Suns-Blazers series predictions

ValleyoftheSuns writers Michael Schwartz, Mike Schmitz and Tyler Lockman pick our key players and key stats that will decide the Phoenix Suns’ first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers before making our predictions.

Key player

Michael Schwartz: I’m going to cheat and go with two, and they’re the guys stepping in for Brandon Roy: Rudy Fernandez and Jerryd Bayless. Though they combined to average just 16.6 a game in the regular season, both scorers are capable of much more given the opportunity, and opportunity they will get with Roy shelved. These are players who can go off at any time, and if the Suns keep them under wraps I just don’t see how Portland will score enough to stay with the Suns no matter how slow they keep the pace.

Jerryd Bayless and Rudy Fernandez

Mike Schmitz: If there is one player in a Portland uniform that can change the complexion of this series it is Marcus Camby. No, he won’t rip the nets on offense, but he has the ability to alter shots down low while grabbing virtually every board in sight. No one has been able to slow down Amare Stoudemire since the All-Star break, but the 6-foot-11 center averaging around two blocks a game has the length and skill-set to alter shot after shot. If there is one player to fear entering this series, it’s Camby.

Marcus Camby

Tyler Lockman: It’s hard to pick one key player in this series and it would be easy to pick Brandon Roy solely because he’s not playing. But with the Trail Blazers’ ability to control the tempo of games, Camby could prove key in their efforts to slow the Suns’ offense.

“Camby is always a wild card with that team,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “He’s as good of a weak side defender and shot blocker as there is in the game.”

If Camby is able to dominate in the paint and throw off the Suns’ offensive pace with his defense, it will tough for the Suns to adapt over an entire series.

Marcus Camby

Key stat

Michael Schwartz: My issue isn’t so much about what Portland does as is it just about the Suns themselves. When Phoenix took care of the ball during the regular season, the team was damn near unbeatable. When the Suns got sloppy and turned it over a good amount, numerous losses resulted. The games obviously won’t be played at a helter-skelter pace, so the Suns have no excuse not to take care of the ball. If they don’t, they will give the Blazers every chance to steal the series.


Mike Schmitz: The Phoenix Suns have always been a team dependent on rhythm, and that doesn’t change with the Blazers in town. Nate McMillan and company will do everything in their power to make this a grind-it-out, half-court series, but if the Suns are able to connect from distance and get stops on the defensive end, they can play any style they choose. Nash and Gentry will push the tempo, and with a lesser Blazers offense, defensive rebounds resulting in fast-break outlets will be a normal occurrence. Get the necessary stops, and the pace is all Phoenix Suns.


Tyler Lockman: Portland’s got size. The Suns don’t. If Robin Lopez was playing, rebounding wouldn’t be as much of a concern, but given that Channing Frye doesn’t really rebound, rebounding could be an issue. Amare Stoudemire usually needs a big man down low playing defense to get boards, but he won’t have one. Going up against Marcus Camby and LaMarcus Aldridge, it’s going to be on guys like Grant Hill and Jason Richardson to crash the boards. The Suns cannot give Portland easy second chances, because the Blazers will take advantage of them.



Michael Schwartz: If the Suns set the tone early in the series with a Game 1 rout, they could snuff out much of the hope remaining in this Portland team. But I see this series being more of a grind than many people expect, with lots of close games that require execution down the stretch. Although that hasn’t been a strong suit of the Suns in the past, I just think they’re playing too well with an ability to win too many different ways for the shorthanded Blazers to have a legitimate chance. Portland will make it a series, but the Blazers will never seriously threaten to win it.

Suns in five

Mike Schmitz: On paper, there is no doubt the Phoenix Suns should sweep this series, but every fanatic of Planet Orange knows the vulnerability of the Suns. Mental lapses are a regular occurrence, and with a scrappy Portland team as the opponent, the Suns will inevitably drop a few games. Expect LaMarcus Aldridge and the Trail Blazers to steal a game or two in Phoenix and make this series a lot closer than it needs to be. But the Suns’ hot streak and superior talent will ultimately have the last word.

Suns in six

Tyler Lockman: As good as Portland is, the Blazers are not the same team without Brandon Roy. Or Greg Oden. Or Joel Przybilla. This is definitely a team that could beat the Suns if totally healthy, but it’s a different team due to those injuries. The Blazers may be playing with a little extra fire because no one thinks they can win, but the Suns’ focus right now just seems unbreakable. Portland should take a game at home, where the crowd is one of the best in the league, but ultimately, I think the Suns will outplay them and not allow them to control the tempo of the game the way they need to to win.

Suns in five

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  • The Z. Man

    Very good analysis guys.

    They have already played 3 and this certainly does give me an advantage. Work has been challenging for me lately. Otherwise, I would have read this. So, my apologies for being so late. Now, perhaps I can utilize this late post advantage to sharpen the already well thought out predictions from the rest of you guys. Andre Miller turned out to be the dude that can beat the Suns. Gentry was brilliant in releasing J-Rich from having to play “D” and give that job to Grant Hill. When I was at game #2, Hill, who rarely shows emotion, was totally pumped up before the game. Hill must have been excited by the opportunity and challenge that Gentry gave to him. He was like a kid, just like he was vs. the Nuggets after Duke took the championship game. Just like Nash sometimes does, Grant was bouncing up and down on his toes before the game. What a game for Hill!!!! With no “D” to play, J-Rich seems to have loosened up to where he can make his shot (and then some.) Rest of the Suns are playing lock down “D” and keying their open court game. They are making stop after stop. Enough with what we already now know. What about my mid-series prediction?

    I think that Portland can stretch this series to seven games with a bounce back in game four. What if the Suns win game four? This obviously puts the Suns in prime position to win four in a row and wrap up the series Monday night at home. Hope I’m not looking too far ahead, but, I find myself in the VERY uncomfortable position of sort of having to root for the evil Spurs. Mavs are a very good team and will be hard for us to beat, particularly starting out on the road. Suns have proven their ability to play with the Spurs in San Antonio and to dominate them when we play at home. We would open the series with the Spurs here at home. Suns may even sweep the Spurs, particularly with an improved starting line up. Collins does not have what it takes to start for this team. Robin may or may not be able to play. Even if he does play some, he is in poor condition and will play short minutes effectively, at best. I was VERY impressed with the play of our new D-League super star “Basketball Jones” in limited time during our last home game. Dwayne is far and away the best rebounder on the Suns and, like Louis and J-Dud, Jones has a real nose for the ball. Best idea, though, is to play small ball. We could do this by moving STAT to the five and allowing an improving Earl a shot at the four. Even better than that would be to go VERY small and FAST. Suns looked real good in their last game when playing J-Rich and Barbosa and Nash, all at the same time. Have a tough minded Grant Hill play the four and have J-Rich move to the three spot with the 2 going to the Brazilian Blur. THIS line up would run any team off the floor. Suns would give up more points in the paint this way but MUCH more than make up for those points with steals and extra points of our own.

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