Game 5 Recap: Blazers 88, Suns 107

Long Story Short:  After streaking out to an early lead to worry the entire arena the Blazers utterly fail to command the paint, leaving the Suns free for good shots and easy offensive rebounds.  The lead disappears in a flash and the Suns run away with their third blowout win of the series.

The Game

For the first six minutes of this game the Blazers' offense was like Jennifer Connelly circa 1986.  Remember the first time you saw her in Labyrinth?  Ooh-la-la!  So young...so fresh and full of promise...so totally hot.  The Blazers hit 9 of their first 10 shots, 11 of 13.  Inside, outside, threes, dunks, guards, forwards, centers...it didn't matter.  Everything hit.  The Suns looked shell-shocked as Portland streaked to an 18-4 and then 21-7 lead.  Portland's defense was good as well.  Phoenix even went so far as to miss dunks and whatever open shots they got...misses that Portland turned into quick points at the other end.

Sadly while Ms. Connelly would blossom into full, drool-inducing flower in such movies as Dark City and Mulholland Falls the Blazers' offense proved less enduring.  Despite the hefty lead anyone watching had to be nervous seeing the Blazers rely on Andre Miller jumpers backed mostly by LaMarcus Aldridge jumpers.  Sure enough, as the 6:00 mark of the first period passed the Jennifer Connelly offense blew the Blazers and their fans a good-bye kiss, promptly replaced by Chumlee in a bikini.  Content to drift on the perimeter Portland missed 7 of their last 9 shots, adding 3 turnovers to the mix.

Portland's defense actually held for a few minutes longer.  Unlike the offense it was both active and sustainable.  Or at least it was until Marcus Camby picked up his second foul with 4:45 left.  Then the Suns began an assault on the rim which would last until the game was well within their grasp.  In the final 4:30 Phoenix had 4 dunks/layups, 3 free throws, a 7-footer, and a three.  Anything they missed, they rebounded.  The score was 28-27 Portland after one with momentum tracking Phoenix's way.

The Blazers got no relief in the second quarter.  LaMarcus Aldridge had a couple nice post moves.  Dante Cunningham scored on a dunk and an open jumper.  But nobody else so much as sniffed the rim.  The only other early scoring was one Brandon Roy jumper.  Meanwhile the Suns scored 6 points from 6 feet and in and 8 points at the foul line.  To this point the non-aggressive Blazers had not managed a single free throw.  That distinction would wait until 6:18 left in the second period.  By then the Blazers trailed by 4.  In addition to their free throws and close shots the Suns continued to pound the offensive glass.  Marcus Camby came back in to try and set defensive matters right but he played half of his second quarter minutes without Amare Stoudemire on the floor, which not only pulled him out to the perimeter more but pretty much wasted his defense.  Though the Blazers managed 4 free throws in the second part of the period (a veritable bonanza, comparatively) they hit only 2 shots besides.  The Suns continued shooting close in.  When they added a couple of threes towards the end of the period their lead ballooned to 10.  They had scored 30 in the stanza, Portland 19.

Again in the third the Blazers offered up a melange of missed jumpers, abandoned rebounds, confused rotations, poor fouls, and turnovers.  Steve Nash feasted on the point-of-attack defense, hitting jumpers and dishing passes with equal aplomb.  Exposed and forced to cover up against Nash with negligible help from the guards almost every Blazer big man got in foul trouble.  The already spotty roster got gutted from the inside.  The lack of a reasonable rotation made generating offense that much harder.  Portland again scored 19 in the period.  Phoenix scored 27.  The Blazers had 66 after three.  Phoenix had 84.

No cavalry came to Portland's rescue in the final period.  Instead Jarred Dudley and Channing Frye feasted on the carcass to record playoff highs.  The Blazers actually played relatively even with the Suns' second squad but at that point it hardly mattered.  Phoenix wins in another blowout, 107-88.

Portland and Phoenix shot nearly dead-even for the game, both in the mid 46th percentile.  Portland got killed in three areas which have been critical in this series.  Phoenix shot 29-32 from the foul line, the Blazers 17-24.  Forget complaining about the refs if you're a Portland fan.  The Blazers didn't deserve enough calls to make a difference.  Phoenix was clearly more aggressive all night and it showed.  Phoenix had 15 offensive rebounds...every one of which kills the Blazers when trying to shut down the league's best offense.  The Suns had 17 fast break points as well while Portland registered but 6.  In all of these matters the Blazers were really crippled having big guys on the bench. 

At no point after the first quarter did anyone from the Blazers dominate on offense.  LaMarcus Aldridge had a decent stat line but didn't enforce his will anywhere on the court, offense or defense.  The Suns keyed on him after the hot start and pretty much shut him down. Amare Stoudemire abused him whenever the two matched up and Aldridge managed only 2 rebounds for the game.   Brandon Roy played like he was 10 days removed from surgery, shooting 2-7 for 5 points and almost no other measurable impact.  Andre Miller did damage with 21 points but much of it was from the perimeter, which the Suns will live with.  Jerryd Bayless was aggressive on offense as well, finishing with 17.  Neither one made an impression on the other end of the court.   Portland needs both out there but has a hard time compensating defensively for it.  Marcus Camby had a nice game with 11 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks but fouls and time out from a dislocated pinky kept him from stemming the Suns' tide.  Dante Cunningham played a great 12 minutes off the bench, scoring 11 with 2 rebounds and 2 steals.  Everyone else pretty much flat-lined. 

Brandon Roy gave a post-game interview on TNT saying he will ask to start on Thursday.  The impact of that will depend on whether he's able to make any kind of explosive move.  It's safe to say the Blazers will not be able to rely on him alone to win.  Portland will need another effort like their previous two wins and then hope the Suns continue to have trouble closing games that haven't gone their way.

But chin up, Portland fans!  That could well happen.  Neither team has proven to be a good front-runner in this series.  Once again tonight the team with the most to lose won the game.  That designation shifts back to Portland on Thursday.  Naturally the Blazers would have preferred a win tonight but they played hard in Game 4 precisely so they wouldn't need one.  Maybe this was the game that finally put Phoenix over the top.  On the other hand we've all seen series that looked won in a glorious moment...a moment which ended up as that team's last hurrah.  If this series has taught us anything it's that blowouts don't mean squat.  Wins and losses are all that matter.  Phoenix has 3, the Blazers 2.  Portland's mission is now clear:  force that Game 7 and see what happens.  

Boxscore

No doubt folks over at BrightSideoftheSun are confident they have this series won...again.

 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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