Suns vs. Blazers -- Matchup breakdown

Playoff basketball is a different animal than the regular season, as the game slows down and matchups become that much more critical. With that said, here is a breakdown of Phoenix and Portland’s positional battles in their respective starting lineups:

PG — Steve Nash vs. Andre Miller

Steve Nash

2009-2010 regular season

Nash: 16.5 ppg, 11.0 apg, 3.64 TO, 50.7 FG%, 42.6 3p%

Miller: 14.0 ppg, 5.4 apg, 2.11 TO, 44.5 FG%, 20.0 3p%

Head-to-head

Nash: 16.0 ppg, 10.7 apg, 3.0 TO, 47.7 FG%, 35.7 3p%

Miller: 15.3 ppg, 6.3 apg, 1.7 TO, 42.1 FG%, 0-for-7 3p

Although Miller has slightly higher numbers against the Suns than he does on the regular season, his style of play actually bodes well for a sub-par defender like Nash. Miller has only knocked down 16 three-pointers all season and shoots a woeful 20 percent from the land of plenty, including 0-for-7 from distance against the Suns this season.

His physicality will be tough on Nash, but his lack of a jump shot allows MVSteve to take a bit of a cushion defensively, giving him more time and room to react when Miller attacks the basket. Nash is far-and-away one of the worst defensive point guards in the league, but Miller isn’t stellar defensively either, and the oldest point guard to lead the league in assists should have no problem facilitating the offense at the level he has all season.

Advantage: Nash

SG — Jason Richardson vs. Rudy Fernandez

Jason Richardson

2009-2010 regular season

Richardson: 15.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 47.7 FG%, 39.3 3p%

Fernandez: 8.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 37.8 FG%, 36.8 3p%

Head-to-head

Richardson: 14.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 40.7 FG%, 36.4 3p%

Fernandez: 1 game, 7 minutes, 0 points, 2 rebounds, 2 TO

It’s no secret that Richardson needs to be effective for the Suns to have success (they’re 26-4 when he scores at least 20), and that certainly holds true against Portland. While J-Rich will have no shortage of open three-point looks in this series, he needs to establish himself on the block with the smaller Fernandez (6-foot-6, 185 pounds) defending him.

Richardson is bigger and more athletic than all of Portland’s guards, and he needs to show that rather than living on the perimeter. Fernandez, on the other hand, will pose some problems with his shooting ability and crafty athleticism. But the Suns draftee has been a bit of a disappointment this season, and if the Suns limit his open looks he shouldn’t have too big of an impact on this series.

Advantage: Richardson

Grant Hill

SF — Grant Hill vs. Nicolas Batum

2009-2010 regular season

Hill: 11.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 47.8 FG%, 43.8 3p%

Batum: 37 games (shoulder), 10.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 51.9 FG%, 40.9 3p%

Head-to-head

Hill: 14.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.67 spg, 47.2 FG%, 0-for-3 on 3ps

Batum: 5.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.0 spg, 40.0 FG%, 25.0 3p%

This matchup is the epitome of youth vs. age.

The long and athletic 21-year-old Batum could play a huge role in this series, as his length may disrupt the Suns’ offense, while his shooting ability stretches out the Phoenix defense. But the 37-year-old Hill matches up nicely with the Frenchman. Hill has the length to match Batum, and he boasts a 25-pound advantage on the rail-thin small forward.

Hill won’t have to worry too much about Batum isolating from the wing, but he is no stranger to spotting up around the arc or slashing to the basket. The 37-year-old on the other hand has impressed against Portland this season, and his ability to isolate and create for himself is a huge bonus for the Suns in a series that will most likely be played at a much more methodical pace than Phoenix is used to.

Hill’s experience and superior talent gives the Suns the advantage at the SF position, but there is no questioning that Batum has the potential to be a factor in the series.

Advantage: Hill

PF — Amare Stoudemire vs. LaMarcus Aldridge

Amare Stoudemire

2009-2010 regular season

Stouedmire: 23.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 55.7 FG%

Aldridge: 17.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.33 TO, 49.6 FG%

Head-to-head

Stoudemire: 23.0 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 1.7 TO, 51.1 FG%

Aldridge: 17.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 TO, 46.8 FG%

If there are any headline grabbers in this series, it’s the Amare-Aldridge matchup.

With Brandon Roy out, Aldridge will be “the man” in Nate McMillan’s offense, but it remains to be seen whether he is able to take on the role of the go-to-guy. However, his size (6-foot-11, 240 pounds) and ability to knock down the open jumper should pose some problems for the Suns.

Aldridge is a great complement to Marcus Camby, and he finished the regular season strong, averaging 21.2 points and 8.2 rebounds in the final six games of the year. But the problem for Portland is that, while Aldridge is very good, Amare Stoudemire is simply that much better.

STAT is basically a more explosive version of Aldridge. No one has been able to check Amare in the second half of the season and don’t expect that to change against Portland. But if the Trail Blazers can slow the game down, the height and length of Camby and Aldridge could very well bother Amare over the course of the series.

Advantage: Stoudemire

C — Jarron Collins vs. Marcus Camby

Marcus Camby

2009-2010 regular season

Collins: 34 games, 1.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 38.7 FG%

Camby: 7.5 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 1.97 bpg, 50.5 FG%

Head-to-head

Collins: DNP

Camby: 2 games with Clippers, 1 with Blazers — 10.0 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.67 bpg, 56.5 FG%

As Collins will play 15-20 minutes tops, you can’t really call this one a matchup.

But regardless of whether it’s Collins or Channing Frye in the game, Camby is shaping up to be the X-factor for this Trail Blazers team. With Robin Lopez out, the NBA’s second-leading rebounder should be able to roam free and control the paint, mostly on the defensive end. He is and should be the biggest fear for the Suns due to his defensive prowess and rebounding ability.

But the one thing that may help neutralize Camby is Frye’s ability to shoot the three. If he can pull Camby away from the basket, Stoudemire and the Suns’ wings can attack the basket a lot easier.

Camby won’t be much of a factor on offense, although he can knock down the 15-footer, but there is no doubt he will make his presence felt on the defensive end. His biggest asset will obviously be shot blocking and rebounding, and without Lopez in the lineup, expect a lot of boards and swats from the 13-year veteran.

Advantage: Camby

Suns bench vs. Blazers bench

The Suns have quietly developed one of the best benches in the league, and that bodes extremely well for Phoenix as it takes on a depleted Blazers team. Frye and Jared Dudley have both been successful against Portland this season — 11.7 and 10.3 ppg, respectively — and their ability to shoot the rock could change the pace of the game in the Suns’ favor instantly.

Goran Dragic, Leandro Barbosa and Lou Amundson round out a lethal and energetic second unit that has preserved and won many games for the Suns this season.

Portland, on the other hand, is struggling to even field a full bench.

St. Mary’s High School product and former UA Wildcat Jerryd Bayless highlights the Blazers’ bench, and, aside from Martell Webster, is really the only threat coming off the pine. With the loss of both Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla early in the season, Portland turns to the likes of Juwan Howard, Dante Cunningham and Jeff Pendergraph for some rebounding and defense off the bench. Although they will provide the Blazers with some quality minutes, don’t expect much of a contribution from Portland’s bench bigs.

Bayless has the ability to change a game with his quickness and athleticism — see his 29-point effort in a December comeback win against Phoenix — so the Suns need to pay close attention to the Phoenix native. But Webster and Bayless won’t be nearly enough to match the firepower of the Phoenix reserves who have earned such a positive reputation from their work this season.

Advantage: Suns

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