Phoenix Finally Gets Into Fast Lane, Races Past Blazers To Even Series

After its high-octane offense was held in check in Game 1, Phoenix gets its fast break in gear and cuts down on its turnovers. The combination is too much for Portland to overcome.

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Defensive Adjustments Key Suns' Blowout Win

One could look at the 119 points the Suns scored against the Blazers in Game 2 last night and think that it was Phoenix's high-powered offense that got them back in the series. But that would be wrong, because in last night's game, it was the 90 points that Portland scored that proved to be the difference.

In other words, Phoenix won last night's game with their defense. Specifically, they won it thanks to a couple key adjustments made by coach Alvin Gentry. The most important one was to put small forward Grant Hill on Blazers point guard Andre Miller, who torched the Suns for 31 points and eight assists in Game 1. With Hill's height bothering him, Miller had just 12 points and three assists in Game 2. More importantly, Hill's defense allowed Jason Richardson, who guarded Miller in Game 1, to focus more on his offense, and Richardson responded with 29 points, including 4-5 from three-point range. 

SB Nation's Suns blog Bright Side of the Sun talked to Richardson after the game about being freed from the responsibility of guarding Miller.

Grant [Hill] for his part talked about his respect for Andre and was humble about his own performance but his teammate Jason Richardson, who had the Miller assignment in Game 1, was effusive in his praise, "It's tough. I don't know how Grant guarded him. He did a good job on him tonight and scored 20. I couldn't do it."

Jason went on to explain his frustration with Game 1, "I couldn't sleep until four or five in the morning, just watching the game over and over and seeing everything I did wrong."

Phoenix, however, did much more than just switch defensive assignments. They pressured Miller all the way up the court, denying Miller the ball and forcing someone else to initiate Portland's offense. Jared Dudley told Bright Side of the Sun that it was the first time this season that the Suns pressured full court like this, and it had an effect. Blazers coach Nate McMillan had this to say:

"They took us out of our offense early. They jammed Miller and denied him the ball. We had some trouble getting into our offense and were kind of a little hesitant running our sets. They forced Rudy [Fernandez] to handle the ball and make some plays."    

Phoenix's defense also swarmed LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge somehow only attempted eight shots the whole game, mostly because Phoenix ran double teams at him the whole game. With Miller and Aldridge ineffective, the Blazers don't have many good secondary options, especially if Nicolas Batum's injured shoulder causes him to miss more games in this series. There might not be much they can do to combat Phoenix's new aggressive defense. To paraphrase Rick Pitino, Brandon Roy isn't walking through that door. (Well, probably not). 

Then again, the Blazers could always play harder. SB Nation's Blazers blog Blazers Edge thinks the solution is fairly simple. 

 It won't take a 5,000 word, video-filled post to analyze Game Two: The Suns simply worked the Blazers in every facet of the game.     

Translation: if the Blazers play with more of a sense of urgency at home in Game 3, they can win, no matter who ends up playing.


Phoenix Finally Gets Into Fast Lane, Races Past Blazers To Even Series

Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) - Steve Nash recorded 13 points and 16 assists, and the Phoenix Suns evened their Western Conference quarterfinal series with a 119-90 rout of the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 2.

Jason Richardson added a game-high 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting for the Suns, who were the lone home team to lose Game 1 of their opening round series. Grant Hill poured in 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Amare Stoudemire had 18 points and seven boards in the convincing win.

Phoenix, which recorded only four fastbreak points in Game 1, got 17 out of their high-powered offense in this contest. In addition, the Suns cut their turnovers from 12 to only seven.

"We ran off (defensive) stops," said Phoenix head coach Alvin Gentry. "(Portland) didn't shoot the ball well. It's a lot easier to run off stops. Our defense was better, and when our defense is better, we're able to run a lot better because we're in the open floor."

Martell Webster led a weak Portland offensive attack with 16 points off the bench, as the Blazers failed to build on their 105-100 win in Game 1. Andre Miller, who tied a playoff career-high with 31 points on Sunday, had only 12 in Tuesday's loss.

"(Phoenix) got to their tempo," said Portland head coach Nate McMillan. "We knew that they would come out aggressive. You can expect that after losing a game. You can talk about a sense of urgency that they would come out with, and we needed to match that. We never did."

This series shifts to Portland for Games 3 and 4, with the next contest to be played on Thursday at the Rose Garden.

Phoenix jumped out to an early lead, with Richardson's back-to-back threes accounting for a 32-20 margin late in the first.

Portland ended the first with six straight points to cut its deficit to six, but Leandro Barbosa's three-point play for the Suns put the hosts ahead, 39-28, early in the second.

Hill had six points during a half-ending 9-4 spurt that increased Phoenix's advantage to 63-49 at the break, and a 13-4 run early in the third made it a 78-58 game after Richardson's layup midway through the period.

The Blazers struggled to get anything going and trailed, 94-68, heading into the fourth. Both teams emptied the benches in the final 12 minutes, as the Suns coasted to the victory.

The Suns have not lost consecutive home games since December 21-23 and have not lost two straight games since January 25-26...Phoenix has now won nine straight games following a loss...The Suns, who shot 41 percent in Game 1, made 52.3 percent of their shots Tuesday, while Portland shot only 38.2 percent...The Suns are 16-10 in series in which they split the first two games...Despite its Game 1 win, Portland is still 2-12 in its last 14 road playoff games...Prior to the game, the Blazers signed center Marcus Camby to a two-year contract. Portland acquired Camby from the Clippers at the trade deadline; he had six points and 10 boards in Tuesday's loss...Portland's Nicolas Batum left the game in the second half with a shoulder strain. McMillan said he would undergo an MRI, and his status going forward is uncertain.

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