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Game Thread: Phoenix Suns vs Portland Trailblazers

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We've got a treat for you guys today.  I hooked up with Dave from Blazers Edge to see what he thinks about his team's chances against the Suns.  Here's what he had to say.  Check out his site.  I like going there just to read about what's going on.  It's good writing and often funny as well.  Here's Dave:

Hello Phoenix Suns fans!  Hope you're enjoying the arctic winter chill down there.  What is it, 68 degrees?  Sweater time, eh?  This is Dave from Blazersedge.com, a sister site to this very blog on SportsBlog Nation.  (No cracks about it being a weak sister site either...no fair kicking the Blazers while they're down.)  Dan has been kind enough to dispense some wisdom about tonight's game on Blazersedge (the gist of it:  DUCK!!!) so I'm returning the favor here.  It's not like you don't know that the Suns are going to win by 50 tonight anyway, but at least maybe this way you can sound really knowledgeable to your spouse, date, frat brothers, imaginary friend, or whoever you watch the game with about who you're beating by 50 and why.

The key player for Portland is obviously Zach Randolph.  He's shaken off knee surgery, his off-court reputation, and about fifteen pounds this year to become one of the NBA's top producers at 23 points and 10 rebounds per game.  He'll be the guy the Suns are double-teaming all night.  Though he doesn't look it he has an amazing offensive arsenal, including moves in the post you just don't stop and range out to 20 feet.  Unfortunately he has problems defending, getting back in transition, and taking care of the ball.  However he did have the best overall defensive and intangibles game of his career Wednesday night against Cleveland, and it will be interesting to see if he comes out motivated.

The guys you might not be fully acquainted with are our three rookies:  Brandon Roy, Lamarcus Aldridge, and Sergio Rodriguez.  Roy starts at shooting guard and plays a vert good all-around game for a rookie.  He can defend a little, he passes well, some of his drives have to be seen to be believed, and he's even developed a little up-and-under post move in recent games.  His perimeter shooting has improved also.  Against the Cavs he tallied 19 points, 10 rebounds, 6 steals, and 4 assists, which shows you why he's a front-runner for rookie of the year.  6'11" Lamarcus Aldridge is a good shot blocker who also has an amazing high-release (Rasheed-esque) turn-around jumper from the post.  He runs the floor like a gazelle too.  If we ever develop a transition game he will be a scary trailer.  He's slight of frame and sometimes doesn't rebound enough, both of which keep him as a reserve...for now.  Sergio Rodriguez was your only draft pick this year and we bought him for $3 million on draft night.  If his play keeps up the team may recoup that in t-shirt sales alone.  The things he does with the ball are Nash-like amazing (though obviously he is nowhere near Nash's level of play).  At our site we call him "Captain Espresso" because everybody gets energized and starts moving faster when he's around because they know he'll dish the rock.  Just watch and enjoy when he's on the court.

I wracked my brain trying to think of the Blazers' overall game plan against the Suns.  Most likely they'll try to do what everybody else does:  slow down the tempo, get back in transition, pick your poison with Nash and try to make him more of a scorer, pound it inside on offense, and pray hard.  Unfortunately as you know none of that stuff works even for good teams, and the Blazers have way too many defensive and rebounding consistency issues to be considered a good team.  I'm not going to insult you by suggesting there's any game plan that will lead to a Blazer victory.  If that happened it would be an extreme Suns letdown and a lot of luck.

To beat the Blazers the Suns simply have to get them in an up-tempo game.  Not only is that your forte, it's a real Blazer weakness.  For one thing we have trouble remembering to get back into transition.  Our young, athletic players often forget and our older, wiser players also have effort problems.  For another we are hands-down the worst transition offense team I have ever seen.  Nothing comes easy for us on the break.  There are basically only two results when we're on the run:  a turnover or some kind of weird, bobbled play where we end up putting it in the hoop almost by accident.  The only guy who changes this is Sergio and he doesn't play long enough to make that much of a difference.

As I said the Blazers just came off of one of their best games of the decade, beating LeBron and the `Bronettes by 20.  The interesting storyline from our point of view will be whether the team comes out energized (20% chance by my reckoning) or completely flat (the other 80%).  If it's the latter this will be one ugly game.  However every year for every team there are one or two completely inexplicable wins and losses.  They don't make sense, it's just random basketball juju.  Our team is very young, which means sometimes they're just stupid enough not to know they shouldn't win.  If you don't defend them, don't have energy, and let them stay close late they pull out games.  I don't anticipate the game being within 25 but if it's closer than 10 late don't turn off your sets until it's over.

Good luck and have a good game.  I can't say I'm completely thrilled that you're in your position and we're in ours, but hey...at least we still all hate the Lakers, right?

--Dave  (blazersedge.com)