Game 68 Preview: Suns vs. Blazers

Here come the Suns, doot-n-doo-doo
Here come the Suns and I say
We're getting our butts kicked

Da-doo-ba-da-doo-ba-da-doo-ba-da-da-doo-ba-doo-ba

Little darlin' it seems our team is now improving
Little darling' it feels like years since we've been here
But...

Here come the Suns, doot-n-doo-doo
Here come the Suns and I say
We're getting our butts kicked

The Suns seem to have righted the ship a little after their tortuous assimilation of the Big Bricklayer.  They've won four straight, the victims being San Antonio, Memphis, Golden State, and Sacramento.  Worse, their last three point totals have been 132, 123, and 127.  That's like, quintuple overtime for us.  They may not exactly be odds-on favorites to come out of the West but they have to be favored to win tonight.

Not surprisingly Phoenix's resurgence has featured monster games by Amare Stoudemire.  His last three totals were 29 and 13, 36 and 11, and 30 and 10.  He's always been a handful for the Blazers.  We did hold him to 22 points on 7 of 18 shooting in our last meeting but still, this is kind of like seeing that bully that beats you up in school coming down the hall and he's punching lockers on the way, leaving sizable dents.

It's also worth noting that Shaqalicious has seen a severe cut in his playing time during the last three high-scoring victories.  He was playing in the 30+ minute zone until this past week.  His last three games have been 17, 14, and 26-minute efforts.  He had 8 rebounds and 6 assists but only 2 points in the first one, 17 points and 8 rebounds in the second.  I think it's fair to say Shaq and the Suns are still feeling their way around each other.  I have a hard time imagining that being enough of a detriment to cause a loss on its own merits tonight though.

Another key guy for the Suns, Grant Hill, injured his wrist in their last game.  They've been getting a ton of mileage out of Barbosa, Diaw, and even Giricek though (the G-Man scored 23 in their last game) so they're not likely to roll over without him at full strength either.

Other than that, this is pretty much your standard Suns team.  They'll push the tempo and give up a ton of possessions but they'll shoot the lights out and eventually leave you in the dust.  It's easy to imagine shutting down one aspect or another of their attack.  It's difficult to envision containing them all for 48 minutes.

What I'd Like to See

  1.  Some containment on Amare Stoudemire.  This more than anything kept us close in the last game.  This is Lamarcus' night to show he can be more than just a smooth offensive player.  It's especially damaging to let Stoudemire loose on the run, so LMA has to get back with alacrity.  
  2.  We need to handle the pick and roll with Steve Nash well.  Jarrett Jack has always had problems with this so Steve Blake really needs to step up.  You have to find a way to keep him covered, which probably means not going behind every pick.  We better be prepared to fight through.
  3.  I hate to say it when facing the best shooting team in the league, but our shots really need to fall.  If you don't keep pace with the Suns on the scoreboard you don't win no matter how many technical things you get right.
  4.  If they have to give any of their bench players starters' minutes our White Unit has got to dominate.  The Suns are scary at full strength but they can be a bit thin now that Marion is gone.  I'm looking very hard at Travis Outlaw.  How about 28, young fella?
  5.  Play in your comfort zone.  You'll always have to up the tempo a little bit against them but if you get fast and careless you'll lose.  They can play fast and flawless.
  6. This would be an extraordinary win and a real boost to the ego, so go ahead and play with some emotion.  What are you saving it for?
--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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