Thursday, December 17, 2009

Trail Blazers vs. Suns: Game 27

In a game that marks nearly the 1-year anniversary of Brandon Roy's 52 point heroic performance, the same two teams battle it out as the 17-8 Suns clash against the 15-11 Trail Blazers. Although the jerseys may read Suns and Blazers, the teams are not mirror images of where either was one year ago. Phoenix, then coached by Terry Porter, was a slower paced team than they are now, tried to incorporate Shaq into their offense and struggled mightily, whereas the Blazers were only nursing 1 injury, Martell Webster, and were on the short list of up and coming teams in the league. Instead of this game being a fight for home court advantage, it now looms as another hurdle the Trail Blazers must clear if they intend on making the playoffs for the 2nd consecutive year.
As we all know, the Suns axed Blazer legend Terry Porter in favor of Alvin Gentry who has returned Phoenix to their former run and gun selves. To no one's surprise, they are tops in the NBA at points per game at 108.72, 3 point field goal percentage at 43.3%, and 2nd in overall field goal percentage by shooting a blistering 49.3%. Along with the rebirth of the run and gun style has been Steve Nash's re-emergence as an elite point guard. His numbers are up across the board since last year as he raised his scoring output by 2.6 a night (18.3 from 15.7), assists by 1.5 (11.2 from 9.7), and shooting nearly 3% better from the floor (.530 from .503).
As a Blazer fan, it was a huge deal beating the Suns last year, because their style of play has hexed us in the past and it was rare to get a win over the Suns this decade since they signed Nash back in 2004. It took 52 from Roy to get a win last season, against what could be considered one of the weaker Suns teams. On the plus side for Portland, there is no Shaq, who always seemed to get up to play us, but replacing him is former Blazer Channing Frye, who is seeing a resurgence of his own in Phoenix. Frye's 12 points and 6 rebounds a night are more than double the output he produced in Portland and his 62 3 pointers made are only 2nd in the NBA to Danilo Gallinari's 64. It will be very interesting to see how Coach Nate tries to defend Channing. Does he put Joel on him, which would leave open the paint for the Suns as Channing likes to parade around the arc or does he put Joel on Amare and hope Stoudemire doesn't get him into early foul trouble?
For reasons unknown and unexplainable, I really like the Trail Blazers in this game tonight. On paper, it looks like a mismatch, but the Suns are only a pedestrian 8-8 on the road and I think LaMarcus and Brandon have got a little pep in their step now. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if Jerryd Bayless has another productive night and attacks the soft interior defense of Phoenix. The key to the game tonight will be Joel Przybilla and his ability to stay on the court for prolonged periods of time tonight. Without him, I think the Suns are too good an offensive team to not take advantage of his absence in the interior.
Game 27 Prediction: Trail Blazers 104 Suns 101
Post-Game Thoughts
Jerryd Bayless has now played himself into the rotation, regardless of how many healthy bodies we have on the roster or will have in the future. He is the exact 3rd scorer we need and is the perfect backcourt mate to pair with Roy. Another thing I really enjoy about the two of them when they are on the court, is the balance of emotion. Bayless is fired up and energetic over every basket, while Roy is even keeled, stoic, and calm throughout much of the game. I know it sounds a little crazy, but after these last two performances from Jerryd, including his 29 points, 9-15 shooting, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds, I have a renewed faith that this team can actually get to the playoffs in the Western Conference. Without another player stepping up with the scoring, it would have been too much of a burden for Roy and LMA to carry.
Flying under the radar was the extremely impressive performance from Martell Webster. No, his 15 points and 7 rebounds aren't going to wow anyone, but it was the timely nature in which he did everything. During the end of the 2nd quarter, he had a sick put-back dunk and up and under reverse lay-in to keep up with consecutive 3's that were raining down from Channing Frye. Those plays kept the crowd in the game at a time when it wasn't looking too bright. We can't forget his block on Amare in the 4th quarter that helped up the lead and who can forget about his two clutch rebounds? One to prolong the possession deep in the 4th and the tip-in of the missed free throw to put Portland up by 8 at 102-94 with a little over 2 minutes left.
Did Amare really have the micro-fracture surgery, because there looked to be no ill effects of that surgery at all. I was somewhat baffled they didn't run their entire offense around him in the 2nd half. His face up game is second to none and he has the strength and athleticism to dunk on anyone that tries to get in his way. With his 27 points and 11 rebounds, he should be the free agent big man everyone talks about, not Chris Bosh. The addition of Frye really has cleared the paint for Amare to operate, as the quicker of the opposition's front line will have to stay out on the perimeter with Frye while Amare gets to go one on one against bigger, slower centers. I love Joel, but that matchup just wasn't fair.
Finally, if these past two wins weren't confidence builders and jumping off points, then I have no clue what is. We desperately need to go at least 2-3 over these next 5 games to keep up pace with the other teams jockeying for playoff position. Even with all of the injuries, the Trail Blazers are still 5th in the West and are right on the cusp of home court advantage in the 1st round. Denver, LA, and Dallas look like they are solidifying themselves as the top 3 of these West, but Utah is playing lackadaisical ball as usual, Houston still has no Yao, the Spurs are looking older by the minute, and will it ever click for the Hornets? Bottom line is that Portland needs to believe not only are the playoffs a possibility, but so is a decent seed.
Box Score

No comments:

Post a Comment