Trail Blazers vs Suns Thursday, 04/22/10 AT 07:00PM

Another Awful First Half Dooms The Blazers In Game 3

04/22/10
  1. Written by: caseyholdahl

    The Trail Blazers and Suns played at the Rose Garden Thursday night. Portland wore their white home jerseys, with Phoenix in their orange road uniforms. The Trail Blazers dressed in their familiar home locker room, the Suns in the drab, non-descript visitor’s digs. All these things were different than they were in Game 2, but the outcome of Game 3, the thing that mattered most, was all too familiar. As was the case two days before, the Trail Blazers fell behind early and were never able to recover, falling 108-89 to the Suns and 2-1 in the first round series.

    “The first quarters have really decided the games (in Games 2 and 3),” said Portland Head Coach Nate McMillan. “It seems like both quarters were the same. LaMarcus  (Aldridge) is in foul trouble and we have to go to our bench. They get off to a fast start; we give up three 30-point quarters. The first half was basically just like the last game.”

    Portland went into the half down 66-37 after allowing the Suns to shoot 57 percent from the field and 50 percent from three in the first two quarters. In contrast, the Trail Blazers shot just 36 percent from the field and a crippling 13 percent from three. To make matters worse, Portland converted on just 8-of-14 free throws in the first two quarters.

    “Tonight we just seemed tight,” said McMillan. “I thought the first half, we seemed to be a little tight, maybe putting some pressure on ourselves. It looked like the first game.”

    The Trail Blazers showed some fight in the second half, outscoring the Suns 52-42 in the final two quarters, but were unable to come up with the timely stops that would be needed to come back from a significant halftime deficit.

    “I thought the first half we didn't show any calmness and then the second half we fought our way back into the game,” said McMillan. “We get within 11 with about six minutes to go ... and we foul three straight trips, put them on the free throw line… “You've made a run, six minutes to go, a lot of time, get a stop, make them earn it. But don't put them on the free throw line.”

    Andre Miller and LaMarcus Aldridge, the two players Portland looks to primarily for scoring with Brandon Roy out of the lineup, once again struggled from the field. The duo faced constant double-teams all night, which contributed to their shooting a combined 9-for-25 from the field. Matters were made worse when both players picked up two personal fouls in the first half.

    “It's put a lot of pressure on other guys to have to do something when LA has been in foul trouble early in the first quarter,” said McMillan. “… We've been in holes the first half with foul trouble and basically them loading up and trying to take out LaMarcus and Miller and we've struggled to get other guys going. We can't get in foul trouble, one. And two, the guys have to make plays. When they get their opportunities they're going to have to knock down some shots because what they're doing is double-teaming LaMarcus pretty much on catch. Miller, they're sending a crowd to him in pick and rolls and his postups.”

    If the Trail Blazers are to even up the series 2-2 Saturday afternoon at the Rose Garden, they’ll have to take what good they can from the second half of Game 2 and apply those lessons to the start of Game 4.

    “You've got to battle,” said McMillan. “You've got to get up into these guys and guard them. We won the second half and that was something we need to take into the game on Saturday: that we did win the second half. We've beaten this team before. We can do it, but we can't start the way we have in the last two games.”

    Notes: Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum left the game late in the second quarter after agrivating a pre-existing right shoulder strain. His status for Saturday’s game is unknown.

    Suns guard Jason Richardson, who scored a game-high 29 points in Game 2, went off again to the tune of 42 points on 13-for-19 shooting. Richardson did much of his damage shooting wide-open jumpers from beyond the arc, finishing the game 8-for-12 deep.

    “I think that is my best game as a pro,” said Richardson. “Nine years in the league, I’ve only been in the playoffs twice. I spent seven summers at home, and right now I’m just not taking anything for granted. I’m leaving everything on the floor.”

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