By Frank Hughes
April 21, 2010

Nobody expected the Portland Trail Blazers to sweep the Phoenix Suns. But nobody expected the Blazers to turn their Game 1 upset into a completely demoralizing loss, either. Still, that's what happened when an inspired Suns team played the way it had played over the final month of the season. It happened on several fronts.

Steve Nash was back to being Steve Nash. Not that he ever is completely contained. But he had a more difficult time in Game 1 orchestrating the Suns' offense. And when Nash is forced to be more of a scorer than a distributor, the Suns generally are not as good a team. On Tuesday, he had 13 points, 16 assists and just one turnover in 29 minutes. That's right, a 16-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Not bad for a 36-year-old.

Jason Richardson was hitting 3-pointers. The Suns are at their best when Nash can penetrate and kick, and JRich took full advantage, hitting three first-half threes and four overall en route to 29 points. The Suns have never been just about Nash and Stoudemire, and usually a third player -- Richardson, Grant Hill, Leandro Barbosa or Channing Frye -- needs to step to the fore for them to be successful. On this night it was Richardson.

Amar'e Stoudemire stopped standing around. The Blazers, and specifically Marcus Camby, were credited with shutting down Stoudemire in Game 1. But some of that had to do with either his confusion about Portland's defense or a simple lack of aggressiveness. On Tuesday, Stoudemire attacked from the very beginning, making quick, decisive moves to the basket when he got the ball on the block or putting up confident shots when he received the ball on the perimeter. Camby is a good defender. Stoudemire is a better offensive player. If he puts his mind to it, he should be able to do at least as well as he did Tuesday, when he had 18 points, which included eight trips to the free throw line.

Andre Miller was shut down. The hero of Game 1 was a virtual non-factor on Tuesday. He was bodied up. He was bottled up. And when he got to the rim, he was met there by several Phoenix defenders. Miller is not a good enough jump shooter to solely rely on that aspect of his game so he has to take his man off the dribble. The Suns made a concerted effort to limit what he was able to get in the lane, the reason he finished with only 12 points -- 19 fewer than Game 1 -- and three assists.

Marcus Camby cannot finish at the rim. Camby missed a breakaway dunk in Game 1 that nearly gave the Suns the opportunity to get back in the game. He missed a point blank layup on a beautiful feed from Miller in the first half Tuesday. He missed a driving layup later in the game. Yes, Camby is more known for his defense and shot-blocking. But the guy has to be able to finish plays that most grade-schoolers can make. Just because he was given a new contract does not mean he can coast. He is not Portland's primary offensive weapon, but he needs to make the plays 7-footers make.

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