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Open Gameday Thread - Suns vs Blazers

Phoenix Suns

Portland Trailblazers
15-10 16-10
8:30PM Mountain / 10:30 PM Eastern
Probable starters:
Steve Nash PG Steve Blake
Jason Richardson SG Brandon Roy
Grant Hill
SF Nick Batum
Amare Stoudemire
PF LaMarcus Aldrigde
The Big Tweet C Grandpa Greg

Official Suns Game Notes

The Blazers are the first team we've played three times this season and at first blush you would think that's to our advantage to have caught these guys early before their young team can gel. A few weeks ago you would have said that the Blazers were on their way up while the Suns season was quickly setting.

Now half way through December the Suns have won 4 of their last 5 while the Blazers have dropped 4 of 6 of late.

Nothing about the Blazers have convinced me that they are ready to beat the Suns and now with our newly energized team I think that's even more true. The Blazers will have to decide soon if they are going to move some of their deep young bench to bring some of the veteran pieces they need to win now or if they are going to be patient and let their guys grow together and see how good guys like Batum and Rudy really are.

Despite the Suns being the better team, it would not surprise me in the least if the Blazer's win this game. No team wants to get swept and playing at home they are going to be fired up. When those guys are hitting their three's they are very hard to stop.

But the Suns are coming off a lot of rest and have had plenty of practice time to work JRich into the mix. The work isn't done progressing but I expect to see a Suns team that looks much more fluid and together then what we saw last week.

Unlike last year, you KNOW that some of that practice time was used on the defensive end. The rotation and help assignments that were a mess against the Magic and Knicks should be much improved tonight.

Matchup of the Night - JRich vs. Brandon Roy

Raja Bell for all his defensive reputation was a guy that got a lot of attention for his effort but was too small to do well against a big guard like T-Mac and too slow to help on the quicker tiny two's like Iverson or Ellis.

The one guy he always seemed to play best against though was Brandon Roy. I guess Brandon wasn't quick enough to take Raja off the dribble and didn't have Kobe's ability to rise up and shoot over him. Raja always fought through screens and stayed on Roy's ass as he entered the lane and this seemed to give Roy trouble.

Tonight, it will be very interesting to watch how JRich defends Brandon. This will be a real test for Jason to see what kind of defender he is against a team who's leader is his assignment.

On the flip side, Raja never bothered Brandon (he never bothered anyone) so we will also get to see Roy pushed on the defensive end and see what that does to his overall game.

This should be far more fun to watch then Shaq and Grandpa Greg or LMA and Amare (who do match up well but we've seen enough times already).

Suns Keys to Blazing a Path to Glory and Walking the Trail to Redemption

Defensive improvement - as mentioned, the Suns rotations and team D looked horrible in the past two games (which is to be expected). I am not expecting a finished product tonight but I do expect to see improvement.

Kick 'em where it hurts - The Blazer's have a huge hole in the lineup at the small forward position and the Suns need to take advantage of that. You can make the case that at every other position the teams match up well but in Batum they are playing a very raw rookie who the Suns need to go right after. I look for Barnes to abuse him (and Outlaw) in the paint and Hill to use his veteranness on the wings.

Amare on the glass - Amare is averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds and is shooting 53% in his last 8 games. If Amare grabs 5 offensive boards and 12 or more total this game will be very hard for the Blazers to win. Let's see if Amare's turned the corner and is embracing his inner KG.

Give the Blazers fans some love - Blazer fans are gaga over Terry Porter. They worship the ground he walks on. Let's give them one more reason to be in awe of his awesomeness and extend the streak to 12.

The Suns own an 11-game win streak over the Blazers, their longest active win streak against a single opponent. It's also the Blazers' longest active losing streak against a single opponent.

A 12th consecutive series victory would match the longest active win streak by one NBA team against another. Dallas owns an NBA-best 12-game series win streak over Memphis.

As always, be sure to checkout the best NBA blog around at here

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