- Nathan Preston | nathanpreston.com
Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers meet the Phoenix Suns in game four of the Western Conference playoffs. Less than a week ago BlazerNation was filled with anticipation about Portland's opening round series against the Phoenix Suns. Now? Not so much. Following a first game upset by the Blazers, the Suns have routed Portland in two consecutive games. If the Blazers don't want to be cleaning out their lockers this time week next, they'll need to win today.
Since this is a Blazers game, an hourly injury report is necessary: Dante Cunningham is out (stomach virus) and despite a shoulder that has spent equal time in an MRI machine as it has on court, Nicolas Batum will start tonight. Also notable is that the handsome pile of ineptitude that is Rudy Fernandez will go back to the bench. Jerryd Bayless will get the start.
And in the most surprising news of the day... Brandon Roy has been activated for this game. I believe the proper reaction is to this news is; HOLY FUCK! Not sure if he will actually play during this game, or if this is a stunt to distract the Suns from Portland's sheer offensive vulnerability, but if he does play it will be remarkable since he had surgery eight days ago.
Another OMFG update: Roy will start, according to TNT. The team says he will come off the bench. Someone is lying.
In other injury news, I had my wisdom teeth removed less than 24 hours ago. Get ready to read a live blog as seen through the glorious haze of perocet.
The Blazers have trailed 2-1 in a playoff series and comeback to win only one time. It was their 1977 championship season. So that's a good sign right?
TNT is insisting that Roy starts (despite what the team says). Take that Rudy. They'd rather have a player fresh from the operating table on the court instead of you. That must do wonders for a man's pride.
It's official, Roy is not starting. You lied to us, TNT.
11:50 - It takes ten seconds for Grant Hill to break free for a wide open dunk. I would be surprised had I not just watched two games of plays like that in the past week. 2-0 Suns.
9:52 - Shoulder be damned, Batum buries a three from the far corner. Nash responds with one as well. Nice to see the Blazers quick out of the gates, but this frantic pace works better for the Suns. Portland needs to slow this game down. 11-7 Suns.
7:25 - Things we have not seen since game one: Jason Richardson miss two consecutive shots. I never knew it was possible. 13-7 Suns.
6:30 - This time Thursday, the Blazers were already out of the game. So just being down five is a small victory, right? We'll take whatever we can get right about now. 15-10 Suns.
5:03 - A Steve Nash turnover quickly turns into a Miller to Batum full court pass and dunk. One miss later, Batum hits another three. 18-17 Blazers.
3:55 - Roy in the game. I repeat, Roy is in the game. 18-17 Blazers.
2:59 - Roy scores. I repeat, Roy scores. 21-20 Suns.
1:54 - While Amare Stoudemire sits out with a pair of fouls, the Blazers instantly go to the rim with a pretty bounce pass from Miller to Marcus Camby. 24-23 Blazers.
0:00 - Jared Dudley hits a jumper at the buzzer, but Roy's return has kept the Blazers in this game. Thankfully this matchup is resembling the first game, instead of the second or third. 27-26 Suns.
9:49 - Rudy clanks a three (not a surprise) but Juwan Howard swoops in for the board and layup under the basket (surprise!). 33-32 Suns.
9:10 - Rudy hits a three on the next possession. Way to make me look like a hateful jerk. 35-33 Blazers.
8:22 - So far the Blazers are winning every single category (from three point percentage to steals, to assists and rebounds, plus more) yet the lead is only four. 37-33 Blazers.
5:52 - Following a Rudy miss, Aldridge gets the rebound and passes to Howard in one single motion. It would have been more impressive if he and Howard didn't follow that play by leaving Stoudemire wide-open under the basket for a dunk. 42-41 Blazers.
5:19 - Frye fouls Howard into the seats, and accidentally takes an official with him. Frye could gouge out someone's eyes and he'd still be a lovable softie. 45-41 Blazers.
3:51 - Maybe it's the presence of Roy, but Aldridge is playing with some aggression. There's a sentence I never thought I'd type. He had two points combined in the first half of the past two games, but he has 13 so far to lead all scorers. He is also taking the ball to the basket more, instead of relying on his typical 18-foot jumper. 48-43 Blazers.
