- Nathan Preston | nathanpreston.com
Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers meet the Phoenix Suns in game six of the Western Conference playoffs. This just might be the final game inside the Rose Garden this season—after tonight, it's nothing but Justin Bieber on Ice and monster truck rallies—unless the Blazers win, which would force a decisive game seven in Phoenix Saturday night.
Some notes before tipoff: Brandon Roy is getting the start tonight, as is a "bruised" Nicolas Batum. It's also Jeff Pendergraph's birthday, but unless this game is a blowout—which three of the past five games have been—he won't see any minutes on his special day. That goes for most of the bench, since Nate McMillan will probably force the starters to play close to 40 minutes apiece if this game is close.
The press room consensus is that this game is the Blazers to lose. Game seven is another story, but this should be Portland's night.
Tonight's volume level is just south of deafening and not a thing has happened yet.
11:40 - It's clear that Phoenix is back to doubleteaming LaMarcus Aldridge on every single offensive play. They dropped off him in game four and he had 31 points. That's probably not happening tonight. 2-0 Blazers.
8:59 - The Suns have missed one shot so far. That is it. Jason Richardson has a pair of three-pointers plus a layup, while Amare Stoudemire looked confident shooting two jumpers from about a dozen feet out. This is a very bad sign. 12-4 Suns.
7:52 - Roy does not look good. Starting or not, he looks very tentative, like a man who does not trust his knees. Plus he has yet to leave his feet so far. Hard to play basketball if you can't jump (or are not named Andre Miller). The lone bright spot, Stoudemire picking up two fouls and heading to the bench. Maybe he can take Steve Nash and Richardson with him. 14-6 Suns.
4:20 - Roy misses a defensive assignment and his man, Richardson, is all alone for a dunk. This is not quite working out how the team planned. Put Rudy in. Just kidding, that was a cruel cruel joke. 19-11 Suns.
2:48 - Jerryd Bayless can't finish a fastbreak layup. To be fair, he was carrying Richardson on his back for most of his run to the basket. He converts the foul shots while my newfound respect for Richardson grows stronger. 21-15 Suns.
1:45 - This slow pace favors the Blazers, but their shots aren't falling like they should. Plus any quarter where Nash has five (!) turnovers himself should be one that the Blazers win. So far that is not the case. 23-15 Suns.
0:55 - Dante Cunningham with a great hustle play to strip Nash of the ball and kick it (which should have been a whistle) to Bayless for a dunk. 24-17 Suns.
12:00 - How good has Richardson been for the Suns? He has 14 points, while the Blazers' starters have eight points and the entire team has 17. 24-17 Suns.
10:00 - Actually competent play from Rudy Fernandez? Now I've seen everything. 26-23 Suns.
6:51 - Just as the Blazers climb back into the game and trim it to a single basket deficit, the Suns convert back-to-back threes from Jared Dudley and Goran Dragic. 37-31 Suns.
4:01 - The Suns cannot miss from beyond the arch. Louis Amundson just airballed a shot from the charity stripe, but the team has made seven of 12 from three-point territory. 46-37 Suns.
1:59 - The Blazers had a chance to whittle the lead down, but Bayless gets swatted on a layup and that results in another three. One play later Grant Hill converts on a layup and now the lead is a dozen. Oh boy. 52-40 Suns.
0:00 - That did not end well. The bad news is that the Suns take a 12 point lead into the break, the good news is that the franchise is about to placate the media with snacks. Evidently there is a delicious arms race going down between the two teams on who can fatten the media best during the halftime break. After the Blazers broke out the root beer floats, the Suns countered with ice cream in game two, to which the Blazers easily beat with an ice cream sundae bar in the media room during game four. Who knows wait treats await us tonight? A Fudgie the Whale cake? Donuts? Individual cans of pie filling? 53-41 Suns.
0:00 - Ice cream sandwiches! I was hoping for Dippin' Dots fired into my mouth via T-shirt gun, but this will have to do.
