Brandon Roy's return sparks Blazers' Game 4 win

Brandon Roy's return catapulted the Blazers to an emotional Game 4 victory. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Brandon Roy's return catapulted the Blazers to an emotional Game 4 victory. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The Phoenix Suns had a chance to go for the jugular this afternoon.

Instead they watched Brandon Roy pull a Willis Reed, as the Portland Trail Blazers evened the series 2-2 with a 96-87 victory.

As much as it feels like Phoenix has dominated the series, despite outscoring the Blazers by 34 overall this series is all knotted up in the only unit of measurement that really matters.

The Blazers rode the emotional surge delivered by Roy’s return to this victory. Roy, originally ruled out for the series, was a shell of the All-Star who averaged 21.5 ppg during the regular season, but you can’t quantify what it means for Portland to get its major general back.

The crowd cheered his every move, exploding when Roy got up to check in midway through the first with Phoenix leading 17-10. Before he could even get into the game the Blazers scored eight unanswered off that emotional high capped by a Nic Batum three for the lead.

For the game Roy scored just 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting with just one board and one assist in 27 minutes of action. Those aren’t Brandon Roy numbers on any planet, and he missed a number of jumpers and wasn’t nearly as explosive as a healthy B-Roy would be.

With that being said, he was still the cold-blooded killer he normally is by nailing a dagger of a three-pointer to put the Blazers up six with five minutes to go. After that, the Suns never again were within a possession of the lead.

After Game 3, I would not have been surprised if this thing ended in five because the Blazers just looked demoralized. Plus, Phoenix made the necessary adjustments before Game 2 to kind of have Portland figured out.

Adding Roy to the equation changes everything. Although he scored only 10 points, his very presence prevents Phoenix from being able to load up on LaMarcus Aldridge and shut down Andre Miller with just Grant Hill and Jared Dudley.

The Suns maybe weren’t afraid of Jerryd Bayless, Rudy Fernandez, Martell Webster and a gimpy Nicolas Batum beating them. But they are certainly afraid of Brandon Roy beating them.

“As soon as he checked in the game, I got my first open shot with nobody guarding me,” Aldridge told reporters. “Having him out there, it’s big for us. Any second, he can get going. I was happy to see him out there. I think now, it’s a little bit easier. He is going to have his rhythm back the next game. They can’t do some things they were doing earlier without Brandon out there.”

In my Game 4 preview, I wondered what adjustments Portland could even make to counter what the Suns did to them in Games 2 and 3. As it turns out, Nate McMillan had the ultimate trump card in his pocket.

The question of the day was whether Brandon Roy was making an informed decision or taking a crazy risk by playing. I’m not going to pretend to be a doctor, but the Portland thinking seems to be that he feels good and he can’t re-injure it further. After all, we’re talking about a meniscus, not an ACL.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what kind of risk Roy’s putting himself at to suffer a corresponding injury. Maybe he can’t further hurt his meniscus, but maybe he injures something else by overcompensating. It’s not like the Blazers have had especially good luck with injuries this year anyway, right?

To me, this seems like an awful big risk to take to win a first-round series in a year in which it doesn’t look like you can make a deep run. Portland has such a great young core that its time will come, so why rush back your franchise player? Then again, I’m not a doctor, and if Roy comes through this thing OK then more power to him.

Of course, this wasn’t all about Brandon Roy, this was also about the Blazers controlling tempo and slowing down Phoenix’s high-flying offense, limiting the Suns to four fast-break points just like they did in Game 1. Thus far the team that has dictated tempo has won every game, regardless of whose floor it was played on, and today was no exception.

The Suns scored just 37 points in the second half, including just 15 in the fourth quarter, and they couldn’t take advantage of a stretch of the second half in which the Blazers missed 12 shots in a row.

“For us, the difference in the game was that we didn’t play with the energy that we really needed to to beat this team, and if you don’t, you struggle against them,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters. “I thought we had the pace of the game where we need to have it at the start, in the first quarter and even in the second quarter, but we ended up with 37 in the second half. You won’t be able to beat this team doing that.”

Phoenix shot 43.4 percent for the game and hit just 6-of-23 from deep (26.1 percent). We all know how important the three ball is for the Suns, and tonight they just weren’t falling.

Furthermore, Amare Stoudemire’s 26 points made him Phoenix’s only 20-point scorer, and only Steve Nash and Jason Richardson joined him in double figures. But even they played sub-par games with Nash going for 15 and eight (to go with six turnovers) and J-Rich 15 on 6-for-16 shooting. Again, we see how different this Suns team is when Richardson isn’t scorching the nets.

