NBA Playoff Preview: Suns v. Trailblazers

Why is this man smiling?

As anticipated, the Suns recovered to blow out the Blazers in the second game of the series.  That frequently happens in situations like this, where the game is meaningless to the Blazers, who have already seized home court advantage, while the Suns are fighting for their playoff lives.  It would be a mistake to read too much into game 2.  

On the other hand, Alvin Gentry, a very underrated game coach, made a terrific adjustment in Game 2.  After the abject failure of J-Rich to contain Andre Miller in game 1, Gentry switched the 6-10″ Grant Hill onto Miller.  The move completely discombobulated Miller into a 4-11, 3 assist performance.

Shifting Hill onto Miller should have opened up a wealth of other opportunities for the Blazers, going against J-Rich and Steve Nash.  But the Blazers failed to exploit those abject defenders.  Rudy Fernandez was again a complete failure against Steve Nash, going 0-2.  Or is the failure Nate McMillan’s, in not getting him the ball?  I know what Don Nelson would be doing if he had the helm of this Blazers team:  going straight at Steve Nash with one of his 6-7″ swingmen every single possession. McMillan needs to make this adjustment in a hurry, or Alvin Gentry will own him in this series.

McMillan also needs to guard J-Rich with Batum, who is one of the premier defenders in the league.  Nelson got away with guarding Hill with guards; McMillan should be able to do the same.

Portland and Phoenix are pick’em in this game.  I would love to bet Portland, as I still feel as I did before the series, that they have a squad that can beat Phoenix.  But there are two problems with that right now.  The first is that Nate McMillan needs to make a big adjustment to counter Gentry’s move. And having watched McMillan get severely outcoached by Don Nelson over the years, I have zero confidence that he will be able to find and make that adjustment.  The second is the health of Batum.  Batum strained his surgically repaired shoulder in game 2, and is a game time decision.  The Blazers can’t win this series without him.

No bet.

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