12:00 - Steve Nash has a single point and seven turnovers, so the fact that the Blazers are down 12 is a bit troubling. While logic states that Richardson won't be shooting 100% from three-point land for the rest of the night, the Blazers need to seriously address their (lack of coverage) on the Suns' sharpest shooter.
9:25 - Batum hits a three to get the half started for the home team. That was overshadowed by Aldridge barreling over Jarron Collins and picking up foul number three. Not a good sign for the lone Blazer player to have scored in double digits. Such a sloppy game, this is not the way the Blazers want to go out for the season. 55-46 Suns.
7:46 - Richardson just squared up Roy, looked him in the eye, and tore the ball out of Roy's hand. Those two players are in very different places right now. 57-48 Suns.
6:27 - Richardson finally misses a three. So he's not invincible. Good to know. 61-50 Suns.
5:22 - Channing Frye's revenge comes three points at a time. That shot was enough to warrant a Blazers' timeout. The Suns have not been without flaw, with the exception of J.Rich, but Portland has only scored ten points off their 15 turnovers. Maybe the Blazers' bench can spark something for the team, since this game is going to be a season-ending blowout if this keeps up. 64-50 Suns.
3:26 - Stoudemire with a block, then a "HULK SMASH" flex under the basket. It would have been better if he transformed into nerdy Dr. Bruce Banner after that play. 66-55 Suns.
1:59 - The Suns are 31-4 when Richardson has more than 20 points. Let's check the boxscore: He has 21 points. Damn you statistical Gods! 67-57 Suns.
1:09 - No one told Cunningham that rookies aren't supposed to spastically plow over every player on the court in an attempt to get a rebound. The result of his hard/crazy effort, a three by Webster. One play later, Webster hits another. Oh hello, four point game. 69-65 Suns.
0:01 - Goodbye momentum. With the crowd once again at top volume, Howard knocks over Dudley for a dumb foul. Combined with the previous three from Dudley (again), that is five points they just giftwrapped for Phoenix. 75-65 Suns.
11:40 - Webster is carrying this team on his shoulders right now. He just hit another three. 74-68 Suns.
10:37 - Boom goes Rudy for three. That lead is sure getting smaller, and this building is getting louder. Webster just got hit on the while taking a three and his pair of free-throws make this a one point game. 74-73 Suns.
8:44 - Rudy with an airball. Oh, you were so close to winning our trust again. Know what will bring us back again? Another three pointer. 76-75 Suns.
8:07 - Aldridge is bailed out by a terrible call on Stoudemire. No more "these refs suck" chant from this crowd. Ball don't lie: Aldridge only hits one. We are tied, 76-76.
7:10 - And there goes the tie. Dragic with a layup and the Suns push the lead to a pair of baskets. Dragic has ten points, Nash has three, and still the Blazers are not winning. 80-76 Suns.
6:33 - Rudy running the point. Time to see if a 31 year old blogger with no previous heart ailments can have a coronary on press row. My left arm is numb, that's a bad thing, right? 80-76 Suns.
5:21 - Rudy escorts Richardson to the rim for the easiest basket in the history of this great game. 8-0 run right now for Phoenix. 84-76 Suns.
4:35 - Richardson for thee, again. Heart. Stopped. Beating. 87-78 Suns.
3:25 - Roy with a basket. He now has more points than Dragic. Yay? 87-80 Suns.
2:24 - Nash just doubles his points with that three. Blazers need to do something here, or the season is over. 92-82 Suns.
1:31 - Rudy doesn't boxout and Roy fouls Dudley to save the play, but not the season. Good thing I am going to the Morrissey/Smith DJ night after this. Not sure how much more sadness I can take. 95-85 Suns.
0:25 - Sad to think that this will be the last game for the season. I'm not crying, I just got something in my eye. Tears. So many tears. 97-87 Suns.
0:00 - Thanks to everyone that read/commented on these blogs. I'll be expanding my beat more in the coming season—draft coverage, Summer League in Vegas, shifting through Paul Allen's trash can—so stick around. In the final game of the season, Phoenix 99, Portland 90. Thank you, good night.