Suns News

Newsroom Notes: J-Rich Erupts for 42 Points in Game 3 Win

J-Rich was also 8-of-10 from the line.
(Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images)
By Stefan Swiat,
Posted: April 22, 2010

DJ Factor, a.k.a Jason Richardson has been the factor in the playoffs for the Suns this season.

Exploding for 21 first-half points, Jason Richardson led a scoring barrage that racked up 66 first-half points as the Suns rolled to a 108-89 road victory over the Blazers in Game 3 of their first-round series on Thursday.

After thwarting Phoenix with its defense and slow-down style in Game 1, Portland has succumbed to Phoenix’s offensive prowess the last two games. That offensive barrage has been led by none other than Richardson.

In back-to-back games, J-Rich has asserted himself as the Suns’ primary offensive weapon. The 6-6 jumping-jack was a point shy of matching a playoff-career-high in Game 2 by registering 29 points, but would smash that record Thursday by erupting for a playoff career-high 42 points.

“I think that is my best game as a pro,” he said. “Nine years in the league, I’ve only been in the playoffs twice. I spent seven summers at home, and right now I’m just not taking anything for granted. I’m leaving everything on the floor.”

Falling just two shy of his all-time career-high, Richardson shot 13-for-19 from the floor, including 8-of-12 from behind the arc. He also added eight rebounds, three steals and didn't turn the ball over once.

Not only did his 21 first-half points propel the team to a 29-point halftime lead, but he scored 13 of the team’s 15 points in the third period to keep the lead comfortable. Due to the fact that Amar’e Stoudemire is getting double-teamed on the pick-and-rolls, that defender that helps down on him causes the defense to shift, leaving Richardson open two passes away.

“It’s important for us to knock down shots when they clog the middle and zone up the middle, and tonight he just caught fire,” Suns playmaker Steve Nash said about his backcourt partner. “When he shoots it like that we’re going to be difficult to beat, and he was phenomenal tonight.”

That means that in the last two games, the former Spartan is shooting 22-of-33 from the field and 12-of-17 from downtown. Not that there weren’t signs of this current explosion towards the end of the regular season.

The two-time slam dunk champ totaled 20 or more points in 15 of his last 26 games. Fitting the bill as the team’s X-factor, the Suns are 40-9 all-time when he scores 20-plus points.

His 42 points were the most by a Sun in a playoff game since June 1, 2005 when STAT dropped the same amount on San Antonio. No Suns player has scored over 42 in the playoffs since Kevin Johnson did so in 1995.

Road Warriors

Barnstorming their way to a 12-4 road record in March, April and May, the Suns picked up where they left off on the road in the playoffs.

Somwhere within the Suns, a switch went off at the end of February. Before that 12-4 run on the road, the Suns were 1-12 in their previous 13 games away from US Airways Center.

“I think we’ve just gotten better defensively and we’ve done a good job in our rotations," Gentry said. "We've also done a good job with our individual defense. We’ve really minimized straight-line drives to the basket, which put you in a tough situation and then we’ve been able to rebound the basketball.“

During the 12-4 stretch, the Suns put up four more points a game, shot seven percent better from the floor than their foes and forced their opponents into shooting three percent lower from the floor.

“We played well on the road early in the year, I thought we even played well in December and January, we just gave up big leads,” Suns forward Grant Hill said. “I think our defense got better, we got J-Rich more involved in our offense to add variety and we learned from some of our midseason failures to become sharper on offense and really improve on defense.”

Top 5 Keys to Victory

1. Points in the Paint: The Suns jumped all over the Blazers to start the night and proved to be the aggressor from the opening whistle. Phoenix held an 18-8 advantage in the paint over Portland after the first quarter.

“You saw in the introduction and how loud it can get and how much they are into the team here,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “So we thought that if we could get off to a good start and keep the crowd out of the game and establish how we were going to play, it’d be great.”

2. Fast-Break Points: The Suns did a good job at pushing the tempo, manufacturing an 11-5 advantage in fast-break points after three quarters. Since Game 1, the Suns’ locker room has talked greatly about the importance of maintaining a quicker tempo, and the fast-break-point differential proves that they’ve been able to establish their pace.

“If we get them in their half-court defense, they’re as good as any team in the NBA,” Gentry said. “It’s really difficult to score against these guys in the half-court.”

3. 3-Point Land: Phoenix shot a sweltering 13-of-28 from downtown in Game 3, which was also an improvement over the red-hot 40 percent that the club shot in Game 2. The Suns, who boasted the highest three-point percentage of any team in the league this season, have displayed why in their last two outings.

4. Turnovers: For a team that tries to control the game, every possession counts. The Suns made better use of six more possessions, forcing the Blazers to cough up the ball nine times, while the Suns only turned it over three times in the first half.

Gentry said that a lot of the credit has to go to Channing Frye, who’s handled the ball more with Nash getting trapped on the pick-and-roll. Frye has been reversing the ball and finding shooters like Richardson open in the corner.

5. Miller Can't Be a Killer: Once again, Andre Miller was kept at bay by Hill. Miller was held to just seven first-half points and two turnovers. Miller finished with 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting.

“They’ve got size in Hill, so we’ve been in holes in the first half with foul trouble and them loading up and trying to take out LaMarcus and Miller,” Blazers Head Coach Nate McMillan said. “We’ve struggled to get other guys going. We can’t get in foul trouble, one. And two, other guys got to make plays.”

Can’t Wave the Batum: Nicolas Batum tried to play through a strained right shoulder, but couldn’t go for the Blazers after trying to play in the first half. Batum, who scored 18 in Game 1, was in street clothes in the second half. Playing injured, Batum only mustered three points on 1-of-4 shooting.

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