After a game one upset on Sunday, everyone's focus was now on how Phoenix will react in game two. Like in a boxing match, Phoenix just got punched in the face in the first round. Would they respond with a statement game or would they fall back into old habits of poor defense and streaky offense?
We got our answer.
The Suns came out with guns blazing and blew out Portland 119-90. This marked the highest point total that Phoenix scored in a game versus the Trailer Blazers, who held the Suns to 102, 101, and 93 in three games during the regular season.
We witnessed the Suns shoot poorly in game one, but tonight they made 52 percent of their field goal attempts.
Jason Richardson, who scored only 14 in game one, played like a man possessed scoring 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting. Grant Hill added 20 points after a seemingly absent game one, and only missed one field goal in the game. Steve Nash only scored 13, but dished out an impressive 16 assists.
The game was easily won the Suns who closed out the match sometime in the third quarter. Suns starters were able to sit out for most of the final quarter, and get some much needed rest.
Why Did Phoenix Win?
Phoenix was able to play their game. Portland's defensive pressure was rather relaxed, and let the Suns score quickly and often. Amar'e Stoudemire played more aggressively than in game one and didn't settle for jump shots. They never let up the offensive pressure, scoring over 31 points in each of the first three quarters.
Several Phoenix players just got hot at the right time. The Suns are all about going on long scoring runs, which didn't happen in game one due to Portland's defense and Nate McMillan's usage of timeouts.
But throughout the second and third quarters, Jason Richardson and Grant Hill couldn't miss.
Most impressive was the defensive changes that Alvin Gentry made after the first game. Instead of matching up Richardson with Andre Miller, he assigned Grant Hill to Miller. This led to a 12 point game from Miller, who scored 31 in game one. Hill's size prevented Miller from scoring in the post or pulling up and making jump shots.
They were also able to extend their defense to pressure Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge, both of whom thrived in game one by making mid-range jumpers that were loosely defended.
Phoenix was able to get to the free throw line 18 times in the first half, which landed Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge in foul trouble. Aldridge scored 22 in the first game, but was held to 11 tonight after shooting less than 50 percent from the field.
The Suns didn't have to depend on Nash and Stoudemire. Nash and STAT only needed to score 13 and 18 respectively in this game. Stoudemire matched his game one scoring total, but he only took 10 shots in 30 minutes of play. Better overall team play from the other three starters gave Phoenix the offensive firepower that they missed in the first game.
Why Did Portland Lose?
It wasn't that Portland shot incredibly well on Sunday, but they were efficient and had plenty of opportunities to score. A tightened Phoenix defense, along with several defensive mismatches, proved too much for Portland to overcome.
The absence of Brandon Roy finally began to show. Luckily for Portland in game one, the offense didn't suffer, and their defense was able too keep Phoenix off-balance. But their inability to score at in this game was their downfall. The players who made up the difference in game one didn't show up this time.
Nate McMillan was simply out coached by Alvin Gentry in game two. McMillan's game one coaching was spectacular, creating defensive mismatches, exploiting Phoenix's defensive holes, and using timeouts to prevent Phoenix from getting hot.
What Is There to Look Forward to in Game Three?
The series goes to Portland for the first time on Thursday with Portland doing what they wanted to accomplish: steal one away in Phoenix. But after tonight, that seems like an eternity ago. It was important for Portland to compete in game two, which apparently was too much for them.
I'm not going to jump to conclusions, but I'm still under the opinion that the Suns will wrap this up in no more than six games. Unlike many who jumped on the Blazer's bandwagon after their game one upset, I still believe that the Suns have the overwhelming advantage. Portland, without Brandon Roy, cannot compete with the Suns game-in and game-out.
Nate McMillan will come up with a better game plan than the one he drew up for tonight, but it won't be enough to overcome the Suns who have regained the upper-hand.