What began in ideal form with the Blazers racing out to an early 14 point lead, ended in disaster with the Blazers blowing that early lead and losing in an irritatingly familiar fashion. When Marcus Camby was called for two first quarter fouls and benched, the Blazers slowly but surely obliterated any momentum or confidence they had gained and eventually collapsed under the Suns' expected pressure.
For the Blazers, the beginning of the first quarter featured a solid display of executing the game plan. The Suns came out flat and didn't have much energy and the Blazers capitalized. Their first possession on offense went strait to LaMarcus Aldridge who hit a gorgeous turn around jumper for the first 2 of his 17 total points. The Blazers ran out to a quick 9-0 run going 4-4 from the field and the Suns didn't score until Nash hit two free throws at roughly the 8 minute mark.
While the Blazers were hitting almost everything they shot, they only led by 14 points due to some timely shooting from Richardson. This proved to be crucial for the Suns who quickly capitalized on a huge run as Camby left the game with 2 fouls with barely 5 minutes left in the first quarter. The second unit finished giving up the lead the Blazers' starters had worked hard to gain and as the first quarter buzzer sounded, the lead for the Blazers was 1 point.
The story of tonight is undoubtedly second chance points; the Suns had a lot and the Blazers could hardly muster any. The Blazers attempted to address this burgeoning trend by adjusting the offense back to something more commonly seen late in games: the Brandon Iso.
Indeed, the second quarter began with a return to the good ol' Brandon Roy top-of-the-key isolation play , which Roy used to draw a foul , then hit from the inbounds pass . From there the Blazers fell into back and forth, tread water, type play that quickly disintegrated into a just-don't-get-too-far-ahead game of catch-up from the Blazers. LaMarcus couldn't hit and Brandon and Rudy's defense created ample opportunities for Phoenix shooters to capitalize whether on the break or in a half court set.
What is more, Roy went out around the beginning of the quarter with his 3rd foul after only 6 minutes of play. At the same time Camby entered the game and was quickly called for his 3rd foul as well. And so we saw what Blazer fans have so often seen this season: a careless display of unadvisable jumpers either too early on the shot clock or right at the buzzer. They forgot the game plan and paid dearly, ending the second half on a shot clock violation and down 10 points. Sadly, the worst was yet to come.
At halftime I promised myself I would find some good this game. What could the Blazers learn? How can they improve? What can they do differently in game 6? After two quarters of play the team shot the ball well but had too many turnovers leading to far too many easy buckets for the Suns. The rebounding was horrendous on both ends of the floor and was also leading to far too many second chance points. "All of this can be corrected" I thought to myself. Would that the Blazers could hear my thoughts.
The third quarter began with an offensive foul on Nicolas Batum and out the window went any sense of hope , the Blazers did not come out of the half ready to play. What was worse, it was as if the Blazers expected the Suns to collapse or allow them to get back into the game. Mistake after mistake on the Blazers behalf lead to a quickly ballooning Suns' lead.
After a quick resurgence topped off by a three pointer from Jerryd Bayless, the Blazers just as quickly gave their momentum to the Suns and watched their work to cut the lead to 7 slip away. One questionable call aside (the 4th foul on Camby) , the Blazers lost this themselves and I would not say the referees are at fault for the loss or the Blazers' terrible performance. Nevertheless, the moments of heart and energy were quickly replaced by erratic play, missed shots and a sense the team had thrown in the towel.
The fourth quarter featured no defense or a care from the Blazers and a barrage of three point shooting from the Suns. Needless to say , the Blazers once again faced a double digit lead and never had any hope to catch up to the Suns.
The only time I focused clearly on the television during the fourth quarter was during a bizarre series of plays that saw Brandon Roy trip awkwardly on Dragic's leg twisting his knee, and Martell Webster do a flip in the air to land on his head with a sickening thud . Both ended up all right, but I found myself wondering why Roy was still in the game. No doubt a number of people were wondering the same thing.
By the time the final , merciful horn sounded the Blazers had lost in another blowout , 88 to 107. Congratulations to the Suns who showed no mercy tonight, this is how playoff teams should comport themselves.
What lost this game for the Blazers was the early foul trouble of Marcus Camby . Before Camby went out with 2 fouls and was replaced by the deficient Juwan Howard, the Blazers were controlling the boards, pace and game, winning in almost every category. Once Camby was removed, the Blazers seemed out of sync on defense and began giving up too many rebounds that lead to Suns getting second chance points. The Suns finished with 15 offensive rebounds, many of which came during the second and third quarters.
The Blazers were unable to hit their shots after their initial burst of energy to begin the game. For what reason I do not know for sure, but I suspect Phoenix adjustments on defense and foul trouble to several key players for Portland were the case- I could be wrong though.
Wednesday is game 6 . Play with heart should be the Blazers' modo. They can beat the Suns and have to be cognizant of the pain Blazer fans would feel if the team were eliminated at home. All I ask is for the Blazers to take it to a game 7 and to play their asses off. The Blazers have been playing , and winning, against the odds all season. To give up now would be out of character and I expect a game 6 win.
Top Performers for the Blazers : Andre Miller who lead the Blazers in scoring with 21 points and Marcus Camby who had 11 rebounds and 5 blocked shots. LaMarcus Aldridge deserves an honorable mention , as he finished with 17 points. Also on honorable mention is Jerryd Bayless, who is showing some promising signs starting alongside Miller at the 2 guard spot.