Suns soar, Blazers fall hard in blowout
The Portland Trail Blazers are returning home dead even.
After slowing down the Phoenix Suns in Game 1, the Blazers were significantly outgunned, outhustled and outrun in the follow up.
The sixth-seeded Blazers fell to No. 3 Phoenix, 119-90, during Game 2 of a first round Western Conference playoff series Tuesday night at US Airways Center in Phoenix.
A smooth, streamlined victory by the run-and-gun Suns evened the best-of-seven matchup.
Game 3 is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Rose Garden in Portland. The contest is sold out, but will be televised on NBA TV and KGW (8).
Reserve Martell Webster scored a team-high 16 points to lead the Blazers, while Andre Miller and Nicolas Batum added 12 apiece.
“You never want to lose like that going home,” Miller said. “We’re definitely still motivated; it’s a seven-game series. They did their job coming in, and we got a game — it’s a series. We have to go and protect our home court.”
Jason Richardson topped the Suns with a game-high 29 points. Grant Hill poured in 20 points on 10-of-11 shooting, while Steve Nash contributed 13 points and a game-high 16 assists.
“I thought in Game 1 we just didn’t show up,” Hill said. “We’d been playing very well since the All-Star break, and I just don’t think we showed up ready to play – some of that was Portland. I thought our energy was really good; our spirit was good. We came out really focused, and we played hard on both ends.”
Nash said his team was a “shell” of its high-paced self during a 105-100 Game 1 defeat.
A recharged Suns team quickly found its heartbeat in Game 2.
As Nash pushed the tempo, recording 12 assists by halftime, Phoenix soared.
The Suns opened up a 24-14 lead after Hill sank a reverse layup with 3 minutes, 35 seconds left in the first quarter.
Fifteen first-period points by Richardson then helped push Phoenix to a 32-26 advantage.
Miller scored a game-high 31 points in Game 1. But the Suns changed their defensive approach Tuesday. Miller was guarded by the taller, bigger Hill, and initially struggled to find his shot.
Meanwhile, Batum, the Blazers’ top defender, picked up two quick fouls and was taken off the floor. And LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland’s No. 1 scoring option with Brandon Roy out of the lineup, collected three fouls with 8 minutes left in the first half and was also benched.
With Batum and Aldridge out, Phoenix continued to pound away.
Hill and Richardson combined for 36 first-half points, and it was 63-49 Suns at the break.
In contrast, Portland starters Aldridge and Rudy Fernandez combined for just five first-half points on 0-for-4 shooting.
A floater in the lane by Amare Stoudemire stretched Phoenix’s advantage to 74-56 with 8:10 left in the third quarter. And by the end of the period, the game had turned into a 26-point blowout.
“We were prepared for it, we just didn’t react,” Miller said. “The game just went by fast. They hit us; the transition game. That’s what they’ve been doing all year — getting easy baskets, transition baskets. They played a good game.”
The Blazers struggled to find any consistency from the offensive end throughout the contest. With Miller heavily guarded, Aldridge largely missing in action, and Roy not available, easy points were hard to come by. The Blazers shot just 38.2 percent (29 of 76) from the floor. In addition, Portland dished out only 12 assists while committing 10 turnovers.
“They took us out of our offense early,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. “They jammed Miller and denied him the ball. We had some trouble getting into our offense, and were kind of a little hesitant running our sets.”
Batum left the game at the end of the third quarter due to a right shoulder strain. He did not return, and will undergo a magnetic imaging resonance test today. Batum missed 45 games this season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. … The Blazers and center Marcus Camby agreed Tuesday to a two-year contract extension worth a reported $21 million. Portland general manager Kevin Pritchard said the Blazers will likely enter the 2010-11 season with a big four of Camby, Aldridge, Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla. “We feel like if we have everybody healthy, we have a front line that can compete with the better teams in this league,” Pritchard said. In addition, Camby will be relied upon to tutor and train Oden, as the injury-plagued center attempts to take the next step in his career. “No question,” Pritchard said. “We also feel that they can play next to each other. Marcus can play the 4. He’s played the 4 in the past. We feel like those guys can be on the floor at the same time.” … Game 5 of the Blazers-Suns series has been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 26 in Phoenix. The contest will be televised on TNT and KGW.
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