Suns News

Newsroom Notes: STAT Contained, Scouting Portland & Top 5 Notes

STAT was only 8-of-19 from the field.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: April 19, 2010

Sitting on press row and watching the Suns’ Amar’e Stoudemire post up against a taller and longer Marcus Camby, something seemed amiss.

That’s because STAT usually doesn’t spend most of his night posting up and playing with his back to the basket on the block. In fact, he prefers to face up against his defender, especially those that are slower afoot.

“We’re going to have to give the ball to him in a good location,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “Camby is too long. We don’t want Amar’e against him along the baseline; we want to give him some room.”

The result of his placement on the court was an 18-point effort where he shot 8-of-19 from the field and only attempted three free throws. Those are obviously not the worst numbers, but well below the recent play of Stoudemire, who has averaged 26.8 points and 9.4 rebounds on 60 percent shooting in his last 16 games.

The Blazers threw an array of defenders at STAT, which kept him off-guard the entire evening. Besides having to deal with Camby, who may be the longest player in the NBA, STAT also contended with the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge and veteran Juwan Howard.

“We mixed up our defense with LaMarcus, Camby and Howard,” Blazer Head Coach Nate McMillan said. “I thought Camby made him work and really didn’t give him anything easy.”

STAT believed that receiving the ball mid-post would help create better opportunities, as well as catching the ball on the move. His point guard agreed.

“We have to put him in better positions for him to use his abilities instead of just throwing him the ball and then (Portland) just basically playing a zone,” Nash said. “We’ll try to free him up and give him more opportunities, space and different looks so it’s just not so predictable.”

Scouting the Blazers

As stressful as the race to the finish was for the Suns, the person in the organization that may have had it the worst down the stretch wasn’t Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry or Suns GM Steve Kerr… it was Noel Gillespie.

Gillespie, for those of you that don’t know, is the Suns’ advance scout. Basically, he’s the guy that scouts opposing teams on the road right before the Suns play them.

With just two games to go in the regular season, the Suns still had eight possible configurations of where and who they were going to play. For a man trying to prepare for the first round, he pretty much had to scout everybody in the Western Conference.

Those are a lot of teams to scout at one time.

“It was hectic because it all came down to the last game of the season for everyone in the NBA,” Gillespie said. “Myself and the video staff had to prepared for any scenario.”

One bonus for Gillespie was that the Suns, who had a high-percentage chance of facing Utah or Denver in the first round, played those two clubs the last two games of the season. But in the end, the Suns battled their way into the No. 3 seed and drew Portland at home.

Gillespie believes that the key to the first-round series will be the Suns ability to play their game despite Portland’s renowned defense. That was something that the team did not accomplish in Game 1.


Gillespie believes that stopping the Blazers comes down to containing Aldridge and Miller.
(Josh Greene/Suns.com)

With Blazers leading scorer Brandon Roy electing to undergo knee surgery and miss the first-round series, Gillespie thinks that power forward LaMarcus Aldridge will be the player that steps up the most.

“We know they’re going to go to Aldridge in the post so we’re going to have to limit his touches,” Gillespie said. “We have to be prepared for a steady diet of him. Aldridge is a handful for anyone talented post player that can score in the block and step out.”

The Suns scout also believes that Andre Miller will step up for them. In Game 1, he tied a playoff-career high.

“Andre Miller is real good with the ball in his hands and he led the NBA in assists when he was younger,” Gillespie said. “You can give it to him the post where he has mismatches. He had 52 in a game this season.”

After those two spearheading the attack, Gillespie believes the Blazers’ depth could be an issue.

“Martell Webster is strong and can shoot the ball, Rudy Fernandez is an Energizer bunny and Jerryd Bayless hurt us earlier this year up in Portland,” Gillespie added.

Gillespie reiterated that it's a team game in the playoffs and that the notion of one player being ultra-important is a little overblown.

“We’ve looked this up,” he noted. “Scorers in this league like Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan can end up scoring the most points and their team still not winning. I don’t think for this season we can pigeonhole and say if we stop this one guy we’re going to win.”

Besides Gillespie, regional scouts, other members of the front office brass, the coaching staff, video coordinator Elvis Valcarcel and video intern Nick Uren all help with formulating a game plan to disrupt the opponent.

“Not to sound cliché but we think it’s going to be a team-game,” Gillespie said. “The playoffs are all about adjustments, so it’ll be good for the coaching staff and the players to play one game and then make adjustments after that.”

It appears as if Gillespie’s predictions for the series were right on the money for Game 1, let’s hope the team’s adjustments in Game 2 follow suit.

Top 5 Notes From Game 1

1. X-Factor: Portland’s Nicolas Batum, who had only scored in double figures once in his last nine games, poured in 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and 3-of-8 shooting from three-point land. With leading scorer Brandon Roy out, someone had to step up and Batum was among those there to pick up the slack.

“Everybody is in the plan, with Nick hitting shots and Andre penetrating and getting the shots,” Blazers reserve Jerryd Bayless said.

2. Miller Time: In the words of the famed rapper Eminem, “Y’all forgot about Dre.” Andre Miller tied a career-playoff high with 31 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the floor. He also registered eight assists.

“He’s one of those guys that’s very comfortable with the basketball in his hands as far as backing down,” Gentry said. “For the most part, he controlled the game with his isolation and we have to do a better job of guarding him and doubling down on him like we’re supposed to."

3. Fast-Break Points: The Blazers, who are known as one of the most methodical teams in the league, outscored the Suns 10-4 in fast-break points.

“We only had four fast-break points so we have to up the tempo and loosen up their defense and get better looks,” Stoudemire said.

4. Home-Court Surrendered: The rest of the higher seeds in the NBA were 7-0 coming into the Suns-Blazers game and without Brandon Roy, the Suns seemed like they were even a bigger favorite after winning 14 of their last 16. But the Suns, who were 43-5 in the regular season after leading after three quarters, gave up 35 points in the fourth to go down 1-0 in the series.

5. No Trey Bien: The Suns, who shot a league-high 41 percent from downtown in 2009-10, set a team record for highest three-point percentage this season. In fact, it was the second-highest percentage in NBA history. But Sunday, they shot 34 percent from deep, including 3-of-13 in the fourth period.

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