PHOENIX (AP)—Maybe it was all the emotion pumped into the Portland Trail Blazers by the surprise return of Brandon Roy(notes). Perhaps it was the inexplicable failure of the Suns to stick with their highly successful aggressive style.
Regardless, the Suns face a pressure-packed Game 5 at home Monday night with their best-of-seven, first-round playoff series knotted at two games apiece after the Blazers’ 96-87 victory in Portland on Saturday.
Phoenix had taken a 2-1 lead with a pair of blowout, high-scoring victories. But Roy came back a week after arthroscopic knee surgery and Portland played at its preferred pace, just as it had in winning Game 1 in Phoenix.
Roy wants his team to realize that the next game is just as important, perhaps even more, as the last one.
“I didn’t come back to have one good game,” Roy said. “I came back to try to help this team win the series. It’s important we get over the emotional high of last game and get ready to play a tough basketball game at Phoenix.”
“I think I’ll be in a little better shape, just because of the game I played,” Roy said. “My thinking right now is to get my legs back. They play a little bit uptempo game, and I think it’s a little bit easier for coach to control my minutes coming off the bench.”
A solemn Amare Stoudemire said after practice in Phoenix he’s been in enough playoff games to know how precarious the Suns’ position is. A Phoenix loss would give the Blazers a chance to wrap up the series at home in Game 6.
“It’s a big game, maybe the game of the year for us,” he said.
Each game has been determined by tempo, aggressiveness and energy.
“We know that they’re going to come out of aggressive,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “We got that play last night, that sense of urgency and that scrappy play. That has been the team that has won the game (in the series) — the team that has come out with that kind of energy and effort.”
With due respect to Roy, who did make a huge 3-pointer late in the game, the Suns were pointing elsewhere for reasons they lost Game 4: a slow pace, missed open shots, and Portland’s offensive rebounds.
The Suns’ failure to push the tempo left coach Alvin Gentry shaking his head.
“I don’t understand it. I really don’t,” hey said. “That’s the one thing we have to get away from. I keep telling everyone and I’ll say it again: If you walk it up and they get in a half-court situation I think their defense is as good as anybody’s in the NBA.”
“It’s everybody’s fault,” Gentry said. “I think our wings have to run, I think Steve has to push it and I think our bigs have to get down so we can run drags and step-ups and things like that. It’s not one person, it’s the way we’re approaching it from a team standpoint. That’s something that we’ve got to get rid of right away.”
Nash wasn’t taking the blame, either.
“I’ll do my best, but I can’t just be completely reckless out there,” he said. “Having said that, when we watched the tape I was really in some ways alarmed, pleased and shocked at how many open shots we had that we didn’t knock down.”
Nash said he would like to have “a few more opportunities.”
“Second and third quarters they were trapping me and we weren’t making shots. So then looking back you’re like `Aw, I wish I could have gotten a few more of those looks myself,”’ he said. “But the game before they were trapping me and we make all those shots and we’re a special team.”
The Suns shot 42 percent and were just 6 of 23 from 3-point range on Saturday.
“We just looked at the tape for the fourth time and we’ll take all of those shots,” Gentry said. “If they want to give us those shots, we’ll take those shots tomorrow night. Those shots we’d made over the last two games. We just couldn’t get them in the basket, and we’ve got to do a better job on the offensive rebounds. Their 17 second-chance points are too many.”
“You’ve got to give him credit. I mean, he’s shooting fallaway jump shots from 15 feet,” Gentry said. “That’s kind of the shot we’d like to have them shooting. He made them last night. We’ll still play him the same way and if he starts making them again we’ll make an adjustment.”
Nash also had some not-so-thinly veiled criticism of the way Game 4 was called.
“Obviously I’m not going to say anything about the officiating,” he said, “but there were obstacles to overcome.”
AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson in Portland contributed to this story