Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
Season Series: 2-1, Blazers, Portland Trail Blazers 105 vs Phoenix Suns 102, Portland Trail Blazers 108 @ Phoenix Suns 101, Phoenix Suns 93 vs Portland Trail Blazers 87.
Relevant Statistics: Phoenix: 95.3 possessions per game (4th), 115.5 points scored per 100 possessions (1st), 110.4 points allowed per 100 possessions (24th). Portland: 87.6 possessions per game (30th), 110.8 points scored per 100 possessions (8th), 106.9 points allowed per 100 possessions (13th).
Hit the jump to see the individual match-ups for the Suns and Blazers…
Point Guard: Steve Nash vs Andre Miller
A great shooter and passer goes up against another veteran that prefers to do his work at the rim and in post-ups. Nash is coming off one of the greatest seasons in NBA history and he has this Phoenix team rolling on offense. There are so many different ways this guy has made the Suns into the #1 offensive team in the league that its not even worth listing them all. Nash’s most important task in this series should be something relatively simple for him: pushing the pace. The Suns are one of the fastest teams in the league in terms of pace while the Blazers sit dead last in possessions per game. Making Portland run is going to be a good thing especially with their best offensive player missing the series. Miller will have to try to slow the Suns down by getting Nash in foul trouble early. We’ve seen it happen to him a couple of times when a bigger guard takes him down to the block and gets him to reach.
Shooting Guard: Jason Richardson vs Rudy Fernandez
The Suns have a tendency to play as Richardson does. If he plays well, which for him means getting around 25 points, a few three’s and some transition buckets, the Suns normally win. With Brandon Roy out, Richardson has a chance to take advantage of a weaker Fernandez on the block. With a few post feeds, some dunks and some corner three’s Richardson could make a huge impact on this series with little resistance from the Portland D. Rudy can get hit from long range too, though, and J-Rich will have to do a good job chasing him around screens to minimize his open looks at the basket.
Small Forward: Grant Hill vs Nicolas Batum
Age says Grant Hill shouldn’t be as productive as he is right now but injuries in his past have helped him stay fresh even at 37 years of age. I’ll be rooting for the guy and its not like he’s getting playing time just because its a nice story. Hill is a solid low-post scorer, can hit a three if its given to him and was Phoenix’s best rebounder for a large chunk of the season. He’s shooting 48% from the field on the year, 44% from three and gets six boards a game. Batum is just 21, is athletic as heck, is a great on ball defender, and gets almost all of his looks at efficient spots on the floor. Batum is more valuable against a team with a great two guard or small forward but he should compete here.
Power Forward: Amare Stoudemire vs LaMarcus Aldridge
Amare and Aldridge play different styles. Amare likes to get to the rim a lot more than LA does while the Texas grad prefers an outside jumper to a pick and roll jam. As is the case with those types of comparisons, Stoudemire is the much more efficient scorer and he is the perfect pick and roll partner for Steve Nash. And while Aldridge is very long and quick on his feet, making him a decent pick and roll defender, Amare and Nash have it down to a T, and there is little to nothing that can stop them after 1,000′s of reps. The real battle between these two will be on the boards. With Robin Lopez out, Amare has to be his team’s best rebounder. If LA can battle against him and box him out, Camby can own the boards and the Blazers will win the rebound margin.
Center: Jarron Collins vs Marcus Camby
I think of Jarron Collins the same way I think of Joey Graham of the Nuggets. He only gets playing time because Lopez is out. Instead of ruining the rotations by starting Channing Frye, Alvin Gentry has decided to stick Collins in the starting line-up, much like Denver does with Graham when Carmelo is hurt. Collins is definitely a hard worker and he can always be counted on for a lot of effort, but he’s not going to do much to stop Marcus Camby from owning the glass and protecting the rim. Camby finished the season off with a monstrous performance against Oklahoma City that kept the Blazers from playing the Lakers. He scored 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting and grabbed 13 boards. In his two games before that, he had 18 and 17 rebounds against the Lakers and Mavericks.
Bench: Goran Dragic, Leandro Barbosa, Jared Dudley, and Louis Amundson vs Jerryd Bayless, Martell Webster, Jeff Pendergraph, and Juwan Howard
Take a look at those benches. What’s obvious to me is that Phoenix’s second unit is so full of energy while the Blazers don’t seem to have anyone but Bayless to match that. Dragic is a Nash in the making, Barbosa is one of the fastest players in the league, Dudley loves that transition three, and Amundson works his butt off on the glass. I can see the Blazers slowing the game down to some extent with their starters. Isolations for Aldridge and post-ups for Miller will slow things up a bit. But once their second unit comes in, Phoenix is getting 60% of what their starters give them while the Blazers aren’t getting much of anything. There’s no way that Portland will be able to match Phoenix’s energy in the second and fourth quarters.
The Suns are the wrong match-up for Portland. Even though they took two of three in the regular season, I just don’t think its possible to slow down the best offense in the league four times in a series. Not having Brandon Roy doesn’t help at all, either. Nash and Amare are going to run some pick and roll, then run it some more and then maybe a little more. After a few Amare dunks, the Suns will put the games away with their deadly three-point shooting.
Pick: Phoenix in 5.