There were moments in this game where it felt like there could be just enough magic left in this season to force a game seven. A Portland second-half run knotted the game at 76-76, and you could feel the momentum building. But, as they had most of the series, the Phoenix Suns had all of the answers.
The Trail Blazers led 2-0 in this game, and couldn't ever get over the hump again. After tieing the game at 76, the Suns responded with six-straight points, and eventually the run grew to 18-6, and they sailed on to victory in game six, 99-90. They win the series four games to two. The second-straight season the Blazers have fallen in six games, in the opening round.
As we've mentioned, it was a strange series. I really didn't think we'd be sitting here, when it was all said and done, talking about Phoenix's defense being the key. But, it truly was the difference. The Blazers could never figure out a way to attack the Suns, after they pulled the upset in game one.
In game six, it was simply more of the same. The Suns played a harassing-style of defense, double teaming their main targets, and playing terrific help defense to cover everyone else. Portland fought the shot clock much of the night, struggled to get quality looks at the hoop, and were just always a step behind.
There are things the Trail Blazers could have done differently, as the offense struggled to find any kind of a flow. I promise you it'll be sleepless few nights for the Portland coaching staff, as they will continue to work this puzzle even though it's now over. In the end, in this game, the Blazers just didn't appear to have enough bullets in the gun, and the emotional tank was running dry.
I know the Portland coaches and players will be second guessed. That comes with the territory. But, you do have to give a lot of credit to Phoenix in this series. They did something I truly didn't think they were capable of doing- they took the Blazers out of the game plan, repeatedly, and shut them down.
It was the same story through much of this series. The styles didn't really change that much. Portland's only hope, in different situations, was that the Suns would go cold. When they got hot, like they did in game six, there wasn't much Portland could do to slow them down. The Suns shot 52 percent from behind the three-point line, and once again outrebounded the Blazers. Portland shot just 38 percent.
The two players the Suns wanted taken out of the offense, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, ended game six a combined 9 for 33. Andre Miller was 2 for 10. It wasn't Portland's bench in this one, as Jerryd Bayless did what he could, and had a good series. Martell Webster was 6 for 10 in game six, and also played well in the series. Even Rudy Fernandez bounced back and had a good final game, shooting 5 for 6, and scoring 16 points.
But, the Suns, led once again by Jason Richardson, who was the MVP of the series, had 28 points on 10 for 16 shooting. He got hot again from behind the three-point line, shooting 5 for 8. They simply answered every Portland run, and snuffed out a deafening Rose Garden crowd, that so badly wanted to lift their team to a big win.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here.
Now it's that awkward feeling. It's over. And, none of us, especially those very close to the team, know what to do next. I had a bag packed, ready to head to Phoenix on Friday to get ready for a game 7. The only people that are going to be happy in the morning are my kids, who are too young to get most of this. They just know they won't have to say goodbye again, as Dad hits the road.
For the rest of us, we can being this period of looking back, and looking forward. Who have we seen the last of on this Blazers roster? Who will be back? And, what will the expectations be going into next season.
We've got a lot of time to think about that, unfortunately.
What a season. So many lows, mixed in with some incredible highs. Nothing, and I mean nothing, went as planned.
It's been a heck of a seven-month ride.
Use perspective when remembering everything. It's hard to do at this point, but that's the challenge. I just wish we weren't facing all of this now. This is the nature of this business, and we move forward.
Thanks for being along for the journey.