Team Records: Phoenix (6-11) at Portland (11-8)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW, radio on 750 AM the Game
Vegas Line: Portland -9.5
Refs: James Capers, Derrick Collins, Tre Maddox.
The Skinny: Following yet another road loss in Oakland, Portland returns home in search of a win against Phoenix. The Suns have been up and down this year, winning at New York and Boston but losing at home to Cleveland, Toronto and New Jersey. Phoenix will be without the services of backup center Robin Lopez tonight after he earned a one game suspension for making contact with an official during their loss to Toronto on Tuesday.
Last Time They Met: In what was probably the worst game the Blazers have played this year, Portland was blown out from the start in Phoenix. The Suns raced out to a double-digit lead after one and never looked back, winning easily.
Projected Suns Lineup:
PF: Channing Frye (Arizona, 6th season) – 7.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1 APG
SF: Grant Hill (Duke, 17th season) – 9.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.4 APG
C: Marcin Gortat (Poland, 4th season) – 15.4 PPG, 9.9 RPG, .9 APG
SG: Jared Dudley (Boston College, 4th season) – 9.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.6 APG
PG: Steve Nash (Santa Clara, 15th season) – 14.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 10.4 APG
Player to Watch: Steve Nash (pictured at right) – When the book on his career is finally closed in a couple years, two-time MVP Steve Nash will go down as one of the greatest point guards ever, as well as the greatest Canadian to ever play in the NBA. Nash may not be what he once was, but he still possess amazing passing skills and a deadly shot from virtually anywhere on the court. He is particularly devastating running the pick and roll, and he can throw great passes from either hand. While his defense isn’t the greatest, that is but a small quibble in the career of one of the greatest players of his (or any other) generation.
Did You Know?: Steve Nash is the only multiple-time MVP to never make the NBA Finals.
Portland: Out – C Greg Oden (knee)
Phoenix: Out – C Robin Lopez (suspension)
Re-Evaluating Phoenix: Their Magical Training Staff
Phoenix is known for many things, but perhaps most interestingly, they are known as the place where oft injured players go to recover and avoid serious injury. Just look at a player like Grant Hill, who played more than 60 games only twice between 2000-2007 while he was on the Orlando Magic. Since he has come to the Suns, he has played 80 or more games every single season except for his first (where he played 70, more than he had played since the 1999-2000 season). What is Phoenix’s secret? Well, clearly part of it is their training staff, but part of it also might be the history of Phoenix as a center of healing. It has long been believed that the desert climate has curative properties and maybe that, not the training staff, is the real secret to the Suns remaining healthy.
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 point guards 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. If they can do what they did in the first game and get hot from deep, they will stand a strong chance of beating the Blazers in Portland.