The absence of Brandon Roy mattered none in the first game of the Phoenix-Portland playoff series. The Trail Blazers scored 105 against a hot Suns team, including a 35-point fourth quarter that put them on top. The size of the Blazers was too much for the Suns, who are missing an injured Robin Lopez.
Andre Miller led all scorers with 31 and added eight assists in the win. The game was fairly unorthodox for both teams.
Portland surpassed the century mark in points by trading baskets with the Suns. Phoenix didn't go on huge scoring tears, but rather only scoring enough to keep the game close. The Suns had a good third quarter, but could never break away from the Blazers due to Portland's excellent defense and coach Nate McMillan's excellent utilization of timeouts. Phoenix went dry late in the fourth and Portland stayed efficient.
Why did Portland win?
Portland won because they shot the ball extremely well. The Suns have the most efficient offense in the NBA, but the Blazers managed to dominate offensively, notably in the first and fourth quarter. They worked the ball around very well getting easy shots in the paint, and hitting open jump shots.
The Blazers utilized their size advantage by backing down Channing Frye and Jarron Collins, who could not defend Portland's big men LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum who dropped 22 and 18 points respectively.
Nate McMillan's timeout usage was the unsung hero of this game. He never let Phoenix go on a scoring run. The well placed timeouts kept the Suns cool and streaky. This kept the tempo on the side of the Blazers.
Portland got to the free throw line 15 more times than Phoenix did in the game. Granted, many of these shots came at the end of the game when Phoenix was fouling to keep the game alive, but many also came from Portland's dominant post play.
Why did Phoenix lose?
Phoenix kept it close in the first half by shooting well from three. They hit seven from behind the arc in the first half, but only made four in the second, and missed nine in the fourth quarter alone.
Phoenix's backup unit outplayed the starters. The bench outscored the first team 25-18 in the first half, and played better defense. Amar'e Stoudemire only scored six in the first half, and finished the game with only 18 when he fouled out with 1:21 left to play. Nash and Stoudemire combined for 43 points, while Grant Hill, Jarron Collins, and Jason Richardson only scored 18.
Alvin Gentry couldn't supply an answer for the numerous defensive mismatches in the game. The game wasn't properly managed on the part of the Suns. They allowed Portland to play their game by playing slow and deliberate basketball, which is deadly to Phoenix. Gentry should have left in the players that were playing well like Leandro Barbosa, Louis Amundson, and Jared Dudley who outplayed their starting counterparts.
What needs happen in Game Two for Phoenix to win?
Look for the Suns to get back to their style of basketball. Portland did an excellent job defending the pick-and-roll, but I doubt that they can duplicate that success in consecutive games.
Stoudemire and Richardson need to make more noise in the second game. Both played quietly with both of them being held to under 20. Amar'e needs to play aggressively by taking the ball strong inside forcing fouls and double teams, which will leave open shooters.
The Suns need to guard Portland much tighter if they want to win the next game. There were too many open looks that made Phoenix look lazy.
Phoenix simply has to outlast Portland because they have better depth in their lineup. If they pressure the Blazer's bench players, who aren't used to having to score that much, the Suns will have no problem winning.