Posted Apr 20 2010 10:54AM
PHOENIX -- Everybody tries to slow the Suns down. The Trail Blazers succeed.
During the season, the Suns rolled up more than 110 points a game against the entire NBA. They've averaged just 99 against the Blazers.
LaMarcus Aldridge nodded across the floor and grinned.
"Andre Miller," he said, "that's one cool dude."
Miller could teach diamond cutters not to fidget, tightrope walkers not to look down, penguins not to sweat. In the opener of the playoff series where an aging point guard was supposed to be the focus of all the attention, Miller was the blur racing across your TV screen.
OK, maybe not a blur as much as a freight train barreling down the tracks for his destination with a full load of 31 points and eight assists.
In Game 1 on Sunday night, Miller was headed again and again and again for the basket through the teeth of the improved Phoenix defense. In the longer view of the playoff series, he is looking to finally advance.
This is Miller's 11th season in the NBA, and his sixth trip to the playoffs. He has never won a series.
"It's the past, really," said the 34-year-old Miller. "I just haven't won a series. I've had good experiences in my times with Denver going to the playoffs. It was fun in Philly going to the playoffs both years. It's the past. You definitely want to move forward and learn from the past, but it's tough when you're playing against good teams that are trying to do the same thing."
Miller played three seasons with those Denver teams that were full of talent yet lacking in the details to succeed in the postseason. Then he was traded to Philadelphia in the deal for Allen Iverson and helped the 76ers build 2-1 leads over Detroit (2008) and Orlando (2009) only to fade and lose in six games both times.
"You learn things," Miller said.
"Against Orlando, that's when Sam Dalembert got elbowed by Dwight Howard," he said. "I felt he should have been ejected. But they didn't eject him. They suspended him for the next game and I think that lapse (we had) when they put (Marcin) Gortat into the lineup, he brought so much energy. We didn't take him for granted, but that team thrived on proving they could play without Howard."
A year earlier against Detroit?
"The experience," Miller said. "That team had been to the conference finals I don't know how many years in a row and we were up 10-plus points in Game 4 and could have gone up 3-1 in the series and a whole different team just came out. They buckled down and everything was very tough to do from then on."
Call them learning experiences or call them scars, but know that Miller carries them up and down the floor on every possession this time around.
Suns coach Alvin Gentry had Miller on his team for one season with the Clippers.
"He's a real smart player and he loves playing basketball," said Gentry, who coached the Clippers for 2 1/2 seasons. "He'll play anytime, anywhere. He's really taken care of his body. The guy has played (612) straight games, so he's a guy that doesn't get hurt. What he does, he does well. What he is is a post-up guard that can get the ball down there and do some things."
It is more than just his ability to go down the throat of the lane, get to the hoop and score baskets that makes him dangerous to Phoenix. It is the way Miller can control the pace of the game like a yo-yo that makes the go-go-go Suns often feel that they're the cogs in a machine without oil.
Every team that tries to slow the Suns down cautions itself against getting caught up in a track meet. But only the Blazers consistently make the Suns look and feel like they're lugging around a shot put.
"You want to use the clock, slow the game down, not give Phoenix a lot of shots," Aldridge said. "But that's easier said than done. You need to have a point guard who won't get sucked into that style. You need a guy who's smart enough to resist those temptations to take the quick shots and stay with his game.
"I always knew he was good. We played him when he was in Philly and he killed us every time. So when we signed him and he came over here, it wasn't like I was surprised and suddenly said, 'Oh, he's this good!' He's been this good. He makes the guys around him so much better."
And he keeps them calm even in a season when the Blazers could have been buried under and avalanche of injuries.
"He always talks to us," Aldridge said. "He's been through so much, him and Juwan (Howard). They talked to us all year, saying things happen, you're gonna have injuries. They've been little birds in our ears keeping us advancing and telling us what to do."
Now the little birdie tweets a simple message for the Blazers from the scars and experiences of his past.
"Just play and move onto the next game," said Andre Miller.
Like even the penguins say ... one cool dude.
Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here.
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