Tonight your Phoenix Suns put all us fans through the anxiety ringer before finally burying the prideful Portland Trail Blazers 99-90. In doing so, the Suns eliminated the Blazers, ended the series in 6 games, and earned the chance to mitigate a decade-long history of misery and disappointment at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs.
This game is an instant classic on multiple levels. All of us who witnessed it will be unable forget it for a long time. It goes something like this:
- Jason Richardson continued his torrid play in this series dropping 28 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. JRich led the Suns dominant start with 14 first quarter points.
- Steve Nash set a career low with 6 first quarter turnovers. He had 7 at the half, and none in the second half. He also ended the night with 10 points off of 2-7 shooting (including a huge 4th quarter 3), and tallied 6 assists. Nash was suffering from a nerve impingement in his hip all night, which, if I'm a betting man, is related to his back condition. Of course I'm only a blogger, I'm no doctor. This victory is all the more impressive as Nash wasn't Nash all night.
- Grant Hill was everywhere. He completely shut down Andre Miller, and played defense like an All-Star, with 12 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 HUGE, MASSIVE, INCREDIBLY ATHLETIC FOR A 37 YEAR OLD MESSAGE SENDING BLOCKS ON JERRYD BAYLESS. Hill ended the night with a team high +26. This is Grant's first trip to the second round playoffs.
- Jared Dudley played inspired basketball. He was at the center of virtually every vital play in this game down the stretch. He played lock down D on Brandon Roy, he rebounded, he blocked shots, he hit 3s, he scrapped, he fought, he WAS the JUNKYARD DOG tonight.
- Amare Stoudemire battled through some solid Portland defense to post 22 points and assisted on two straight crucial JRICH buckets in the 4th quarter. The Blazers consistently clogged the lane, limiting MAX to the outside for much of the game. He began the game by adjusting to the Blazers plans, hitting his outside shot, and appeared in for a huge night. But Stoudemire picked up 2 quick 1st quarter fouls and was forced to hit the pine.
- Goran Dragic showed excellent poise spelling Steve Nash tonight in a high pressure game. In 18 minutes, the Slovenian Sniper scored 10 points on 4-7 shooting, and added 3 assists while playing deep into the 4th quarter of a tight game as Nash rested up.
The Suns started fast in the first quarter, at one point leading 19-8 as Jason Richardson scored 14 points, including 3 from beyond the arc. But Jerryd Bayless and Martell Webster teamed to close the gap to 24-17 at the end of the quarter. The Suns threatened to blow the game open, but the turnovers, oy the turnovers.
In the second, Phoenix stretched the lead to 13 off of a JRich 3 and 2 Hill free throws. Both Jared Dudley and Goran Dragic hit 2 3s a piece while the Suns defense stifled the Blazers, forcing them to bomb away from the outside. When the Blazers were able to penetrate, they were challenged; at one point, 3 of 4 straight possessions resulted in Phoenix blocked shots, and who could forget this:
Grant Hill BLOCK PARTY - Everybody is invited - Including Jerryd Bayless (via NBARauf)
Can anyone get enough of it?
Us Suns fans were feeling fat and cocky in the 3rd quarter by about the 3.43 mark. Phoenix had extended their lead to 16 points. The Blazer crowd was silent, and the squad looked defeated. The murmurs of San Antonio began on the thread. You remember. But that Martell Webster evidently heard them and decided he didn't like the sound of it all as he went insane from beyond the arc and the Blazers reeled off a 15-3 run while the Suns turned the ball over 5 more times. Were you reaching for the little red panic button?
Portland began the 4th on an 11-2 run (yeah, you were panicking; you're lying if you say you weren't). Martell Webster hit a 3, Rudy Fernandez hit a 3, the Suns rhythm had vanished, their offense grew stagnant, and the Portland rowdy came alive as the Blazers tied the game up at 76 with 8 minutes remaining. But the Suns answered with an 8-0 run as Jason Richardson scored two driving layups off of Amare Stoudemire assists, along with a 3 that put the Suns up for good. Steve Nash returned and after a MAX crazy hook, nailed a 3 from the top of the key to put the Suns back up by 10. Portland went cold and the Suns wisely used the clock to their advantage, eventually turning the game into a free throw shooting contest.
Game Over, Man. Game Over.
"I was really hurting but I didn't want to make my physical problems the center of attention, I just wanted to keep the rhythm."
"I thought our defense was phenomenal. When we really needed to, we stepped up with big stops."
"I tried to come out and set the tone tonight..I was trying to be active on defense...Bayless was disrespecting his elders and all...I won the sportsmanship award, but I said something to him at the end of the half, but the award is all mine...We didn't want San Antonio resting while we were playing game 7 this weekend....I'm proud of the guys...We did what we had to do to win the game. It wasn't pretty but it was effective...It feels good to still be playing...We're happy, we're excited, we'll celebrate for 15 minutes in the locker room but we aren't satisfied...Selfishly I am happy (makes motion of wiping the monkey off of his back)" Hill is advancing to the second round for the first time and Phoenix is there for the first time since 2007's controversial exit vs. San Antonio...It's really more for the guys on the team. I'm done worrying about my legacy. Trying to get (Amar'e) Stoudemire's legacy going. Hopefully, we're not done."
- Both Alvin Gentry and Grant Hill are advancing to the second round of a playoff series for the first time.
- The Suns advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2007. (Guess who eliminated them in 2007?)
- 4 of the past 5 Suns playoff eliminations have come at the hands of the evil empire, the San Antonio Spurs. Only 4 of the current Suns were around to taste those defeats.
- Phoenix limited Portland to 38% shooting for the second time in the series while shooting 47% and 52% (12-23) from long range.
- The Suns were victorious despite committing 17 turnovers and shooting 65%(17-26) from the free throw line
- The Suns have home court advantage for the second round. Game 1 is on Monday and Game 2 on Wednesday.
Digital Undergound "Humpty Dance" (via BVMUndergroundHipHop)