Jason Richardson was the guy who was supposed to stop Brandon Roy. Most of the night it was on him. But, like a lot of teams that face Portland these days, the Suns did a little double-teaming down the stretch. But what really occured to me is that not all double teams are created equal. Many teams have been frustrating Roy with long athletic dudes trapping from his blind spot. But the Sun doubles were so easy to spot, Roy typically made the right pass while the defender was still in no man's land.
The Suns almost won that game. And one thing that is undeniable is that Steve Nash did not seem to help much. Their two big runs -- 16-2 in the second quarter, and 9-0 in the fourth -- coincided almost perfectly with Steve Nash's only two stints on the bench. When Nash was in the game, Phoenix was -19. When he checked back in with 5:16 left, his team was up one, but by the final buzzer they were down five. That's on every Sun, for sure. But part of that was the fact that his replacement, Leandro Barbosa, was hot. I think another huge factor was that as a primary defender or a help defender, Nash is not much of an obstacle, and both Brandon Roy and Steve Blake were better offensive players when he was around.
Roy will go long stretches of games without throwing himself Dwyane Wade-style at the hoop. (Remember, he is a guy who has had a lot of injuries in his young career. Just this week he had some fluid drained from his knee.) But when he's willing to throw himself around, I'd wager he's as unstoppable as any player in the game. In crunch time of winnable games, he always throws himself around. Portland had lost 11 straight to the Suns, and Roy admitted after the game that tonight he had something to prove, and you could tell. (He also said that he asked his teammates if it was OK that he was shooting so much.) He was in kill mode much of the night. Which means ... I suspect he could do this kind of thing again, but if he does so too often, I'd worry about his getting banged up. Another related point: You notice that Roy's big point totals tend to come in games Portland loses, or wins by a small margin? I'll bet you that's because when the Blazers have a big lead, Roy is conservative with his body.
As a team of jump-shooters, the Blazers play at the slowest pace in the NBA. I wonder if that shortage of possessions hurts their jump-shooters. With so few opportunities, shooters like Rudy Fernandez and LaMarcus Aldridge can go ages between shots, and not touching the ball for a long time does not generally build shooter confidence. (You can see, in those games, players like Blake and Fernandez pass up shots that on other nights they'd love to take.) But last night, the Blazers got to play a high-paced game, and you could see a good effect on the team. Even with Roy shooting 27 times, there were still 60 shots left for Travis Outlaw, Steve Blake, and the like. Portland had the chance to get more shooters in the groove. And their confidence paid off. Blake led a key run, and Outlaw had three big buckets in the fourth quarter.