The Phoenix Suns just simply out-shined the Portland Trail Blazers.
Brandon Roy’s dramatic Game 4 return helped the Blazers tie their first-round NBA Playoff series with the Suns, and with their star guard back, I genuinely thought the Blazers had the momentum to win the series and reach the second round.
I was wrong.
Phoenix gave Roy the superstar treatment on defense in Game 4, meaning that Roy’s teammates – specifically LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 31 points – were freed up to do some damage on offense.
But once the Suns realized Roy was merely a shell of his normal self, having returned to the court eight days after knee surgery and unable to move and cut like he normally does, they were able to play him straight up defensively and clog the middle, effectively forcing the Blazers to shoot from the outside in Game 5 and Game 6.
And, especially in Game 6, Portland didn’t shoot well enough from the outside to make the Suns pay for the strategy, hitting just 38 percent from the field in a 99-90 series-ending loss.
The Blazers did make 48 percent from three-point range (11-of-23), but it wasn’t enough to combat the 30-for-79 overall field-goal shooting.
And Roy struggled as much as any of them, hitting just 4-for-16 from the field and 1-for-8 from three-point range en route to a 14-point, five rebound, four assist night.
It was a gritty, gutty performance from the Portland All-Star, but it certainly wasn’t his best.
Nor was it enough.
Moreso than their offensive struggles, the Blazers were done in on defense, as Portland just had nobody who could stop – or even slow – Amar’e Stoudemire.
The Blazers tried LaMarcus Aldridge, Juwan Howard and Marcus Camby on Stoudemire, but the athletic power forward was either too athletic or too powerful for each of them. Stoudemire is at his best when he gets the ball in the high post, facing the basket, and can either take his man off the dribble – which he did successfully and often in Game 6 – or draw a double team and find the open man – which he also did successfully, and often, in Game 6.
Jason Richardson was the biggest beneficiary of Stoudemire’s superb passing, hitting 10-of-16 from the field, including 5-of-8 from three-point range, and scoring a game-high 28 points. Jared Dudley was also the recipient of a few Stoudemire passes, hitting three three-pointers en route to 12 points.
Stoudemire himself finished with 22 points, and Steve Nash and Goran Dragic had 10 apiece.
Martell Webster led the Trail Blazers with 19 points, Aldridge had 16 to go with nine rebounds, and Jerryd Bayless scored 12 points.
Phoenix now moves on to a tough second-round matchup with the San Antonio Spurs, who finished off the Dallas Mavericks on the same night the Suns finished off the Blazers. The Spurs match up much better with Phoenix than Portland did, with Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess clogging up the middle on D and several long-range shooters, including Manu Ginobili, who’ll keep the Suns honest on defense.
For Portland, it’s on to the offseason and some much-needed time for rest and recuperation. The Blazers’ season was marred by injury after injury, with Roy’s torn meniscus just before the postseason the latest in a long line of difficult blows.
Portland stands to get back centers Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla, who both missed the season with knee injuries; whether they’ll keep both of them with Marcus Camby having recently signed a contract extension remains to be seen.
Game 6 Boxscore, NBA