It's here, it's here! The playoffs are here!
Forget Christmas, Halloween or March Madness, THIS is my favorite time of the year!
Remember how much it sucked last season to spend the entire playoff season sitting on the sidelines watching like a starving dog eying a piece of meat? That blew.
And how about the year before getting bounced by Timmy's three and the subsequent melt-down? That blew even worse.
Like spring blossoms on the desert cacti, we can now wipe away those painful memories and hope that our team's new-found prickliness that bring a long and fruitful run.
So here's to sharp edges and tough hides masking sweet and tender interiors and here's to our dry, blazing heat showing those fellas from the gray and dreary Northwest just how hot our fire burns.
We will have plenty more to say about this match up in the coming days, but in the mean time here's my snap judgment on the series.
The first thing that stands out about this series is just how different these two teams are statistically:
- The Suns are the 4th fastest team with a Pace Factor of 97.6 while the Blazers are the slowest at 89.9
- The Suns are actually the better pure defensive team, holding opponents to 45.3% shooting compared to 46.4% for Portland
- The Suns are by far the better offensive team shooting 49.2% compared to 46% and scoring a league-leading 112.2 points per 100 possessions compared to 7th ranked Portland at 108 per 100.
- Where Portland takes the huge lead is on the glass where they rank 3rd in Offensive Rebounding Rate Differential compared to 23rd for the Suns.
- Portland also does a much better job in turnover differential where they rank 6th in turnovers caused versus their own while the Suns are a miserable 29th.
So basically what you have is a Suns team that shoots the ball better, creates hard shots for their opponents and plays much faster versus a disciplined Portland team that values each possession more by creating turnovers, taking care of the ball, and controlling the glass.
The contrast is striking and in theory favors Portland in a playoff environment where things slow down, get more physical and each possession matters more.
It also means that each team has a clear path to victory in the series if they can continue to do well and limit their weaknesses.
For the Suns that means shooting well, defending well and staying close to even on the glass and limiting turnover to under 12 or 13.
For the Blazers that means dominating on the glass and turnover differential while holding the Suns to slightly under their normal shooting percentages and scoring at a slightly better rate by creating easy looks off those turnover and second chance opportunities.
Stats via Hoop Data do not include the two most recent games for either team.
The intangibles are strong for both teams as well, but also very different.
The Suns have incredible chemistry and as they demonstrated in two blowouts to close the season, they rise to the occasion with a combination of hungry young role players and even hungrier veterans.
The Blazers are one of the more mentally tough teams in the league as evidenced by their resilience throughout an injury-plagued season and reflecting the personality of their coach and star player.
The experience factor definitely goes to the Suns with the playoff tested core of Nash, Hill, Richardson and Stoudemire while the talent level is fairly even if Brandon Roy can contribute. That's a big if given his torn up knee.
The Blazers are a tough team that won't fold under any circumstances. They have a lot of depth with Fernandez, Webster and Bayless on the wings who can pick up some of the scoring load from Roy if he's not able to play. Miller will be able to penetrate and force the Suns into a zone which will work at times but will also get torn apart if used too much.
The front line of Camby, Aldridge and Batum is extremely long and mobile and they will give the Suns fits on the glass and at times will render Amare ineffective - but only for short periods. Over the course of the series, Amare will need to continue to go right at Aldridge and Camby and wear them down which his incredible Bully Ball play in the paint. Especially Camby in isolation. Marcus will get some blocks and stops but Amare can tire him out and take advantage of his quickness.
While Nash won't be able to contain Miller on his own, the same is true the other way and while Miller can also create for others off his drives, no one is better than Nash. The Suns hold a big edge in three-point shooting and will win one or two games just by getting hot from behind the line. On the other hand, the Blazers will find ways to control the tempo and without Robin Lopez will also win a couple of games where the score is in the 90's (or 80's).
Suns fans that think this is going to be a cake walk are in for a rude awaking. This will be a bare knuckles brawl of a series but I think this Phoenix team is not only up for the challenge they are chomping at the bit for the bell to ring. Closing strong as they did in two must win games against top Western Conference foes proves that.
I may and probably will change my mind on this as we spend more time looking into the details of the match-up but right now I think the Suns take it in 7 if Brandon Roy is able to play at least at 80%. If not, then Suns in 6.
One thing I know for sure, it is going to be fun. There's nothing like playoff basketball to get the juices flowing. I can't wait.