Team Records: Portland (28-33) at Phoenix (31-29)
Game Info: 7 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 750 AM the Game.
Vegas Line: Phoenix -5
Refs: Scott Foster, Kevin Cutler, Zach Zarba.
The Skinny: Following a late collapse in Sacramento last night, the Blazers travel to Phoenix to play a Suns team needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Suns trail the Rockets by one game for the final playoff spot and given that their star PG Steve Nash is a free agent this summer, this could be the last chance Phoenix has for a while. The Suns are coming off a shellacking by the Spurs where they trailed by 22 after one and it was all garbage time after that.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers blew the doors off the Suns, limiting Phoenix to 21 points in the second and third quarters combined as they won by 34. Every Blazer active that night scored, except Camby, who notched 20 boards.
Projected Suns Lineup:
PF-Channing Frye (Arizona-6th Season) 10.5 PPG, 6 RPG, 1.3 APG.
SF-Jared Dudley (Boston College-5th Season)-12.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.8 APG.
C-Marcin Gortat (Poland-4th Season)-15.9 PPG, 9.9 RPG, .9 APG
SG-Shannon Brown (Michigan State-6th Season)-10.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.1 APG.
PG-Steve Nash (Santa Clara-15th Season)-12.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 11.1 APG.
Player to Watch-Jared Dudley (pictured at right)-To look at Dudley is to wonder at first if he is a player with more talent than smarts. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Dudley makes the most of what he has, being selectively aggressive when warranted, taking and making open 3s when he gets them, crashing the offensive glass with effectiveness and drawing a ton of fouls. Dudley struggles against more athletic players on defense but even there he is rarely out of position and makes the most of what he has. He may not be a star but Dudley will bring it every night and in the end, that is all you can ask for.
Did You Know?: Phoenix swept a back to back to back last month, the only other teams to do so this year are Chicago, OKC and San Antonio.
Song of the Day: “Nobody Likes Me” by Alice Cooper-Alice Cooper is a longtime Phoenix resident and so its appropriate to go with one of his songs. In honor of the players who will soon be cast aside by their teams in free agency, we will go with this one. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-SG Elliot Williams (Shoulder), PF Shawne Williams (Foot), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Hip), SF Nicolas Batum (Quad), PG Raymond Felton (Personal/Rest).
Phoenix: Probable-SF Grant Hill (Knee).
Re-Evaluating Phoenix: Nash’s Last Ride in the Valley of the Sun?
As many Blazer fans know, Steve Nash is a free agent after this season and it has long been rumored that he will be leaving the Suns when that day comes. After all, he stands next to no chance of winning a title with the Suns and if he wants to go ring chasing no one can blame him for that. Still, it may not be so easy for Nash to leave Phoenix. After all, by doing so he would be leaving behind the magical Phoenix training staff and who knows if he would be able to play as long or as well without their magical help. Add to that the fact that Nash himself has said, and seems to really mean, that he doesn’t want to leave the Suns, and he might well come back for another go-around in Phoenix next season.
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. 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 and keeping their playoff hopes alive.