(Christian Petersen/NBAE/Getty Images)

When it came to casting for the playoffs in the West the injury-crippled Blazers got the role as overmatched but spunky underdogs, and so far they are delivering an Oscar-worthy performance.

Their well-respected defense controlled the tempo of the game almost all night, and their lightly regarded offense laid a 35-point lick on the Suns in the fourth period to give them an unlikely 1-0 lead in this best-of-seven first-round series. (Well, I though it was unlikely, and it’s my blog).

When you are facing Steve Nash and the variety of weapons he has at his disposal, it takes some kind of “D” to stem the flow of the NBA’s most prolific offense, and that’s just what the Blazers played.

They not only controlled the tempo by creating traffic jams in the lanes through which the Suns normally run Nash’s receivers, but even more impressively controlled Amar’e Stoudemire with a tag-team led by one-time Defensive Player of The Year Marcus Camby, aided and occasionally abetted by fellow “long” citizens LaMarcus Aldridge and Juwan Howard.

Stoudemire, who has been an irresistible force the last month, basically ran into some immovable objects, so to speak, missing 11 of his 19 shots, and getting to the line only three times (he’s been averaging more than 9 since the All-Star break). In fact, the Suns as a team attempted only 16 free throws, as opposed to the 29.2 they’ve averaged since the break.

But I attribute this more to how well the Blazers moved their feet defensively than any conspiracy and/or officiating malfeasance.

An alternative “alibi” for the loss is that the Suns simply missed too many of the shots they usually make, and indeed they did. But it’s amazing how often that happens when the opposition imposes its defensive will on you and slows you down to a speed it is more comfortable with.

That this game was as close as it was can be attributed to two factors:  1. The Suns played some pretty stout “D” themselves for the better part of three periods, and 2. They hit just enough of the 32 threes they launched (11) to make things interesting. So interesting, in fact, that when the Blazers missed two free throws and an uncontested slam dunk in the final minute the Suns had a chance to tie with 5 seconds left.

And frankly, given Nash’s eerily deadly marksmanship in such situations, I was actually surprised his 28-footer DIDN’T tie it.

Giving up the home court advantage you spent 82 games sweating and toiling for is disheartening, to be sure. But it’s hardly cause to start looking for the panic button, or the exit door on the Suns’ bandwagon.

And while I give the Blazers high marks for the win, it really doesn’t change things all that much. Or at least it doesn’t if the Suns are who I think they are and the Blazers are who I think they are.

The thinking here is Coach Alvin and his staff will find ways to shake Amare loose from Camby et al., and while both teams will certainly make adjustments in Game Two, the Suns have far more options (and healthy stars) than do the Blazers.

I admit I didn’t see this one coming, but I still like the Suns a lot, not only in this series, but beyond.

  • JOHN SERPE

    They say you never hear the bullet that kills you. Sorry, but the one Portland used to bring down our Suns was evident from the opening tip. How does a team completly abandon every aspect of a winning formula and revert back to one dimensional overnight? From Nash dribbling around for 15 seconds of every possession to Amare doing his best disappearing act to Frye watching Portland players cut to the basket without moving, it was a horror show. I’ll give the Trailblazers credit, but come on, they were in at least a 10 point hole to start the game without their star player. This was the perfect example of why our Suns can never seem to grasp the brass ring. Sure, it’s only one game but the aura has a huge hole in it, how do you ever get it back, if thats possible? Letdown doesn’t even scratch the surface of this one.

  • dennis scumer

    I’m surprised Nash rushed the “long” three. There were 3.7 seconds left and he could have taken a shorter three which might not have finished short of the net. Also whre was LB in the fourth period. As he had shot over 50% for the game by then, wouldn’t it have been prudent to have him in for Dudley or Hill who were shooting less than 20% for the night?

  • Andy Thompson

    Yes the Suns did play well defensively – however I can remember at least two uncontested shots by the Blazers (one of them a three).It just seemed to me the Blazers had more fire in their eyes than our Suns did.To get this series back the Suns need to scrap for every loose ball,contest every shot,run the floor ,drive & dish,pick & roll – play with the passion & zeal that got you home court advantage. I believe this is our year!!! Want this guys – Go HARD.

  • JOHN SERPE

    Joe, I just read that our Suns had a scout checking out Portland the last couple of games, you know, to make sure we were ready. Big question, what the heck was he looking at? It’s been almost 24 hrs. since the debacle in the desert and I still can’t come to gripes with the total absence of fire or hustle by our guys. Fast forwarding thru a replay this afternoon brings me to ask this main question. Why does a team who knows the opposition wants to slow the pace walk the ball up every possession as if it’s made of lead making the game even slower? How does a team who played with the fire of a volcano for two months come into the biggest game of the year and look flater than a Kansas sunset. Answer, Suns basketball!!!

  • Peter TEFO

    The Suns allowed A. Miller (pg for Portland)to stroll in time and time again to make shots. There was no pressure put on him at any one time. The Suns played the game well enough to win. If they were making the open shots, they should have won by at least 15 points.

