be a good one tonight.
Grant Hill Wins Award....Again
Full Court Press | Blazersedge
A week's worth of links to the best Portland Trail Blazers news, opinion and analysis.
Amar'e Stoudemire Still Seeking Greatness | NBA FanHouse
"I had a long, long conversation with [Bill Russell]," Stoudemire told FanHouse while in Portland last week. "We just talked about what it takes to be a great player. He felt that I had the potential to become a great player."
Did Stoudemire Elbow Batum on Purpose?
This website is for all Portland Trail Blazer fans. We are a group of fans who, as children in the 90s, were in awe of Rip City. Now, as young adults, we are woven into the future of the team. We are season ticket holders, die hard fans & contributors to this great community. This team, the entire Bust a Bucket era, gave birth to everything we know about basketball.
NBA Playoffs: Phoenix and Portland are finding a stylistic middle ground | ProBasketballTalk - Basketball - NBC Sports
I'd propose that neither team will be able to force their style onto the series conclusively, and both teams will be left with a back-and-forth between the Suns pushing the pace and the Blazers grinding the game down to a mechanical halt. Instead, the winner of the series (at least based on the four games so far) will be the team that can better acclimate themselves to the style of the other, with the series depending on how the Blazers can both run and defend the break and how Phoenix can operate.
Phoenix Suns lost their identity in series losses to Portland Trail Blazers
In two playoff losses to Portland, Phoenix has not had the tempo or shooting it had nearly all season.
Phoenix Suns to give second unit more playing time
Suns coach Alvin Gentry wants to stick with his second unit more. Plus, other series notes.
Canzano: Watch for Amare Stoudemire's next antic and see how the Blazers react | OregonLive.com
Really? No wonder Blazers fans are nuts Welcome to the game within the game. It features Stoudemire, who is either a bumbling idiot who doesn't know when to stop or a brilliant tactician who knows exactly what he's doing, depending on who you ask.
In a career of ups and downs, Grant Hill is happy to still be along for the ride
PHOENIX -- You wouldn't think a team with serious postseason aspirations would turn to a 37-year-old to help rescue it physically, but that's exactly what the Phoenix Suns did after losing Game 1 of their first-round playoff series to the Portland Trail Blazers.