No shame here.
Portland shouldn’t hang their heads for a minute, not for a second. They fell 99-90 to the Phoenix Suns and were eliminated from the playoffs, but they gave the world the fight no one thought they had in them. Without Greg Oden, without Joel Przybilla, and without a healthy Brandon Roy (or any Brandon Roy for three games), with an owner battling cancer, a coach with a ruptured Achilles, and a General Manager facing front office turmoil. And they pushed the Suns right to the end.
No shame here.
In a sport that is so often criticized for its lack of dedicated competitors, the Blazers gave us two weeks of unrestrained effort. Brandon Roy came back from knee surgery ten days earlier to try and will his team to victory. They stole Game 1. They just didn’t quite have enough.
How did the Suns do it, in Portland, in front of a raucous crowd, in spite of the emotion in the building? Execution, and the factor no one wants to say about the Suns this season: defense. The Suns pestered, bothered, and contested, running off three pointers while creating and nailing their own. The three ball is a central part of Phoenix’s offense, and the Suns shot 52% from the arc. That buried the Blazers and forced them to play catch-up. Once you enter into that contest with the Suns, you’re playing three-card Monty. And it’s their deck.
The talk going into Game 6 was that the Blazers just had to hold the Suns to under 100. They did. By a point. Unfortunately, the Blazers were unable to convert on their end. Meanwhile, Jared Dudley came in and provided blocks, energy, and huge three pointers. Jason Richardson went off for 28 including several spot-up threes and an alley-oop in the first half that really set the tone.
And down the stretch? Nash. Amar’e. Nash nailed a pull-up three with 2:30 left in the game, then split defenders, drew two more, and dished behind his back to Amar’e for the clean-up dunk. The Suns offense was efficient, sharp, smart, and effective. The Blazers had the effort, had the idea, but failed to execute. Rudy Fernandez had his best game of the series, but still came in with a few bad turnovers and poor shot selection.
The Suns won the rebounding battle and knocked down shots. You do those two things? You’re going to be in good shape.
And by good shape, I mean staring down the barrel of their singular nemesis over the last five years and the team that more than any other has wreaked misery and failure upon their franchise, especially in the brightest of moments and in the most absurd myriad of ways.
But we’ll get to all that later.
For now, let’s celebrate both teams. The Blazers will be back, though the questions now begin as to what the path to the future is, after the path they thought was set became so different. And the Suns have moved on. They may have started the playoffs in a bind, but they have successfully advanced to the second round after missing the playoffs and being a question mark for this year.
Get healthy, Blazers.
Get ready, Suns.