Season Series: Portland 2-1
This is just a preview from one of the eight match-ups - click below to see all eight
As a Canadian, it's pretty hard to cheer for the Toronto Raptors.
With that being said, I'd like to see Canadian Steve Nash and his Phoenix Suns have some success in the playoffs for once in his career.
Some would say the Suns are lucky to avoid facing Denver or Utah but they beat both teams to end the season off creating their playoff destiny as the 3rd seed. One thing that may help this is the fact that since trade rumours surrounding Amare Stoudemire stopped, Amare turned into a beast and was playing the basketball we've known to grow and love out of him.Amare is just shy of averaging a double-double which is something he has never been able to accomplish in his career (he always finishes with around 9.0 rebounds per game).
Four years ago when the Suns lost back-to-back Western Conference Championships to San Antonio and Dallas, they thought picking up Shaq would help. Then they dished him to Cleveland for Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic which didn't pan out and they decided to buy out Wallace's contract and now he's in Boston.
That turned out to be the best decision they could have ever made, because it opened up room for Phoenix to pick up free-agent Channing Frye who at 6'11", has done nothing but help open things up for Amare... more than Shaq or Wallace seemed to ever do.
Since being dealt for Raja Bell and Boris Diaw, Jason Richardson has finally found his way with the Suns averaging just over fifteen per game. It cannot be doubted that the Phoenix Suns have a handful of talent, they just need to find a way to win in the playoffs and the recent tweaking of their team has helped them out offensively and defensively.
The Suns are a team full of veterans who know how to win basketball games, they've added youth in order to boast their chances at beating a strong Western Conference and last but not least, have Grant Hill.
Who doesn't love Grant Hill after what he's been through (long story short—doctors re-fractered his ankle to realign it with the bone in his leg. This was back in 2003 and Hill is still going strong.) With Hill's veteran leadership, Nash's ability at point guard, the addition of Channing Fyre, and the re-emegence of Amare Stoudemire, the Phoenix Suns are going to be one hard team to beat.
Early on in the season, I loved watching the Portland Trail Blazers suit up with a healthy Greg Oden, Brandon Roy, and even Joel Pryzbilla. Roy averaging over twenty-one points per game had a slight meniscus tear in his right knee and although he sat out for the remainder of the season, he said he will "try to play" against the the Mavericks.
I myself have torn 80% of my meniscus (way more than Roy did) but I know how uncomfortable of an injury it can be, especially in a sport that involved the use of your legs so much with making cuts and jumping. One thing is certain, Roy will NOT be at 100%. Greg Oden won't be playing as he had a season ending knee injury back in early December and hasn't played since. Przybilla is gone with a knee injury as well. If you are thinking who they heck is left to play, you aren't alone but surprisingly the Trail Blazers have found a way to continue to secure a playoff berth (winning over 50 games in the process).
LaMarcus Aldridge has been a big reason for Portland's success after Oden went down but he doesn't have the same presence down in the paint as man-child Greg Oden did.
Andre Miller has also done a great job of picking up the slack with Roy hurt and Nicolas Batum has stepped it up as well. When Oden went down, the Trail Blazers had a decision to make and in my eyes, they made the right one in giving up Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw (offensively production) for forward-center Marcus Camby, who is more of a defensive minded player and has helped fill Oden's void.
If Roy isn't at 100%, either Rudy Fernandez or Jerryd Bayless is going to have to do something they've never done before by leading Portland to a big-time victory. With Oden gone and Roy not 100% (maybe not even playing), it won't matter what the rest of the Trail Blazers do because Phoenix will be too much to handle.
TheCoach's Pick: Suns in FIVE