Suns/Blazers Game 2 Recap
Faster! Faster! You fool! You fool!
by Dennis Tarwood / @tuffyr
“We’re not going to score 120 points against this team.” - Alvin Gentry, before Game 2
Boy, these coaches really know their craft.
The Portland Trail Blazers, who turned a 46% shooting night into a meal Sunday, kept their turnovers down but couldn’t hit the gimmies they sunk in Game 1. Combine that 40% shooting night over the first three quarters with a Phoenix Suns team that buried the needle to the right on their metronome to achieve 56% from the floor in the same stretch and the result could only be a 119-90 explosion for Phoenix, evening the series 1-1 as it returns to Portland Thursday.
“We gotta come out with a sense of urgency…. We know they’re gonna be aggressive and try to push the ball.” - Nate McMillan, before Game 2
The dramatic shift from the meager pace of Game 1 to the whiplash scoring favored by the Suns swung the balance dramatically to the other side of the “Tortoise and the Nash” tempo battle. Steve Nash earned 16 assists in three quarters, four more than the entire Blazers team all game.
The Suns, who couldn’t withstand the onslaught from Andre Miller and Jerryd Bayless at the start of the series, moved Grant Hill to Miller Frustration Detail with grand success. Hill quelled Miller with the assistance of aggressive step-outs on pick-and-roll rotations by all Suns on deck. Miller finished with a quiet 12 points and three assists.
Meanwhile, Hill went 10-for-11 for 20 points and 8 boards in a night so successful that wife Tamia probably tried to renegotiate her recording contract. “Grant was phenomenal tonight on both ends of the floor,” gushed Nash. “(He had) a pretty special offensive night. He made ten shots in a row before he missed his last shot. The defense, I’ve come to expect from him.”
With such success in Game 2, did Alvin Gentry consider making the move to assign Grant Hill to Andre Miller on defense at any point in Game 1? “Thought about it; didn’t do it. Maybe it was my fault (we lost Game 1),” Gentry chuckled.
Bayless, whose game log for this season looks like a brutal night of roulette, found himself in constant foul trouble and couldn’t contribute like he did in Game 1, either. Bayless lost his aggressiveness on defense and only managed 2-for-9 from the floor.
His night became so frustrating that he needed a hug after one of the fouls. Unfortunately, the only soul around at the moment was referee Tom Washington, who didn’t resist as Bayless put his head on Washington’s shoulder in despair.
On the other hand, Jason Richardson, whose inability to keep up with the Portland guards last weekend contributed heavily to the Suns’ early series hole, made his mark offensively with 15 first-quarter points and helping the Suns rack up twice as many fast break points in the opening frame (8) than they had all Sunday (4). He finished with 29 points in 30 minutes over three quarters.
“We needed to free up J-Rich for his offense,” Gentry said. This in turn could free up a few REM cycles for him. “I couldn’t sleep until four or five in the morning,” Richardson admitted after the game, “just watching the game over and over and over and seeing everything I did wrong.”
Nicolas Batum gingerly returned to the locker room at the end of the third quarter with his jersey over his face. The Blazers reported Batum had a right shoulder strain, the same shoulder that sustained a labrum tear that kept Batum out of the lineup for the first half of the season and was aggravated against the Jazz in early February. An MRI will be completed Wednesday in Portland.
Still, Blazers fans should not panic any more than Suns fans on Sunday night. Take comfort, instead, from the unlikely source of Steve Nash: “(The Blazers) have got to be happy. They came in here and got a split and they’ve got home court now…. They should feel good about themselves.”
Also, Amar’e Stoudemire was no more dominant than Game 1 in the halfcourt, garnering 18 points on 10 shots with seven rebounds and helped limit the Blazers to 28 points in the paint on an ugly 14-of-30 shots. That’s a strong effort, to be sure, but it means Jason Richardson and Grant Hill (or other designates) will have to post solid nights again for the Suns to succeed.
-“We’re gonna have different nights for different guys… our guys gotta understand that when other guys are playing well, we’re gonna let ‘em roll.” – Nate McMillan on Rudy Fernandez being yanked from the floor against the Suns in February
“Rudy had opportunities (in Game 1); he has to knock down his shots when he gets his opportunities. We’re gonna take what the defense gives us.” – Nate before Game 2
Rudy Fernandez in Game 2: 28 minutes, five points, 0-2 shooting. McMillan answered questions about Rudy’s performance after the game with 30 seconds on setting screens and taking what the defense gives. Note to Rudy: the defense is giving you open shots. Often. Don’t be surprised if Nate asks, “Rudy who?” after Game 3.
-”You can’t get into a situation where you overanalyze.” – Alvin Gentry, immediately after noting he watched Sunday’s Game 1 tape four times in a 48-hour period.
-Gentry, on something of a roll pregame: “Robin Lopez is not walking through that door.” Maybe someone could carry him?
-The Phoenix Suns reported a sellout for Game 2. That’s something of a fib.
-Portland fans: Nash evaded the question about Portland’s adjustments for Game 3. What do you think your team should do to recover from Game 2 and keep the advantage in the series? What do you think they will do?