My disclaimer before I begin is that I haven’t really seen much of the last two games because I had to work during the first halves, then I was disgusted when I tuned into the second and quit watching almost immediately. These analyses will be based solely on the numbers…
Great things about the first game: While the Blazers didn’t out-rebound the Suns, they turned the ball over less, outscored the Suns in the paint (44-38), out-shot the suns 1.01 to 0.96 in points per shot, and surprisingly won the fastbreak scoring battle 10-4. Amare was held to 18 points on just 42% shooting from the floor. The pace was at about the NBA average, 98 possessions.
In the last two games, there has been very little difference between the two teams in the turnover battle, very little difference in the rebounding battle (Phoenix was +9 in game two, but much of that was probably due to the fact that Portland shot 38% from the floor and Phoenix shot 52%), Amare has performed slightly below Amare (19 points, 5.5 boards on 54% shooting), and the pace has slowed down to Portland’s regular season pace almost exactly. No obvious edge to Phoenix anywhere here.
One key difference I see is that Phoenix blew up inside the key in game two, going off for 58 points in the paint leading to a 52.3% field goal percentage. Amare made just five field goals, so the damage came from Richardson and Hill, who combined to hit on 17 of 22 field goals inside the arc. I can only assume a good chunk of these field goals came inside the key.
Then, in game three, the Suns worked it back outside where we’re used to seeing them shoot, hitting on 13 of 28 three point attempts. Richardson, seemingly bored with going inside in game two, hit 8 threes by himself and Phoenix scored a ridiculous 1.24 points per shot. Good would 1.00 points per shot, and great would be 1.10. Ridiculous would be the Suns scoring attack Thursday night.
The Blazers, on the other hand, are struggling to find a steady offense. With Roy out, there are just not enough scoring options. In 19 shots Bayless has scored just 17 points, and Martell just 25 points on 28 shots. Despite Rudy’s 12 points on 9 shots being efficient, it’s just not enough to make up for Roy’s usual combination of both volume scoring and efficiency. As a team, after scoring 1.01 points per shot in the first game, Portland has stumbled to an unimpressive (or perhaps negatively impressive?) 0.88 points per shot.
So while Portland’s offense has struggled mightily against a Suns defense that ranks about 20th in the NBA in efficiency, the Suns have figured out just how to exploit Portland’s D, 8th best in the league during the final quarter of the season. That Suns strategy pretty much seems to revolve around attacking anyone and everyone but Camby. After recording 3 blocks and 17 rebounds in game one, Camby has combined for just 1 block and 20 boards in the last two games. In those same two games, J Rich and the rejuvenated Grant Hill are killing it, scoring 99 points between them on 1.72 points per shot. I haven’t even mentioned Nash, who continues to run the offense efficiently. It’s too bad Batum can’t guard all three of those guys…
Like I said in my last post, the Blazers need three more defensive games like the first to win this series. But obviously, they’ll need to adjust something. The zone is conventionally a bad idea against a good shooting team. That being said, an active matchup zone that could get the long-armed Batum and Webster out to shooters while keeping Camby near the painted area where’s he’s most valuable could give the Blazers their best chance to win. A little praying that the Suns shoot worse from three point land wouldn’t hurt (44% in the last two games).
Saturday. 1:30 pm.