Suns News

Suns-Blazers Game 2 Preview

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

Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry knows his team. That’s why the fact that the Suns are down 1-0 to the sixth-seeded Blazers doesn’t have him reaching for the panic button.

Before the season started, most of the experts predicted that the Suns would do no better than an eighth seed in the playoffs. Then, after getting off to a hot start, the team went through some cold stretches where they lost nine of 15 and then eight of 11.

But still they rebounded. Even with hoards of national media attention descending on Phoenix before the trade deadline, the team thrived.

So what does that say about this team? Gentry knows that his players covet the role of the underdog.

“We’re a much better team when we have our backs against the wall,” Gentry said after practice Monday. “Even when we went through a tough time where we lost 12 of 18, not one guy wavered from what we do.”

So what are the keys to winning Game 2?

1. Contain Andre Miller: The 6-2 guard wreaked havoc on the Suns’ defense to the tune of 31 points and eight assists in Game 1.

“He did a really good job of controlling the game for them,” Grant Hill said. “Andre is unique as a point guard because he’s got size and he kind of reminds me of a little Carmelo (Anthony). He’s big, he can get to the paint, he plays the angles well and he makes things difficult.”

2. Support STAT: With Amar'e Stoudemire having various players defending him and running at him, STAT was kept on his toes.

“He wants to come out and have a great Game 1 but (the lane) is crowded and he’s not getting the freedom that he wants,” Nash said of his fellow teammate. “I think as teammates we have to try do a little better job of getting him the ball in situations where he thrives.”

But Nash cautioned against the tendency to want to force-feed such an offensive weapon.

“We have to be careful in finding that right balance of getting him the ball and using his talents, but at the same time, not being stubborn and playing into their hands,” the two-time MVP said.

3. Hit Open Looks: It was unanimous amongst the players and the coaching staff that they were getting the right looks at the basket yesterday, they were just uncharacteristically unable to knock them down. In fact, the Suns, who boasted the highest field goal percentage of any team in the league this past season, haven’t shot 50 percent or higher against the Blazers all season. In Game 1, they shot only 42 percent.

“We were real happy with the looks we got,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “Despite all of that we still had a chance to tie the game at the end.”

Nash agreed with his coach.

“I thought we got a lot of good looks and missed a lot of wide-open threes,” he noted.

The Law of Averages state that the Suns will shoot 49 percent for the series, so if that's the case, you can count on an explosion in one of upcoming games.

4. Provide More Movement: Grant Hill believed that the team was a little stagnant on the offensive end after the Blazers took away the pick-and-roll by sending in a third player to help.

With the first option being taken away, the Suns players seemed paralyzed on what to do next. The offense seemed to sputter, as players stood around the perimeter and watched their fellow teammates.

“When we get a shot and it’s in rhythm, we tend to make them more,” Hill said. “When there’s movement and there’s hard cuts, we end to make those shots. When we’re just standing around and not moving, we tend to miss those shots.”

The Blazers were able to run multiple players at Stoudemire, while still being able to recover to the Suns’ shooters. It’s a strategy the Suns don’t believe the Blazers can keep up over the course of a series.

“They’re really good defensively, but they can’t have three guys on Amar’e and close out on all the shooters too,” Gentry said.

5. Limit the Blazers’ Supporting Cast: The Suns have to stifle Portland’s secondary threats. Camby, who according to Stoudemire, is one of the longest players in the league, cannot be allowed to crash the boards from the weak side. Camby had 17 rebounds last game.

In addition, Portland’s role players must be deterred from stepping up and providing a valuable scoring punch. Both second-year players Jerryd Bayless and Nicolas Batum poured in 18 points apiece in the absence of Brandon Roy.

“The thing that you can’t have is Batum and Bayless having two big games against you,” Gentry said. “We’re going to have to slow one of those guys down.”

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