All that being said and considering Portland also won the battle of the boards (45-39), it’s amazing that the Blazers didn’t blow the Suns out, especially when factoring in the emotional boost from Roy’s return. Nobody on Portland besides Aldridge really killed the Suns, and despite Portland also being the more desperate team, this was really a close game throughout.

Taking the long view, the Suns came to Portland and accomplished what they wanted to by stealing Game 3. And really, saying they stole it is like saying Michael Jordan was an OK basketball player. They thoroughly dominated it to the extent I almost didn’t expect the Blazers to even take the court again in Game 4.

The Suns are still in the driver’s seat, but what today did was give the Blazers hope that they can still pull this thing out. The series is tied two apiece despite how well Phoenix played in Games 2 and 3, and Portland knows Roy will keep getting better and better as the series progresses.

So the Suns blew their chance to step on Portland’s throat, but as Jared Dudley tweeted, “Wish we could of stole that one.. But we came up here and got our home court advantage back.”

Yes, this was a successful trip, and the Suns should still feel good about their odds of winning the series now that they can do it without winning a game away from downtown Phoenix.

But with the series now tied and Brandon Roy back, we should all stop thinking about Dallas and San Antonio for a few minutes

Tags: Brandon Roy

  • auggie

    I agree 100% with justin. He is somewhat of a liability out there. He's not exceptionally talented in any facet of his game; at least with Lou, he brings defense and energy, the latter of which we were lacking big time in the 4th quarter.

  • Jose Armendariz

    Lou should stay with the second unit. I think the second unit shouldn't be touch. But, Jones wouldn't be an update of Collins? I think it would be hard to be worse.

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  • justin

    i think it’s time to stop playing collins so many minutes. amundson only played 9 minutes compared to collins’ 25 or so. i think these numbers should be reversed.

  • Artur Mascarenhas

    Gotta agree with J. Nash MUST step up. Way too many mistakes down the wire and I think this team is still missing somebody to bark a little bit more on the court.
    Its great that this team have a fine chemistry, but we need somebody to give a little shouting here and there and boost some energy during these stretches.

    Also, our 3pt shooting was atrocious. Guys are missing open shots A LOT. Frye is 4-21 on 3-pointers so far. Why ever bother to play him. Gotta give his minutes to Dudley, LB and Dragic. At least they have other weapons to help the team.

  • asani

    Collins brings nothing to the table I’d rather him start Amundson who is clearly a better defender and rebounder. Gentry does not play him that much so he can definitely start Amundson. We are playing around with an inferior team. We lose this next game and we are totally screwed. He better give all his players 5 hour energy drinks to get them to play with a sense of urgency. This team shouldn’t have won one damn game against the suns

  • JoCaLa

    the whole team could have played better all around.

    Gentry was absolutely right all through out the game, if you notice, we got really sluggish and lost our tempo down the stretch, we let the Blazers dictate the speed of the game.

    Nash needs to keep a hand on the ball.
    J Rich needs to make the extra pass
    Barbosa needs to make the extra pass
    Amare needs to make the extra pass
    Jaron and Channing need to keep their hands UP
    Lou needs to keep his hands UP
    Dudley was absolutely disappointing
    Grant is playing great, shots just arnt falling for him

    Maybe Robin will come out of no where like Roy did. . .

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  • Tyler

    Hate to mention this, but game one and four were on TNT and game two and three were on the NBA channel.

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  • The Z. Man

    THAT was the last game that the Suns lost.

    Gentry has cut Collins’ minutes to the bone. Why does he still start for the Suns? In games 3 and 4 in Portland, Suns played with no urgency in the 2nd half. THIS is why I believe Collins still starts. His minutes on the court virtually gurantee that the Suns will lose during his playing time. I believe that Gentry has come up with yet another brain storm this year. Purposely put the Suns in an early hole. Sounds like a dumb idea. Wait a minute!!!! When the Suns dig an early hole, they are forced to play with the urgency that Gentry wants to see from them. Then, the Suns have the momentum and it’s the opposition (instead of the Suns) who then play like they are lost. Play like you’re lost and you will lose, just as simple as that.

    Look at how successful that strategy has been vs. the Spurs, particularly in deciding game four. Better to play blind then to play lost. Nash & STAT & Hill are VERY good leaders for our young guys. Gentry, unlike Mike Dumb Antoni, is willing to develop our young guys. As a result we now derive the energy we need to win from these young guys. Atop having the best leaders and the best young guys, we now have a healthy Barbosa back.

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