Suns v. Blazers (Part 3: The Matchups)

Here at Sun-N-Gun, we’re all kinds of Equal Opportunity.  We believe in letting everyone chime in, even if they’re incorrect.  Having said that, we’re going to hear from another Portland fan.  Blazed wants to talk matchups:

I’ll point out two match-ups that should be taken in to consideration.

#1
Andre Miller (offense), Steve Nash (defense)
‘Dre’s favorite thing is to post up smaller point guards and Nash is ripe for the plucking. He’s been doing this for a while, folks. Don’t you CO boys remember? They will post up ‘Dre every time Steve matches up with him. The Suns will have to make a defensive adjustment.

#2
Steve Nash (offense), Nic Batum (defense)
Batum is one of the most dynamic young defensive players in the world. He can stand on his tip-toes and touch the rim and he’s 6′10″. This means his arms are long. He’s also really, really fast and has a nose for the ball. Steve is going to make Nic look like the 21 year old that he is at times, but there will also be times that Nic really makes things difficult for Steve. What makes this possible is the fact that ‘Dre is big enough to guard a 2.

Ok, so let’s take these in order.  First off, yeah, Li’l Richard Pryor is a great poster for a guard, and I’m sure he’d love to throw his weight around down there against Nash.  The Suns may have to make an adjustment if Portland actually runs a few downlow plays for ‘Dre, but the Suns are loaded with athletes who are all about the help defense.  And this might cause problems if they were playing, say, the Suns, who are loaded with outside shooters, but Portland is not.  The help comes and what happens?  Aldridge shoots a baseline 17-footer?  Fine.

Second, I just don’t see Nate putting Batum on Nash.  Here’s why: let’s look at their starting lineups:

Ok, so I pulled that from NBA.com, and they list those matchups in a really weird way, don’t they?  Maybe I just don’t know, but Aldridge doesn’t spend a lot of time at the 3, does he?  So let’s say we’ve got these matchups:

Nash          PG          Miller

Richardson          SG           Fernandez

Hill               SF            Batum

So best case scenario for PDX is that Batum gets cloned and guards all three of those guys, right?  Because even if they decide to put Batum (is it “BAHtum” or “buhTOOM”?) on Nash, either Miller or Fernandez is going to get destroyed.  I know you might not know if you haven’t seen him play (in the same way that I don’t see every Portland game), but Grant Hill is a freaking beast.  So fine.  Put Batum on Nash and let Hill run wild against Fernandez.  Even at his age and with his history, Hill is still quicker than Fernandez or ‘Dre.  And Richardson would out-quick either of those two as well.  I agree that Batum is an excellent defensive player.  But he can’t defend everybody.  If you ask me, Portland is better off matching up as is and playing their usual quality pick-and-roll defense.  But if they wanna move some stuff around and play silly matchup games…hey, far be it from me to stop them.

Then my man Blazed says he’d like to talk about some inside matchups:

#1
Amare (offense), Marcus (defense)
I’ve heard many Suns fans say that Amare will take LaMarcus to the cleaner every night. But why would Nate put LMA on Amare when he has a former defensive player of the year big man in Camby? Save LMA for offense! Who does LMA have to guard now that Amare is covered, Collins? Amundson? Frye? Puuuhhleeeease. The suns have only one big man that can make a true impact on the floor and he’s going to have to do it on both ends.

Ok, this one is a fair point.  I guess the only reason I can think of is that it would make too much sense if we’re just talking about the starters.  Again, I say this with the caveat that I haven’t watched every game he’s ever coached, but Nate doesn’t seem all that clever as a coach.  He strikes me as one of those guys who does things the way things are done because that’s the way things are done.  LaMarcus is a 4, so he matches up against Phoenix’s 4.  Marcus is a 5, so he covers the Suns’ 5 (and if you ask me, this is one of the reasons why Gentry starts Collins at the 5 even though he’s a big pile of absolutely nothing; because most NBA coaches are all about the status quo.  If you would suggest swapping defenders, they’d say “You can’t use a 4 to guard a 5.”  I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am).

However, when Frye comes into the game?  Frye spreads the floor.  If Portland’s starters are still in the game, it would really REALLY make sense to put Aldridge on him and let Camby stay inside with STAT.  I still don’t think it’ll happen, but hey–stranger shit has happened (and while we’re talking about Channing, doesn’t that sort of hammer home my point about McMillan?  Portland buried him at the end of the bench because he wasn’t a good enough post player.  Phoenix picked him up and said Hey, you can shoot the rock.  Do so.  And he did, and he’s been great for them.  Portland could use a 3-point shooter right now…huh).

#2
LaMarcus (offense), ???? (defense)
Are the Suns thinking that Amare will D up LMA in this series? If so, this is great news for the Blazers because the post will be Marcus’ playground as LMA will undoubtedly take his defender out to 20 ft. Camby will then have a field day with the undersized big men that los Suns will have to throw at him. It will take take a large defensive presence out of the paint so that ‘Dre can also have his fun down on the block.

I got at this above, but yeah, I think STAT will start out on LMA.  Collins will spend a little time pushing Camby around down low, but then Frye will come in to spread the floor.  And Amundson will come in to play low-post and help defense.  I just don’t see this as a matchup that favors the Blazers.  Sure, Camby is a rebounding machine (like I said earlier, he had a pretty typical Cambyline against the Suns in March; 7 points and 16 boards).  But he doesn’t do much scoring (see the aforementioned Cambyline), no matter who is d-ing him up.

Finally, let’s hear from dekko:

And on another front the Blazers bench has been pretty stinky lately and the Suns bench has been the best in the league down the stretch and running up leads.
Would be nice to see the blazer starters get longer minutes. But Nate (rightly) will not likely budge on his rotation, disrupts the rhythm and the starters might run out of gas. Someone has to step up for the blazers to have a chance at that split.

I think that’s a really significant matchup.  The Suns’ bench has been awesome.  The Blazers’?  Understandably…not so much, since they’re scrapin’ that barrel with all their injuries.  I mean,

Dragic + Dudley + Frye + Amundson > Webster + Howard + Bayless + Cunningham, right?

Right.

(And I’ve gotta disagree with the “rightly,” dekko.  It’s the playoffs.  There’s no tomorrow.  There’s nothing to save players for [unless, I suppose, you've decided that there's no chance of the Blazers going all the way and you might as well start thinking about next year].  It’s like I said up above–if Nate was any kind of coach, he’d change some things up and play his best players as much as humanly possible.  But he won’t.  And there ain’t no right about that from where I’m sittin’.)

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