I'll be providing quarter-by-quarter updates throughout the playoff road games. Newest updates appear on top. Comments are now open for post-game discussion.
4th Quarter / Final
The last 12 minutes of tonight's blowout were academic. Down 20+ points, Nate McMillan looked to switch things up, emptying his bench with a high energy lineup and saving his starters for another day (Thursday, Game 3 in Portland, to be precise).
The Suns and their fans can rejoice in taking this must-win game and doing so in the convincing fashion that most pundits anticipated. Everything about this one looked easy for Phoenix. Nash finished with 13 points, 16 assists and just 1 turnover, shredding Portland's defense time and again with ease. Grant Hill and Jason Richardson provided the punch and efficiency, overwhelming Portland's wings on their way to a combined 49 points on 27 shot attempts. Amar'e Stoudemire added 18 points and 7 rebounds but Phoenix barely needed him given their perimeter success.
All in all, this was a flat effort from Portland. The offense started off out-of-sync, veered off-kilter and bordered on out-of-control. The Suns were able to contain Andre Miller (12 points and 3 assists) and LaMarcus Aldridge, dogged by foul trouble, never truly made an impact (11 points on 8 shots and just 4 rebounds).
Portland was outrebounded on both ends of the floor, a rare occasion for the Blazers and one that proved fatal given how much better Phoenix shot from the field. 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.
The Blazers will return to Portland tonight and will practice Wednesday morning. Hopefully Nate McMillan and his coaching staff will have the appropriate adjustments-to-the-adjustments cued up by then.
- Here's the Boxscore.
- Here's the instant reaction from Bright Side of the Sun.
- As noted below, the Blazers are calling Nicolas Batum's injury a "right shoulder strain."
- Update (9:45PM): On Twitter, the Blazers are now saying: "Nicolas Batum to have MRI on shoulder tomorrow in Portland. His status for Thur. Is unknown...Batum says he's optimistic re: playing tomorrow. Says he played with the injury 7 months last season."
- Here's a slideshow of game images courtesy of Max Simbron from Bright Side of the Sun.
- Here's Nate McMillan's Post Game Audio courtesy of Seth Pollack from Bright Side of the Sun.
- Here's Andre Miller Post Game Audio courtesy of Seth Pollack from Bright Side of the Sun.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter
When Steve Nash flips a shot over his head from 6 feet while fading away from the basket, kissing it in perfectly off the glass with the shot clock running down, it's just one of those nights. Portland's lack of defensive intensity to start the third quarter certainly did them no favors. The Suns scored at will, and seemingly on every possession, to open up a 20 point lead with 6 minutes to go in the third. They only stepped on the gas from there, closing the third quarter shooting 56% from the field.
Life was equally difficult on the offensive end for Portland. Any semblance of flow completely disappeared as the Blazers settled for tough, low percentage looks and seemed to play with a defeatist's mindset. Ugly turnover followed ugly turnover as Phoenix's high-pressure defense sacrificed a few easy lobs but took Portland entirely out of its offense. To add injury to insult (see what I did there?), Nicolas Batum was escorted to the locker room, favoring his right shoulder, the same shoulder that was operated on earlier this season. (Update: Early in the fourth quarter, the Blazers sent out a text stating that Batum would not return with a "right shoulder strain.")
At the half, I said Phoenix's lead wasn't yet insurmountable. After three quarters, it certainly is. Seriously. Patty Mills briefly checked into the game.
The Suns possess a commanding 92-66 advantage after 3 quarters.
Both teams started the second quarter slow offensively, the Blazers hindered to no small degree by LaMarcus Aldridge's third foul at the 8:20 mark. Aldridge, however, has 2 points in 12 minutes and has yet to hit a field goal. In his absence, Portland turned the offensive load over to their guards who dealt fairly well with continued Phoenix on-ball pressure. Andre Miller (10 points), Jerryd Bayless (7 points) and Martell Webster (8 points) all attacked the basket with reasonable success. Most troubling for Nate McMillan, perhaps, is that Rudy Fernandez (3 points on 1 shot in 17 minutes) continues to be invisible, appearing to wilt in the playoff spotlight for the second straight game.
The Suns offense dropped off early in the second quarter as their second unit simply could not keep up the blistering pace set by their starters. The Suns bench is shooting a combined 2-13 at the half. Starters Grant Hill (8 for 8 for 16 points, on a variety of high-percentage looks) and Jason Richardson (20 points on 7-12 shooting) have more than made up for it though. Steve Nash continues his impressive performance, getting into the Blazers defense at will and dishing out 12 assists to just 1 turnover. The Nash Express shows no signs of slowing down.
The breaks that the Blazers enjoyed in Game One -- corralling loose balls, staying out of foul trouble, clearing the defensive boards -- simply aren't going their way. Without early and often trips to the free throw line (15-16 for the half), the Blazers would likely be out of reach. As such, this game will need to take a drastic 90 degree turn for Portland to mount a comeback.
The Suns go into halftime with a solid, but not yet insurmountable, 63-49 lead.
The first twelve minutes featured the Phoenix Suns returning to form: Pushing tempo, attacking the basket and hitting open perimeter shots. The hesitant, at times cautious, Suns from Sunday night gave way to the freewheeling style the team is known for. The Portland Trail Blazers did their best to keep up.
Steve Nash led the Suns attack, running off made baskets, misses and Portland turnovers alike, dishing out 9 first quarter assists (more than every other player on both teams combined). The biggest beneficiaries of Nash's passes were Jason Richardson -- who scored more points in the first quarter (15) than he had in the entirety of Game One (14) -- and Amar'e Stoudemire (8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block), who played with purpose after a frustrating Sunday night. Early foul trouble for Nicolas Batum played a part in opening things up for Phoenix.
The Suns also switched up their defensive match-ups slightly, putting Grant Hill on Portland point guard Andre Miller and charging him with soft pressing Miller as he dribbled the ball up the court. The result was a mostly disjointed first quarter for the Blazers and no one Blazer truly stood out. Indeed, 8 different Blazers scored, including 8 combined points off the bench from Martell Webster, Jerryd Bayless and Juwan Howard. It wasn't enough to keep pace but it was enough to keep the Blazers close.
The Phoenix Suns hold a 32-26 lead after 1 quarter.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter