Team Records: Portland (5-1) at Phoenix (2-4)
Game Info: 7:30 PM-TV on KGW/ESPN and online at ESPN3, Radio on 750 AM the Game.
Vegas Line: Portland -2.5
Refs: Derrick Stafford, Kevin Cutler, Pat Fraher
The Skinny: Following an always enjoyable home win over the Lakers, the Blazers travel to Phoenix to complete a back to back. The Suns are but a shadow of the team that made the Western Conference Finals two years ago and have struggled out of the gate. The Blazers 5-1 start is their best since the last lockout-shortened season back in 1999.
Last season: The Blazers won the season series 3-1 with the Suns avoiding the sweep by winning the final game in Phoenix.
Projected Suns Lineup:
PF-Channing Frye (Arizona-6th Season) 5.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1 APG.
SF-Grant Hill (Duke-17th Season)-9.7 PPG, 4 RPG, 1.7 APG.
C-Marcin Gortat (Poland-4th Season)-11.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, .2 APG
SG-Jared Dudley (Boston College-4th Season)-25.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 6 APG.
PG-Steve Nash (Santa Clara-15th Season)-11.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 8.7 APG.
Player to Watch-Marcin Gortat (pictured at right)-Acquired as part of the Vince Carter/Jason Richardson trade last season, Gortat has been a revelation for the Suns. He recorded 15 double doubles off the bench last season and has consequently earned the starting role for this season. The so-called “Polish Hammer”, Gortat seemingly does it all for the Suns inside. He is a solid defender with strong shot-blocking ability, even if he loses focus at times. On offense, he is mobile and can either roll to the hoop or hit the mid range J. He is certainly someone the Blazers will have to play close attention to tonight.
Did You Know?: The Suns are the winningest franchise never to win an NBA Championship.
Portland: Out-C Greg Oden (Knee).
Phoenix: Probable-C Marcin Gortat (Thumb)
Oh, the old gray Suns, they ain’t what they used to be, Ain’t what they used to be, ain’t what they used to be. The old gray Suns, they ain’t what they used to be, Many long years ago (Adapted from “The Old Gray Mare” song first published in 1843). When you think of the Phoenix Suns, it is hard not to think of how good they once were and as a team with far more of a past than a future. The Suns are basically the same team they have been the past few seasons, just older and declining fairly quickly. They are an offense-first group, playing a free flowing style relying heavily on three pointers, which almost everyone on the team can make. On defense, they have improved a bit, holding four of their first six opponents under 100 points. However, the decrease in points allowed is significantly less than the decrease in points scored. The Suns may be dangerous on any one night because they still possess a fire amount of offensive firepower but those nights are few and far between nowadays. It is sad to see one of the greatest PGs of all time, Steve Nash, close out his career on such a team but for now, it is what is.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They make Steven Nash a scorer and not a distributor. Nash may not be the player he once was but he is still one of the best PGs to ever play the game. He is far more dangerous as a distributor than as a scorer. If the Blazers can make him shoot, rather than pass, the ball, they stand a very good chance of winning this one.
Phoenix wins if: They have a good night from deep. Phoenix relies heavily on the three point shot to win games. Against a team with strong interior defense like Portland, it will be even more important than usual to hit their outside shots if they are to have a hope in beating Portland.