Game Five belonged to the bench. Channing Frye scored 20 points, and his fellow reserves scored 35 points Monday night as the Phoenix Suns' super-subs wrested control of their first-round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers. In the end, it was a 107-88 blowout and a big statement for both teams as they head back to the Rose Garden for Game Six on Thursday. Obviously, it's do-or-die for Portland, and Monday night showed why the Blazers will have their work cut out for them.
|Channing Frye: 20 huge points off the bench.|
It certainly didn't look pretty for the Suns early in the game, when the Blazers run-and-gunned their way to a 23-9 lead. But the Suns adjusted and gave the Blazers a taste of their own medicine, and by the time the first quarter had ended, the Suns were down only one point, 28-27. From there on out, it was all Suns, who opened up a 10-point lead at halftime and simply dominated the third quarter to put this one out of reach.
One of the keys to Portland's Game Four win was the re-emergence of Blazers star Brandon Roy, who had been ailing after arthroscopic knee surgery 10 days ago. On Monday, he was a non-factor, and the Suns exploited his absence after he picked up three quick fouls. Roy wound up with only five points and played only 19 minutes.
For the Suns, reserve Jared Dudley joined Frye in posting up huge numbers. In just 25 minutes, Dudley scored 19 points on the strength of five three-pointers. Frye nailed three treys and picked up eight rebounds, as well. And though reserve point guard Goran Dragic finished with only seven points, he controlled the Suns' offense and played scrappy defense, as always, in his 20 minutes on the floor subbing for Steve Nash.
Nash, who struggled in the Game Five loss and was allowed to get some rest Monday night, made the most of his 28 minutes, dishing out 10 assists and scoring 14 points. He was also 9-for-9 from the free throw line.
Meanwhile, the Suns' two big guns, Amar'e Stoudemire and Jason Richardson, were not very flashy but remained mostly effective, scoring 19 points and 13 points, respectively. However, they can thank Frye and Dudley for turning it up a notch on Monday.
"When [Frye and Dudley] get going, we're a really good team," Nash said after the game. "I think it's great for their confidence because we have a lot of confidence in them."
The Suns and their fans are probably feeling confident heading into Thursday night's road game. With Roy on the shelf, and the Blazers' backs against the wall, the Suns can practically smell a trip to the second round in front of them.
Tipoff: TBA. TV: My45 (channel 9). Radio: KTAR 620 AM. More info: www.suns.com