For the first true time this season, the Portland Trail blazers face a must-win game. Win or go home is what the stakes are set at tonight for the team against the Suns who hold a 3-2 series lead after their impressive 107-88 win during Game 5. After 5 games, the teams know each very well and they keys to victory aren't changing anytime soon. Portland needs to ugly the game up, slow down tempo, contain Phoenix fast-break points, and win the second-chance points battle. On the other hand, Phoenix wants to get Portland into a jump-shooting contest, run and gun style, and let Nash and Amare run the pick and roll to death. Whichever team is able to force their style of play upon the other will win. I haven't seen any evidence the Trail Blazers can win playing free-flowing nor is their proof the Suns can get a W not scoring less than 95 points. There's really nothing more to say.
I believe Portland will come out and play like a team with their backs against the wall, feeding off of the rabid Rose Garden crowd. The emergence of Roy into the starting lineup should being stability back, allowing Bayless to thrive by becoming the spark off the bench. In a series that has seen the losing team come back and win every game, outside of Game 3, it seems the previous winner comes out a little less urgent while the loser has made the proper adjustments. Also, do not count out the fact the Trail Blazers finally got more than one day of rest in between games, which has allowed Brandon to get a little more conditioned. Portland wins the second chance battle, slows the tempo down, and even gets a little hot behind the three-point arc themselves. Behind big nights from Miller and Aldridge, along with Bayless' continued consistency off the bench, the Trail Blazers will force a Game 7 for the first time since 2003.
Game 6 Preview VideoRound 1, Game 6 Prediction: Portland 97 Phoenix 94Post-Game Thoughts
A season filled with adversities, which sent our emotions on a roller coaster of highs and lows, finally came to a halt Thursday night in the Rose Garden. Phoenix jumped out early behind the hot shooting of Jason Richardson, who ended up with 28 points on 10-16 shooting from the field, including 5-8 from downtown. Portland saw the deficit grow as large as 16 mid-way through the third but didn't want a blowout to be the last memory of the 2010 season for the fans. Reminiscent of his 24 point quarter two years ago against Utah, Marty caught fire in the later portions of the third and into the 4h to the tune of three three-pointers as well as being fouled on another, making two of the free throws. In total, he was 6-10 from the field for 19 points. Aiding him was none other than the reemergence of Rudy Fernandez, who bombed away, draining 5-6 from beyond the arc which brought the RG from a passive clap to a loud roar. Portland fought all the way back to tie it up at 76 apiece, but a 8-0 Suns run killed any hopes of a Game 7.
"I hope it hurts right now for all of us," McMillan said. "We need to get a grasp on how this feels. Because next year at this time, we want to be moving on to the next round and competing for a championship."
Give all the credit in the world to the Suns and their coaching staff. After falling asleep in Game 1, they made all the proper adjustments to take away all of our strengths. After scoring 105 in a Game 1 win, Phoenix locked in on Miller, Aldridge and really never left either one out of their cage, holding the Blazers to under 100 points the rest of the series. With a non-100% Roy, Phoenix was able to hide Nash defensively and put the bigger Hill on Miller, stifling his every move. When they weren't full court pressing Dre, they would simply play a zone whenever he was in the game, daring Miller to win the game from the outside, obviously his major weakness. Gentry also knew the Blazers were not an aggressive team in terms of cutting to the hoop, so he doubled Roy and LaMarcus at every opportunity, which ended up in Portland usually just swinging the ball around the perimeter instead of sending a slashing cutter to the middle of the open defense. On offense, whomever Roy was guarding, they engaged him, making him work on defense by running him through screen after screen. Finally, whenever Portland seemed to have a comeback in them or any wave of momentum, Phoenix always had an answer.
"He[Roy] struggled to get his rhythm," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "He wasn't able to move like he normally does. (Jason) Richardson did a good job crowding him and getting into the ball. (Roy) was trying to get a rhythm, but he just couldn't get it."
Even in defeat, there is something positive to take out of this series and it comes in the form of Jerryd Bayless. Although he got a little bit reckless during the game, coughing it up three times, for the first half, he was the only player trying to be aggressive and take it to the cup. What we have found out though is that with ample playing time, Jerryd is able to get more into a rhythm. Once he gets settled into the game, not only does his jump shot seem to find bottom more times than not but his court vision expands. JB's 4-12 shooting wasn't indicative of his series but he did pass out a game-high 7 assists, showing his maturation as a point guard. Maybe even more impressive is his defensive effort and intensity. He just seems to relish the big-game situation, something a team can never have enough of. Portland's future is in safe hands with Jerryd waiting in the wings, ready to take the torch from Andre in 2-3 years.
The 2010 season has finally came to a close. Although Portland failed to advance past the first round since 2000, there is a lot of hope heading into the 2011 version. Camby is locked in for two more years, Andre will head into training camp as the starter, giving us more stability at the lead guard slot from the get-go, and hopefully all Trail Blazers who are dinged up can be healthy and rejuvenated come October. Nico showed he is the small forward for the next 10 years and most likely would have been on a All-Defense team had he not been injured for half of the season. Portland won 50 games despite having over 300 games missed due to injury, so it's not inconceivable 60 could be on the horizon, especially with Oden's return inevitable and the majority of the top Western players aging and out of their primes.
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