PHOENIX — OK, so this wasn’t what you expected. After the Suns spent the past two and a half months rolling everybody in sight culminating in a 14-2 sprint to the finish, it’s hard to believe that the Suns were the only home team to lose on the NBA’s opening weekend going up against a Portland Trail Blazers team missing its top player.
But remember this: It’s just one game. Instead of wallowing in the misery of a disappointing start to the playoffs, here are five reasons why Suns fans should remain optimistic about their team’s chances in this series.
1. The efficient Amare Stoudemire
Marcus Camby is a terrific defender, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t expect STAT to record a higher number of shot attempts than points scored again this series as he did in needing 19 shots to score 18 points on Sunday.
Just once all year did he put up more shots than he scored points, an ugly 2-for-15 performance on Nov. 12 at the Lakers before Amare had regained star form from offseason eye surgery. Now he doesn’t even resemble the player he was at that point of the year.
Amare is the efficiency superstar, the guy who scored 44 on 16 shots and 37 on 15 during one week in March. Of course, those efforts were sandwiched between an 18-point effort on 6-for-14 shooting against Camby and Aldridge, a game that ended STAT’s 22-game streak of scoring at least 19 points, but still.
We might not be able to expect a barrage of 30-point games, but it’s safe to say Amare won’t have too many games where he needs 19 shots to get 18 points.
2. Andre Miller isn’t Brandon Roy
If you didn’t know any better, you might not have believed that Portland’s lead guard just underwent knee surgery the way Andre Miller did his best Brandon Roy impression in Game 1.
Miller knifed through the Suns’ defense with ease on his way to 15 fourth-quarter points, and he even looked like Roy in drilling a clutch three-pointer.
But we’re talking about a guy who only once reached the 30-point plateau all season, and at that during a 52-point outburst Jan. 30 at Dallas that followed games of 11, six, seven and two for Miller. On the season, he averaged 14.0 ppg on 44.5 percent shooting from the field and 20.0 percent shooting from three. That about matches his career numbers: 14.5 ppg, 45.9 percent shooting, 20.9 percent from three.
I understand that Miller has a much bigger role with Roy out, but just please remember he’s not going to be Brandon Roy every night
3. The Suns’ rhythm
The Suns aren’t a running team anymore; they’re a rhythm team. And after playing two of their most rhymically beautiful games of the season to cap the year against Denver and Utah, the Suns never could find their rhythm in Game 1.
Obviously much of the credit has to go to a Portland defense that Suns head coach Alvin Gentry called the best in the league, but you also have to wonder how much Phoenix was affected by the layoff.
The Suns also lost to the Blazers earlier this season without Roy at home after getting four full days off between games. They were out of sync in that one as well.
The good news for Phoenix? Suns-Blazers is the most compressed series of any in the first round, with games every other day up until Game 6. In fact, these two teams played the final Game 1 of opening weekend but they will play the first Game 4 Saturday in Portland.
4. No more overconfidence
Grant Hill swears it’s not the case, but you couldn’t blame the Suns if they came into the series a bit overconfident.
As much as Gentry talked up the Blazers and spoke of how tough of a series this would be, you have to wonder if the Suns truly believed that after they set the league on fire with their 14-2 finishing kick. You have to believe that as much as Steve Nash spoke of staving it off subconsciously, on some level the Suns might have taken Portland a bit lightly with Brandon Roy out of the lineup.
After Game 1, that will not be the case anymore. The Suns and their fans understand they’re in for a dogfight, and nobody should be wondering whether the Suns would be better off against San Antonio or Dallas in the second round. These Blazers are a tough squad, and if the Suns didn’t know that before the weekend started, they sure do now.
5. These are the Blazers after all
I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense about the team. What I mean is that every time a rainbow starts to form over Portland, another season-ending injury sends the Blazers back to Gloomsville.
The way this year has gone, Marcus Camby and Andre Miller will collide on the team flight back to Portland and both of their ACLs will pop. It’s just been that kind of a year for the Blazers.
With all this being said, if the Suns lose Game 2, you won’t hear me stopping anybody from panicking.