    The Suns must understand that these Blazers do not repect them and so there is no reason for the Suns to respect them either. Come into the game eith a winning mentality. Steve Nash and the rest should see the game with a sense of urgency from the 9th minute mark in the 4th, not at the tail end when they are only struggling to respond to the Blazers. It should always be the other way round. Please, practice your free throw shooting. All Suns players should. There is no reason for missing out on free points from the line.

  • Colby Morse

    You guys (the Suns) never counted on how tough the Blazers are. All year they have overcome adversity and injury to prove everyone wrong. Granted, this was only one game, but they now have gotten inside the Suns’ head, especialy Stoudamire’s. The Blazers haave proven that they are more than just “Brandon Roy”. The Suns have alot ot firepower, but Stoudamire get’s frustrated when he is unable to intimadate his opponents, and there is nobody on the Blazer roster he can intimidate. Sorry Suns fans, but Blazers have this one in six.

  • http://blogs.suns.com/2010/04/4461/ Blunder Dan Majerle

    The TrailBlazers can beat this team, with or without BRoy. Despite sub-par performances from Fernandez, Webster, and Aldridge, still won. Looks like one and done for PHX.

  • Bill

    Like most years, the Suns lack size. The Blazers have too many big men to throw at us. Lopez could have made a real impact in this series. I think Amare is more power forward than center really. We need another big guy that can move well to handle the bigs on Portland and open things up at both ends. and just play our typical run and gun but a little more physical.

  • JOHN SERPE

    Colby, your points are well put, Amare is a head case but he’s our head case and good luck trying to get into that head, weve been trying for years. Don’t get us wrong, even though we Suns fans may @#$$%% about our team doesn’t mean we don’t think Portland goes home in 5 games. We just wanted it to be a sweep. Firepower you say, Portland saw a flicker of it the first game, just let the flow get going you’ll see some scoring. Portland is a good team, but without Roy and probably with him the Suns at this moment in time are a better team.

  • Peter TEFO

    Go! SUNS Go! Win It.

    Suns in 5. Folks, write this down and keep it somewhere. After game 5, take it out and publish it again. I am very confident with this pronostique. The Suns organization is going to visit me when it would be all over. The Suns are going all the way this year.

    This is the slogan: Go! Suns Go! Win It.

  • conspirator5

    Joe,

    I think the Suns are a great team. They are fun to watch, well-coached, have serious star power and great team chemistry. I think they really are who you think they are. But that’s where it ends.

    Because the Blazers are NOT who you think they are. I don’t have any idea who you think they are, but whatever it is, I’m sure you’re wrong. We’re used to that. Nobody gives the Blazers any respect. We beat Houston at home the night Greg went down. We beat Dallas in Dallas the night Joel went down. We swept the Spurs, and beat them in San Antonio without B-Roy. We won the regular season series against your team, and the Spurs, and the Mavs, and the Thunder, AND the Lakers.

    As a Blazers fan, I still have to be honest and admit that the Suns are still favored to win this at the end of the day. But we weren’t who you thought we were, and this won’t be as easy as you thought it was. *ding ding* Time for Round 2.

  • Mr. What!

    I don’t care what anyone thinks about the first game because a punch in the face sounds like what the doctor ordered. The worst worry I had will now be laid to rest; Suns being overly confident because of the post All Star play. Colby, your team will be dealt a harsh home loss more than once in this series. So lets just say you had the six number right but Phoenix will surely be the victors. Its funny Colby how your confidence is most likely how the Blazers are feeling and that my friend will change momentum faster than you know. I know this because we Suns fans were annoyingly confident like you until Sunday night. Enjoy your confidence why you have it.

  • #1blazerfan

    Guys I hate to break it to ya but the blazer are taking this one. What you seen in game one you will see the rest of the series (a Defensive shut down) but dont get too down on your suns there is always next season.

  • JOHN SERPE

    ADJUSTMENTS!!! Stunning turnaround but not unexpected. The better team dominates and the Phoenix Suns have found the focas and flow they like. They also restored alot of their rep in the process. Portland you have a problem. Welcome to your worst scoring nightmare. Richardson was free to roam and thats doom for the Trailblazers. Hill had one of those I’m young again games, lets hope he makes it a series. Amare found out Portland has no Kryptonite and he sure didn’t look frustrated to me? Three more to come all by double digits.

  • NoMoCollins

    I’m not sayin’ the Suns have played great in their losses, but there are 2 major problems that stick out in my mind. First) Why the He** is Gentry playin’ Collins? The guy is completely useless- No D, Slows down the break, Can’t rebound, etc., etc. A team is 5 players. He doesn’t even count for 1/4 of a player. Does’nt Gentry watch film?……Second) The player rotation that got us in the 3rd spot in the playoffs has been completely abandoned. It was basically a first unit and a complete swap to the second unit. The second unit would often outplay the starters. These guys got used to playing with each other and were very effective. Now Gentry’s subbin’ a player or two at a time and they have NO court experience with each other. GET BACK TO WHAT GOT YOU THERE AND FOR GOD SAKE LET COLLINS PASS OUT THE GATORADE!