Fast Breaks: Blazers-Suns, Game 5
Only three Portland players (Miller, Aldridge, Bayless) scored in double figures
Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge didn't have the same impact as Game 4
The offensive-minded Suns have held the Blazers to 90 points or less twice
The Phoenix Suns maintained home-court advantage by swarming the Portland Trail Blazers in a 107-88 victory at USAirways Arena Monday night. The Suns now hold a 3-2 lead in this best-of-seven series and can close it out when the teams play in Portland on Thursday night.
Blazers' big start fizzles. Portland hit its first seven shots of the game, Andre Miller scored 10 early points, the Blazers took a 14-point lead in less than five minutes -- and then things fell apart. Classic case of fool's gold, where things come so easily that a letdown becomes inevitable. And once the momentum shifted to Phoenix, the Blazers were unable to arrest it. They were flat-footed and, for some reason, seemed to lack the same energy as the invigorated Suns, who crashed the offensive glass with vigor -- the key to their early turnaround.
The Brandon Roy hangover. Perhaps because he was such an inspiration in Portland's Game 4 win, it was only natural there would be an emotional letdown in the ensuing game. Roy, who over the weekend came back unexpectedly from surgery to repair his meniscus, was neither effective nor helped take pressure off his teammates. Roy, who is clearly not 100 percent healthy, had three fouls in his first six minutes and finished with just five points and four fouls in 19 minutes. There also was a scary moment in the fourth quarter when Roy tripped over somebody's leg and fell to the floor, looking briefly like he may have re-injured the knee.
The Suns' bench players were phenomenal. Phoenix backup center Channing Frye had taken a lot of heat about his poor three-point shooting through the first four games of this series. But Frye, along with fellow reserve Jared Dudley, were the difference-makers in this game, each scoring a playoff career high. Frye had three triples en route to 20 points and eight rebounds, while Dudley had five three-pointers and 19 points overall. The Blazers, meanwhile, had just 12 points from their core reserves, in part because Roy was so limited.
LaMarcus Aldridge was bullied. With Roy hampered and Andre Miller up and down, the Blazers absolutely have to have Aldridge make consistent contributions -- so they know they have a base from which to start. Instead, Aldridge was settling for jumpers in Game 5, a few feet outside his comfort range. He is best when he's about 10-12 feet away on the baseline and uses his length to get off a turnaround jumper. Instead, he was getting the ball at 15 to 18 feet and not backing into Amar'e Stoudemire or attempting to close the gap in any way. Those 3-6 feet can be the difference between Aldridge swishing every shot and some rattling out.
Will Nate McMillan start Roy? Coach McMillan changed around his starting lineup when he inserted Jerryd Bayless for Rudy Fernandez, giving the Blazers more defense. Roy said after the game that he was going to ask McMillan to be put back into the starting lineup because his teammates are not comfortable playing with him off the bench. With Game 5 not until Thursday, Roy will get an additional day to get his conditioning back to normal. What McMillan must weigh is whether Roy is better than Bayless or Fernandez at full strength.
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