Game 1 Preview: Trail Blazers at Suns

Posted by on April 18th, 6:07 pm

Trail Blazers 105, Suns 100

Trail Blazers

Suns

PHOENIX — With the way things looked in December and January, it’s actually kind of incredible that the Suns are where they are, a three seed with what is probably the most favorable matchup in the NBA playoffs.

The overachieving Suns will look to continue their winning ways in Game 1 againt the Trail Blazers, but they now face the pressure of being a favorite rather than an underdog.

Though their status in print or on TV doesn’t seem like it will be an issue for the Suns.

“Right now, it doesn’t matter if you write about it or say it,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said at practice Friday. “It’s all about what you do on the court. That’s why I never worry about that stuff.”

The Suns did what they needed to do to start on their home court, where they are 32-9. Taking Game 1 of this series is crucial to setting the tone of the series.

“It’s like a whole new season,” Gentry said. “It’s 0-0 right now. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done.”

Keys to the game

Pace

Get used to hearing this, because it will be talked about a lot. It’s no secret that the Trail Blazers win games by controlling the tempo and playing at their own pace. That’s essentially how they took two out of three regular season games against the Suns.

The Trail Blazers are generally able to force opponents to their pace, and the Suns’ offense does not work there. The Suns are most efficient when they are able to play at the speed they want and force their opponent to that level.

The Suns will need to be aggressive on defense to stop Portland from running the clock and slowing the game.

“They do a good job of stringing out possessions,” Gentry said. “They play the way they have to to win.”

Mostly every player and coach on the Suns will tell you that controlling the tempo is key to this series. The Suns need to assert their pace right from the start.

Defense

Rest assured that the Sun are not taking this series lightly. Even without Brandon Roy, the Trail Blazers pose a huge offensive threat.

“They’re a good team,” Gentry said. “We know that. They wouldn’t be in the playoffs if they weren’t.”

Yes, Roy was the epicenter of Portland’s scoring ability. But Portland is a deep team with a lot of guys ready to step up and score. The Suns have to play the surprising defense they have played at times during this season and throttle the Trail Blazers’ offense.

Portland is the kind of team that cashes in opportunities right away, so any open shot, open drive or free throw opportunity will likely hurt the Suns. Thus, they cannot allow the Portland offense to take over this game.

Mr. Two-Time

If I were a Portland scout, my head would be spinning trying to figure out where to focus my team’s efforts in this series. There are so many things to think about. But in the end, I would settle on Steve Nash.

Nash is the Suns’ engine. He drives this team. He makes everyone around him better. Nash is the guy who is going to make plays happen for the Suns, but not if the Portland defense shuts him down.

We’ve seen it happen. Chicago did it in Phoenix. The Lakers do it almost every time they play the Suns. Even scrub teams like the Pistons have done it. If a team can stop Nash and not let him run the offense, their chances of winning increase significantly. Nash will need everyone around him playing well so Portland has to spread the defensive focus and give him the opportunity to do his thing.

And 1

The Suns went 11-2 on Sundays this season, including a perfect 7-0 mark at home. The Suns even beat the Blazers in a March 21 Sunday night home game. … The Suns and Blazers have split six series all-time, and the winner has taken Game 1 each time. … The team with home-court advantage has won every series between these two teams, except for the 1984 series won by the underdog Suns. They last met up in a 1999 first-round series won by the Blazers. … The Suns are 26-26 all-time in Game 1s and 18-7 in series-opening games in Phoenix. … Portland has lost five straight Game 1s. … The Suns have held their last six opponents to an average of 40.3 percent shooting.

Tyler Lockman

Tags: Defense · Pace · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Preview · Portland Trail Blazers

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 The Z. Man // Apr 25, 2010 at 3:25 am

    First of all, I could not go to this game so my analysis may suffer vs. that of the following game, but I noted something on my way to US Airways Center on Tuesday night from some guys who were at the opening game. They told me that they were going to be loud. I told them that I felt that was good. Told them that I'm always LOUD!!!! They said "each of us will needed to make up for a thousand shitty fans." What they then said may explain our opening game loss best. They said that there was ZERO energy and emotion coming from our "fans" in that game. Good thing our fans and players came out with fire for the following game.

    From what I have read, J-Rich lost the opening game for the Suns. His unwillingness to take a diligent approach to his defensive assignment on Andre Miller cost us the game and demoralized the rest of the Suns. Good thing Gentry can be creative. Came up with a brilliant idea. Free J-Rich. J-Rich then went on an outside shooting spree the following two games helping the Suns to win both before turning cold and taking too many shots when he wasn't on his game in our most recent loss. This has now become a problem. With STAT now unable to dominate because of their collapsing zone, our success is now dependent upon whether or not we can get into our running game and whether our outside shooters are hot or cold. First, let's look at our running game. Suns' running game must start in transition. This means a defensive rebound, a block, pass deflection, and/or steal. Most often this will begin with a defensive rebound. STAT seems to be crowded out of the lane. This means that we don't get the defensive boards from our leading rebounder. J-Rich was doing a very good job on the boards, but laid an egg last game. Had J-Rich rebounded for his current playoff average and stopped shooting after his 3rd or 4th long range miss, the Suns would have won this game. Just not good strategy to have the outcome of each of these MUST games decided by whether ONLY one player, who runs hot and cold, is having a good game. Hill picked up most of the rebounding slack and helped, by limiting his shots, once he knew he was cold, and being aggressive on the boards, to keep the Suns in the last game. Each game Collins starts means not only near ZERO points but, MUCH more importantly, near ZERO rebounds, as well.

    What can be done? Suns would greatly increase their rebounding, possibly score more, and strengthen their interior defense by starting our new D-League rebounding king "Basketball Jones." VERY impressive performance vs. the Blazers in that last home game. He is also former "Defensive Player of the Year" from his undefeated St. Josephs team college days. Don't like that idea? Gave Robin a shot so why not? Here is another: Earl could play the four (power forward) spot and grab some boards and give us another slasher and further develop his game. STAT would then need to move to the five (center) spot. Earl has been very good in attacking the hoop and not settling for a soft and poor jump shot, once returning from his time in Iowa. This would be playing small ball. Good upside to this move, but, because Earl is a rookie, it involves some risk. Best idea is to go to TINY BALL (very small but very FAST!!!!) Have Grant Hill step up to that four spot. This will give us a veteran line up. This move would open the 3 (small forward) spot for J-Rich who must be told to make rebounding a priority regardless of his shooting game. In turn, this would return to the starting line up in the two (shooting guard) spot our Brazilian Blur who could have helped us avoid our last loss. Barbosa had the hot hand. Gentry just did not give him enough playing time. THIS line up would give up some more points in the paint but MUCH more than make up for it by givng Nash another wing option if J-Rich is cold. Suns would get more steals, even more rebounds (Collins' rebound production is VERY easy to exceed), and MUCH more points.

    MUST start and also finish with LB. Let's go SUNS!!!!

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