The Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers, both now sporting 11-11 records, have played twice this season on the Rose Garden floor. Both times, the Blazers used big fourth quarter rallies to defeat the Suns. If Phoenix is going to be in the playoff mix this season, this re-match tonight at home is a game they are really going to want to win.
Portland played the late game on TNT last night and defeated the Orlando Magic with another big fourth quarter, which now seems to have broken their previous streak of playing poorly late in games. They seem to be settling into a rhythm with Roy not having the ball in his hands so much and letting Andre Miller, Patty Mills and Wesley Matthews initiate more of the offense.
On the front line, the Suns seem to have done a good job on LaMarcus Aldridge and don't have to double team him as much when he's being guarded by Channing Frye or Earl Barron. Marcus Camby played 23 minutes last night against Dwight Howard and has been looking slow this season.
The Suns can take advantage of him when he's in the game by running a lot of pick-and-roll at him and making him come out of the paint and defend. Barron and Frye will also look to beat him down the floor and get early looks in the paint before he gets back on defense.
Defensively, the Blazers game plan has been to pressure Steve Nash full court and put bigger defenders on him. They want to wear him down so he can't win the game late and twice now that strategy has worked. The Suns need to be prepared to handle that pressure better and get ready for the various defensive schemes the Blazers use.
As with most Suns games this season, this one will likely come down to the bench play. In Portland, the inability of the Suns' second unit to get stops or generate offense against the Blazers zone defense hurt the team a lot. In the Memphis game, however, the bench unit had its best game of the season and held the Grizzlies to just 14 points in the fourth quarter.
It will be that defensive-minded bench group generating easy points off turnovers and in transition that the Suns need to get wins over good teams. The Suns also need a bounce-back game from Jason Richardson, who struggled in his last two starts, but has otherwise played great for the Suns this season.
Joel Przybilla will miss the game so he can attend a family funeral. Andre Miller, who was suspended for the game between these teams earlier in the week will be back in the lineup tonight, which once again forces the Suns to play Steve Nash on Nicolas Batum. It's a match up the Blazers haven't exploited enough times to make the Suns change their approach.
The game tips off at 7 p.m. local time and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Arizona and KTAR 620 radio. You can also follow along on the live game thread at Bright Side of the Sun.