Another case of murder in the first degree. Third one in this feast-or-famine playoff series, in fact.

But this time it wasn’t the usual suspects that did it. True, the Suns’ trademark fast break and three-ball eventually kicked in, but it was two usually suspect phases of their game, rebounding and defense, that that laid the foundation for what was basically a rare 48-minute rout — a Portland rout the first 12 minutes, when the Blazers opened an 18-4 lead (mostly because the Suns’ defense forgot to put its teeth in), and a Phoenix rout the last 36.

An increasingly feisty defense that is gaining respect by the game all but shut down the Portland offense after that opening blast; and domination on the boards, especially the offensive ones, sealed the deal.

The Suns weren’t really shooting all that well, hitting only 28 percent of their threes in the first half, but they converted a lot of those misses into twos by crashing the offensive boards, where they turned 10 rebounds into 16 of their 57 first half points. And they finished with a 41-29 edge on the boards, and 22 second chance points. Not bad for a “soft” team.

Channing Frye led the tone-setting first half with 13 points and 6 rebounds en route to a career playoff high 20, and Jared Dudley also hit his career high with 17.

And the Suns, who had been having trouble getting to the line in the series, set up light housekeeping there with 32 attempts (and hitting 29) — a by-product of aggressively attacking the basket.

However, while defense and rebounding were the keys, the significant stat running through all five games in the series is fast break points. In the three wins the Suns have averaged 17 (which they hit last night), and in the two losses, only four. So I guess if you’re looking for a one-word differenced between romping and losing in this series it would have to be that old standby, tempo.

But in any case, the Suns not only are firmly in control of this series now, but, with Dallas floundering and the Lakers imploding, they can happily contemplate the tantalizing possibility of having the home court advantage all the way to Cleveland. I’m not saying there’s no way the Suns lose Game Six in Portland, mind you. What I am saying is there is no way they lose a Game Seven here.

And if that’s counting the chickens before they’re hatched all I can say is cluck, cluck, cluck.

  • JOHN SERPE

    Going out on a limb here Sir Joe, it’s over in 6. The faces on that Portland bench said it all. We played over our heads for 10 min. got a blowout lead and it didn’t matter, the Suns stepped on the gas and it was over. All this while Amare really hasn’t had a monster game yet. Nash looks like he’s on roller skates and Lopez is yet to come back. If it ever comes together this team is a monster. Oh!! thats right, this years version of the Suns has one big added bonus, a BENCH!!! Get ready for some pay back Mr. Duncan, no walking off the court is saving you this time.

  • Lorenz

    if the Suns don’t fail to keep up the “hunger” in game 6, there might be game 7 and the series will be cut down to a game. Keep on pushing Suns! We don’t want to give the Blazers the slightest chance of stealing their way to the first round of the playoffs!

  • http://nba.com/suns michael

    weah thats rigth
    this team will get revenge with the
    BIGGEST RIVAL
    SAN ANTONOI SPURS

  • Joe Lopez

    I think once we get Robyn Lopez back in the line up along with the heavy hitting bench, and you can’t forget the starting line up, that when everything and eveyone does his part on this team, the SUNS could go all the way. This is the best team the SUNS have had since the days of thunder, K.J., T.C., and Barkly, only this time there’s no Michael Jordan. This is the year of THE PHOENIX SUNS.

  • http://www.best-poker-rakeback.net/ Rakeback

    I hope game 6 will be like game 3. It still puzzles me though how the Suns managed to drop game 4…They have these guys outgunned in every respect… Why let them back in the series?

  • JOHN SERPE

    The master plan and destiny continues in Suns Land and we can thank our old friends the Mavericks. Just keep on making old man Duncan run Dirk we need him and the rest of our arch enemies tired and banged up for the next series. Payback would never be so sweet!!! As far as LA, they already played one more game than they thought would be required to knock out the Thunder. Now it’s up to our Suns to finish it, get some rest and incorporate Lopez back into the system.

  • Ed

    Suns have a deep bench, for the first time in years. This team make me look back that strange suns team with Kidd, Mcdyes,C.Robinson and Manning. Why? Guys over 6’10″ who can shoot and run. Very fun to watch! IMO this team is giving surprises, we are the underdog and my sweet revenge will be yours… Spurs you’re next and L.A> you’re after. Spurs in 5, LA in SIX. Cleveland in 6. And that’s right, there’s no Jordan anymore, Lebron has all my respect but nothing like Mike. 1993 gave us the darkest nightmare! Go SUNS GO.

  • JOHN SERPE

    Suns pulled it off Joe, stepped right up and hit it out. It’s a different team than we had in past years, the bench and the defense along with the firepower is hard to beat. Nash looks shaky to me, but he should be able to at least stay with Parker most of the time. Amare will dominate again if Lopez starts. The Mavericks had San Antonio going but they slowed it down and their bench wasn’t much. Suns shock the Spurs in 5 and possibly 4.