2:06 - One good pass deserves another and Howard sends a quick tip pass to Aldridge for a dunk. It was nearly the exact opposite of the Aldridge-to-Howard play earlier. 51-47 Blazers.
0:00 - On the final play of this inspiring half, Camby tips in a missed jumper and the Blazers have a rare halftime lead, 54-50.
11:25 - Bad omen: Richardson hits his first three of the game. Then another. He has 16 so far this series. 56-54 Suns.
9:14 - Bayless with an and-one layup and then post-basket flex. I don't think you get to show off the guns until you have double digit points. Bayless has nine. 58-58 tie.
8:08 - Miller to Aldridge for a damn impressive alley-oop over the back of Collins. Highlight reel time! 62-60 Blazers.
6:16 - Camby's jumper looks like a dry-heaving swan. But the shot fell anyway. 64-62 Blazers.
4:45 - Bayless converts on a running layup and this is the loudest the Rose Garden has been in quite some time. I believe the noise in in reaction to the Blazers' play, not the C+C Music Factory remix they are blaring. I could be mistaken, though. 70-64 Blazers.
4:29 - Drunk heckler: "Hey press row, fuck off back to Phoenix." I am only offended since my pasty skin clearly is a sign that I am not from Arizona. Maybe it's this sleeveless Kurt Warner jersey that I am wearing. 72-65 Blazers.
3:22 - Bayless doesn't back down after a Richardson breakaway layup attempt, and gets a flagrant for his efforts. Tough call, since it was a foul, but definitely not flagrant. 72-69 Blazers.
2:24 - Frye just had a three-pointer from a few minutes ago reversed and called a two following the replay. 72-72 tie.
0:00 - It wasn't as dynamic at the previous two quarters, but the Blazers cling to their lead headed into the final dozen minutes. 74-72 Blazers.
10:09 - Miller's offensive strategy is to run directly into Stoudemire in hopes of drawing the whistle. After three straight attempts, it finally works. Three fouls for Amarte, two more points for Miller. 76-74 Blazers.
8:27 - Frye gets away with a taking the ball out of the cylinder (weird not hearing a whistle on that, since it's a call that never slides), but the Suns fail to convert. This game seems destined to come down to the final minute. 76-76 tie.
7:51 - Of all the places to be while riding the percocet wave, press row is not my first choice. Words. Hard. To. Type. 76-76 tie.
6:26 - The Blazers has missed 11 straight, but still maintained the lead that entire time. Back-to-back shots from Howard and Aldridge stop the bleeding, but don't pad the lead much. 80-79 Blazers.
5:32 - Aldridge pushes the Suns into the penalty, giving four fouls to Amare and free-throws for the rest of regulation for Portland. That was a big play. 82-79 Blazers
4:57 - Camby passes a chance to take Nash to the basket, and instead dishes to Roy. Three points later the Suns call a timeout and the Blazers have matched their largest lead of the game. 85-79 Blazers.
3:53 - Nash just did that twirly jumper thing, where his hair gets all in face. That's as best as I can possibly describe that play. Sorry. 89-83 Blazers.
2:02 - Roy with a jumper and now my teeth hurt from the volume in here. 91-83 Blazers. Biggest lead of the game.
1:05 - Poor flagrant call now on Frye. Terrible call, but it does even out the bad flagrant calls for the game. Then Batum gets a technical for some reason. Bad officiating across the board, but not what you want to see in the waning seconds of a close game. 93-85 Blazers.
0:47 - Miller with a charge. Better call. Unless it was a flagrant charge, which is a fictional call I just made up. 93-86 Blazers.
0:38 - I'm fighting off the unicorn hallucinations to finish this. The Suns fail to convert and get ready for 38 seconds of free-throws for the Blazers. 94-86 Blazers.
0:00 - And that will do it. The Blazers grind the Suns' offense to a halt in the final quarter and your final score: Blazers 96, Suns 87. See you next Thursday for game six.