One of the most solemn articles of NBA faith is that the key to any playoff series is “adjustment”, or, in non-technical terms, what changes the loser of the previous game can make to turn things around.
So what “adjustments” did Coach Alvan and the Suns make to engineer a monster 34-point turnaround in Game Two?
Actually, while not discounting the significance of a couple of X and O moves, I’d have to say the biggest adjustment was an attitude. One in which the Suns went from passive-aggressive on offense to aggressive-aggressive.
The biggest benefit of this was that the Blazers didn’t have nearly as many chances to get into the half court defense that so effectively dictated the tempo in Game One. This time the Suns’ offense dictated the tempo, and when that happens very few teams can hang with them — especially since they’ve added solid defense to their repertoire.
As far as physical adjustments, the biggest one was putting Grant Hill on Andre Miller, a move that not only worked well defensively, but also freed up Jason Richardson at the other end, and J.R. responded with 29 points, 15 in the first period when the Suns were doing all the all-important tempo-setting that put them back on course.
The 37-year-old Hill, whose multiple talents are much underappreciated, can handle almost any role at either end of the court, and last night he not only played a key role in holding Miller, who torched the Suns for 31 Sunday, to 12, but also hit his first 10 shots. And 36-year-old Steve Nash had 16 assists in 29 minutes.
You go, Geezers!
“Miller is very difficult to guard,” said Alvan, “and we thought Grant’s length might bother him a little bit. We played him a step back and tried to make him settle for outside shots, but his first step is so good he still managed to get to the basket a few times.”
The Suns also dominated the boards, held the Blazers to 38 per cent shooting, and got 18 points and some good pass work out of the post from Amare Stoudemire.
So what does this rout change in the grand scheme of things. Well, one thing it DOESN’T change is the fact the Blazers are still up a break as the series shifts to Portland for the next two games.
But it does underscore just how many more weapons the Suns have, and how many more ways they have to beat you than have the injury-depleted Blazers (who may have lost yet another starter when Nicolas Batum left the game with a shoulder injury in the third period).
I’m not a big believer in momentum, but I do have a lot of faith in a talent edge, especially when it’s blended into the kind of chemistry and sense of mission these Suns clearly have.
The bottom line: I still liked their chances a ton after Game One, and I certainly didn’t see anything to change my mind last night. And I don’t mean just in this series.