Trail Blazers vs Suns Tuesday, 04/20/10 AT 07:00PM

Trail Blazers Expect Suns To Improve In Game Two

04/20/10
  1. Written by: caseyholdahl

    Andre Miller has played in more than 900 games in his 11 NBA seasons, so the Phoenix Suns certainly knew what to expect from the Portland point guard - relentless drives to the basket.

    Still, the Suns couldn't stop him.

    The Trail Blazers clogged the middle to prevent those thunderous pick-and-roll dunks from Amare Stoudemire. If the Suns were to win, they would have to do it from long range.

    They didn't.

    Portland, despite the absence of leading scorer Brandon Roy, was the only team to win a series opener on the road with its 105-100 victory over Phoenix on Sunday night. The Trail Blazers, who last made it out of the first round 10 years ago, would head home up 2-0 in the best-of-7 series with a win in Game 2 on Tuesday night.

    Miller knows to expect a stiffer challenge.

    "They're definitely going to come out and play harder, shoot the ball better and force-feed Amare a little bit more," he said before practice on Monday. "So it's going to be a tough test, the second game."

    Portland's guards dissected the Suns in the decisive fourth quarter, pulling away after the Suns led by two with five minutes to go. Miller matched his playoff career high with 31 points, with 15 in the final period. Jerryd Bayless scored 10 of his 18 in the fourth quarter.

    "Me and Jerryd were the guys trying to get to the basket and not rely on jump shots to give them easy transition baskets," Miller said. "Normally when you take bad jump shots or shots out of rhythm it leads to scores and transition baskets. By us driving to the basket and keeping the floor balanced we were able to control the tempo."

    The league's highest-scoring team at 110 per game, Phoenix managed just four fastbreak points all night. Meanwhile, the Blazers scored 20 points off turnovers.

    Portland had the second-best road record in the West (24-17) but lost Roy for the series when he had to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. After losing Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla to injuries earlier in the year, the Trail Blazers were accustomed to such situations.

    "It's got to be a team effort to make up for the loss of Brandon," coach Nate McMillan said. "I thought the guys last night, they did that."

    Besides, the Suns' Steve Nash said, Roy wasn't necessarily the reason Phoenix has had so much trouble with the Trail Blazers.

    "Most teams have a guy similar to Brandon, a superstar who can carry the load offensively," Nash said. "A lot of teams don't have two 7-footers or a long, athletic front line like they have that make it difficult for us."

    Stoudemire took 19 shots to score 18 points. And the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA made 11 of 32, 3 of 13 in the final quarter.

    Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge sensed Stoudemire's frustration.

    "A little bit because we had so many guys around him," Aldridge said, "and he really couldn't get anything going."

    Stoudemire had enough trouble with primary defender Marcus Camby, but said he had never had so many players collapse on him inside.

    "Every time I caught the ball in the post you had five guys inside the lane," Stoudemire said. "I've never seen that before in my career, that sign of respect. The whole team is trying to guard me out there. For the most part what we've got to continue to do now is shoot with confidence, play with confidence and realize how good we really are."

    Stoudemire worked on his jumper after practice Monday.

    "Just trying to get into a rhythm," he said, wiping off the sweat as he talked to reporters. "Offensively we didn't quite have our rhythm last night so I figured get a few extra shots up and we should be able to get our rhythm back."

    Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said before the series began that his team would be fine if it made its shots. After shooting an NBA-best 49 percent in the regular season, the Suns shot 41.8 percent in Game 1.

    "We shoot 41 percent we're going to struggle," Gentry said.

    Nash, though, said the loss cannot be simply attributed to missed shots.

    "You look at the tape and you look back at the game and you think 'We made a lot of mistakes,'" he said. "We made a lot of errors defensively, we gave away a lot of opportunities offensively - and we missed shots. To generalize it that we just didn't make our shots, I think that's hanging our hat on shooting too much. Yes, we're a great shooting team and we want to rely on that. But we want to be able to win games like we did the last game against them in the regular season when we didn't score a lot of points."

    That 93-87 victory in Phoenix on March 21 was the Suns' only one in four tries against Portland.

    In Game 1, the performance was not just about the numbers for a Phoenix team that entered the playoffs winner of 14 of its last 16 games.

    "We didn't quite have the spirit or the energy collectively that we had in the last few games of the regular season," Nash said. "Sometimes that happens."

    But in a game this important?

    "You can never predict. I mean, I thought we played hard. I just thought we didn't quite have that spark that we needed,'' he said. "I don't know - biorhythms."

    Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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