2010 NBA Playoffs: Phoenix Suns' Reserves Unleashed In Game 5 Rout

Matt PetersenCorrespondent IApril 27, 2010

PHOENIX - APRIL 26:  Jared Dudley #3 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after hitting a three point shot against the Portland Trail Blazers during Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at US Airways Center on April 26, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Alvin Gentry said he'd play the bench more so Nash would be fresh in the fourth quarter.

Instead, the reserves let Nash keep their seats warm in the final frame.

Good thing, too, what with Grant Hill battling foul trouble and Jarron Collins battling a bad matchup with the quicker, longer Blazers' front line (he did actually contribute in Game 5).

The Suns' bench would be a great draw for college basketball fans -- they're quick, scrappy, emotional, and they love to get under the opponent's skin.

Except for Leandro Barbosa. He was almost over-apologetic to Martell Webster, who jumped over Barbosa and fell over his back in the second half. Webster trying to take personal insult with Barbosa putting a hand on his shoulder and making sure he was OK was almost comical.

Anyway, an interesting trend has developed with a team that once couldn't stay afloat once more than one sub entered the game: the reserves often pick up the pace/effort/scoring for the starters.

That hadn't happened through Game 4 in the series, mainly because Gentry wanted to shorten his rotation like most coaches do in the playoffs. It wasn't until the aftermath of Game 4, with Nash tiredly giving the ball away, that Gentry realized his bench was a big reason the Suns entered the postseason as a widely unexpected third seed.

So he turned them loose in Game 5. Goran Dragic immediately did what Nash can't -- force the issue inside and draw fouls, getting six quick attempts at the line. Dudley and Frye found their shots. Lou Amundson matched the Blazers' intensity on the boards. Barbosa scored like it was 2006.

You can pin their resurrection on Game 5 being at home, but this committee of one says it was Gentry's vote of confidence and investment after Game 4 that did the trick. It's a lot easier to perform when you know your number's getting called. 

That's a big reason why past Suns' reserves couldn't get the job done. Mike D'Antoni and Terry Porter couldn't allow themselves to develop their bench, even if it meant risking a few bad stretches.

Note: this observation does not apply to Marcus Banks, who simply stunk up the court.

On the other side is Portland, who has gotten zilch from Rudy Fernandez, inconsistency from Jerryd Bayless, and grumpiness from Martell Webster. Their lack of depth was atrociously apparent in Game 5 when Camby, Howard and Roy got in foul trouble.

Suddenly Portland found themselves depending on Juwan Howard, Webster and Jeff Pendegraph for points. Admirable players, but not ones capable of matching Phoenix's firepower.

Now the Suns' only concern is not blowing a golden opportunity to close the series. They coughed up Game 4 and a chance to go up 3-1. Given Portland's tenacity, even home-court doesn't assure Phoenix's victory in a potential Game 7.

A Game 6 victory in Portland will require toughness and hunger. Gentry's bench provides just that.