Well, Senor Sun-n-Gun had a domestic duty to attend to today in the land of McCain (it was moving day at the House of Sun-n-Gun!), so I’ve asked Reinwald (unrepentant Portland fan) to guest blog about today’s Game 4 up in the PDX.
So, Sun-n-Gunners, Game 4 turned out to be shocking only in how different it was from games 2 and 3. Portland led 54-50 at the half, and went on to win 96-87. Boy, that is a Blazer-paced game if I’ve ever seen one. Could the return of Brandon Roy really been the big difference-maker? Let’s see. But first, taking a page out of Nate’s earlier notes, let’s look at the first quarter score first: Phoenix led 27-26 after 1, a departure from Games 2 and 3, where PHO jumped out quickly on the Blazers (32-26 and 34-16, respectively). Brandon Roy didn’t start (he came off the bench to play 27 minutes, only 10 days after surgery on his knee), so what was the difference? Well, it could have been the return to health of Nic Batum, the defensive wiz who was truly a difference maker in Game 1 with both his half-court and transition defense and timely shooting. Perhaps his presence forced the Suns to shoot poorly (1-7) on 3pt FGs in the quarter, keeping the score close in that quarter. This fan thinks that it was an improved Portland defense, more than a sluggish PHO offense, that brought us to the halftime score of 54-50 Blazers. The Suns had 0 fast-break pts, and 0 second-chance points until 2 minutes left in the first half…that’s good defense.
Some other telling stats from the game: the Suns had 17 assists to the Blazers 26, despite the shooting percentages being roughly the same (both around the lower 40s). Doesn’t this point to slightly higher offensive efficiency for the Blazers? But the real deal for this game was the pace (Suns unable to force Portland into a quicker game, unlike games 2 and 3) and the lack of scoring from the Suns guards. For this fan, the ever-important matchup in this series is Richardson vs. the Blazers cohort opposite him. In games 2 and 3, J-Rich went for 29 and 42 (42!!), shooting a pretty high percentage. In game 4? 15 points on 6-16 shooting. That ain’t gonna get it done, especially on the road. Game 1? 14 points on 4-12 shooting. Yikes! Senor Sun-n-Gun doesn’t really want to consider this, but…as J-Rich goes, so go the Suns, at least in this series. His buckets usually come when the Suns are really runnin’ and in the a real offensive flow. So, while he doesn’t carry the Suns (that’s left to STAT and Nash), he is a good litmus test for the Suns offense. We’ll see if he continues to be so in the remaining 3 games. (I’m really excited that this is going 7, by the way. More Suns-Blazers can only mean good times!).
As for Roy, it was nice to see him back, as a Portland fan, even if he was only about 70%. I hope that he can pull a STAT and come back strong (albeit almost 3 years later) from a knee injury. I don’t expect him to have much of an impact on the series going forward, but maybe, with the crowd being especially rowdy in PDX, his presence in uniform was enough to rouse the Blazers to victory. Here’s hoping, right?
Since I have the platform currently, I will say that I DO expect Phoenix to eventually win the series. I’m pretty surprised, as are (most likely) the Suns themselves, that the series is tied 2-2. Perhaps Blazed and dekko were right…the Blazers were hoping for the Suns all along, given the pace and style of play differences. But now the series is down to three games, and clearly home court doesn’t really matter. So we’ll see if the Suns, or the Blazers, can impose their will. Looking forward to Game 5…