A few weeks ago not even the best NBA analysts could pinpoint who would play who in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. But it is now officially playoff time, and after a flurry of big-time wins — Denver and Utah come to mind — the Phoenix Suns earned themselves one of the most favorable draws in the Western Conference: the Portland Trail Blazers.
There is no doubting that Portland is a tough ball club, but with a hobbled and questionable Brandon Roy, coupled with home-court advantage, the Suns have to like their chances in the first round. But before breaking down every facet of Nate McMillan’s team, take a look at how the season series shaped up:
Game 1: Trail Blazers win in Portland 105-102 on Dec. 17, 2009
A 35-point fourth quarter outburst and a 29-point performance from former Arizona Wildcat Jerryd Bayless led Portland back from a 15-point deficit to hand the Suns their sixth consecutive road loss. Jason Richardson was out, and Alando Tucker actually played nine whole minutes, so this wasn’t exactly the Suns team fans have grown to love.
These were the days when Channing Frye was the starting center, the Suns were still dealing with the TNT curse (the loss was their 17th straight on TNT) and they would surrender any lead at any time. This was the team that was on a downswing (3-6) after starting the season 14-3, and the injury-riddled Trail Blazers stole a win from the struggling Suns.
Game 2: Trail Blazers win 108-101 in Phoenix on Feb. 10
The Suns came into this contest riding high after winning five straight and enjoying four full days off, while Portland was on the other end of the spectrum, landing in Phoenix at 3 a.m. after a tough loss to the Thunder that was their sixth defeat in nine games.
But the Suns came out flat-footed, as Portland jumped out to a 60-44 halftime lead and never looked back, prompting Alvin Gentry to say, “We got our ass kicked, plain and simple.”
Portland torched the nets, shooting at a 58-percent clip, while converting 20 points off 15 Suns turnovers. Steve Blake went off for an uncharacteristic 20 points and 12 assists, while Brandon Roy was sidelined with a hamstring injury. So the Trail Blazers have already proven they can beat Phoenix without Roy, and in US Airways Center no less.
Game 3: Suns win 93-87 in Phoenix on March 21
Almost never do the Phoenix Suns shoot 38.8 percent and come away victorious, but they did exactly that against Portland in their last meeting. The Suns played Portland’s style, but got it done in the fourth quarter thanks to gritty defense and 10 big points from Jared Dudley.
They held Portland to 36.4 percent shooting, including 2-of-17 marksmanship from the three-point line, while limiting Roy to 8-of-25 shooting. This game gave the Suns hope that they can transform styles and outplay the Trail Blazers in a plethora of ways.
Suns-Trail Blazers first-round playoff schedule