Trail Blazers @ Suns: Game 71 Preview
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  1. DHawes22
    DHawes22
    Posts: 6488

    Posted 03/21/2010 12:50 PM




     After flirting with disaster Friday night against Washington, Portland (42-28) heads down to the valley of the sun to take on Phoenix (43-26). Normally the run and gun Suns have been a thorn in the Trail Blazers side, yet recently Portland has controlled the series, winners of four straight dating back to last season. Wins this season have included a thrilling, 105-102 come from behind win and a wire-to-wire 108-101 victory in US Airways Center before the All-Star break. Portland has exercised many road demons this year, San Antonio, Dallas X2, Golden State, and even Phoenix, where Portland had lost their previous nine trips. Recent history gives Portland the advantage going into tonight's battle, but it is extremely difficult sweeping a season series from a team, let alone winning twice in an arena known to be unkind to the visitors from the northwest.

    With only 12 games left in the season, every game counts ands means more as the season winds down, but I can't think of a more bigger game the rest of the year than tonight. The Trail Blazers are only 1.5 games out of 5th place in the Western Conference and only two games behind the Suns in the loss column. A win and the Blazers sneak within a game of the Suns while a loss puts them three full games back, nearly an insurmountable deficit with so little time remaining in the season. As mentioned, there are only 12 games left, and tonight is one of six swing games (Phoenix, Dallas x2, @OKC, @LA, @Denver), meaning Portland may not be favored to win but needs to pull out at least one or two of these "swing" games if they have any aspirations of getting as high as 5th in the West. Obviously the focus was lost somewhere between shoot-around and tip-off for the Wizards game, something that can not happen against the caliber of opponent like Phoenix.

    Two players will decide Portland's fate tonight, Nico Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge. If I were Coach Nate, I'd stick Batum and his long arms all over Steve Nash the entire game, hounding him at every opportunity, and making him work hard for everything he gets. The ageless wonder Nash has been battling back injuries and his stamina isn't once what it used to be. He is the ringleader of that offense, the pilot, engineer, etc, and if Batum can disrupt any of his rhythym, it could throw off the entire Suns offensive flow. While Nico will have his hands full with Nash, LA needs another gut check tonight against Amare Stoudamire. The L-Train was out in full force Sunday night in his head-to-head matchup with Chris Bosh, and he'll need to bring the same type of aggression and assertiveness needed to hang with STAT. Amare is coming off a once in a lifetime performance again Utah as he tallied 44 points on a insane 14-16 from the floor and 16-18 from the charity stripe. Its one thing if he's canning his jumper, but to contain him, Aldridge must not allow the blow-by drives to occur.

    Anytime you deal with the Suns, priority #1 is to defend the three-point line. As a team, Phoenix shoots the three at a .406 clip, good enough for tops in the league. Nash, Hill, Barbosa, Frye, Dragic, Richardson, Hill, and Dudley are all marksmen from deep and the Suns always have a minimum of three long-range shooters on the court at once, so the Trail Blazers can not be lazy on their rotations otherwise it'll be raining trifectas in the desert. I believe the key to victory is to hold them to around 35% from distance. Although Phoenix shot 47.6% and 36.4% respectively during the previous two meetings, allowing that type of shooting again is a recipe for disaster.

    I'm extremely excited for this matchup, more so than usual, considering I'll be in attendance tonight at the US Airways Center. I only wish we would have lost the last game in Arizona, because the chances of winning in the desert twice in one season are incredibly slim. I don't expect either Nash or Amare to completely take over, rather look for role players such as Grant Hill or Channing Frye to heat up and hit momentum boosting shots to keep Portland at bay the entire night. The Trail Blazers will be within striking distance, but the hot shooting Suns will always have an answer.

    Game 71 Prediction: Trail Blazers 98 Suns 105
    Trail Blazers/Suns Game 71 Preview
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