Suns/Blazers Game 5 Recap
One hell of a rumble.
by Dennis Tarwood / @tuffyr
“Why don’t you try something like that? Sort of a dope on the ropes, letting Foreman swing away but… hit nothing but air.” – George Kalinsky, Madison Square Garden photographer, taking credit for the ‘rope-a-dope’ strategy in Angelo Dundee’s autobiography, My View From the Corner: A Life in Boxing
After the Phoenix Suns were sent into the ropes at the start of Game 5 by 10 straight successful possessions from the Portland Trail Blazers, the Suns turned a 14-point deficit halfway through the first quarter into an 18-point advantage by the end of the third quarter and a 107-88 win to take a 3-2 lead in the series as it heads back to Portland.
“We can sit here and play chess games, but the bottom line is that you’re just gonna have to go out on the court and play good, hard-nosed basketball and find a way to win the game.” – Alvin Gentry, before Game 5
The Blazers, lured into quick shots and open breaks after early success led by Andre Miller’s jumper sinking, found themselves in the lion’s den when Channing Frye came in halfway through the first quarter for the unlikely 31-year-old Jarron Collins, who continues to keep Robin Lopez’s spot warm in the starting lineup.
“We were winning. We were playing their game. We were taking quick shots. They were going in so we felt good about it, but it wasn’t really our style of play. The law of averages caught up.” – LaMarcus Aldridge, after Game 5
Frye led a bench effort that reminded observers of the second unit that had contributed so mightily to the regular season success of the Suns but had largely been relegated to cleanup duty in the first round. Frye’s 20 points and 8 rebounds and Jared Dudley’s 19 points came on a night when Steve Nash and Grant Hill shot the ball from the floor 10 times total.
“We have to get (the bench) out there. Sometimes, those guys take a little while to get things going… we have to get fresh guys out there and play with a ton of energy.” – Alvin Gentry, before Game 5
Of course, it didn’t hurt that Nash took (and made) nine free throws as part of a 29-12 FTA disparity in favor of the Suns in the first three quarters. Brandon Roy, who claimed zero issues with his Roto-Rooter’d knee after Game 4, managed less than 20 minutes of action as his need to reach out and touch someone blowing by him kept him in foul trouble until the game was out of reach early in the fourth.
The Suns’ emphasis on the offensive boards before Game 5 resulted in a 13-6 advantage on the offensive boards and a 10-board advantage before the fourth quarter. It also kept the Portland interior in foul trouble as Marcus Camby and Juwan Howard garnered 9 fouls between them in three quarters.
While referee Bill Spooner did much of the heavy tweeting as the Blazers’ slower players couldn’t keep up with the Suns’ speed, Portland fans had to suffer the indignation of Joey Crawford’s antics as well as the FTA chasm. Crawford’s floor show included a foul on Jason Richardson when he was on the other side of the court, missing Goran Dragic brushing against Nate McMillan directly in front of him, and a particularly melodramatic moment late in the game.
Gentry, working the referees despite edicts against challenging The Unassailables, pulled Crawford aside after a time out in the second half to protest some point of order. Joey, standing with Gentry near the Suns bench, crouched down in a vaudevillian fashion to stare up at the corner of the overhead scoreboard showing the players on the court and their foul counts as if to say, “What else do you want from me, Alvin?”
The Suns, who have taken all three wins by at least 19 points and lost twice by no more than 9, head to Portland with that 3-2 advantage and an opportunity to knock out the Blazers on their home floor.
I’m so fast, man,
I can run through a hurricane and don’t get wet.
When George Foreman meets me,
He’ll pay his debt.
– Muhammad Ali, before the Rumble in the Jungle
-What would be a surprise for you at this point in the series, Alvin Gentry? “If Oden showed up and played.”
-Before Game 1, the fans behind each basket received Thunderstix. Before Game 2, all fans were issued the inflatable noisemakers. In Game 5, the fans behind the basket got their bangers and all attendees got fan-shaped paper “clappers” and an instructional video on the overhead board from the Suns Gorilla on how to use them. Soon, Suns fans will be relieved of all responsibility to cheer.