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High-tempo Suns crush Blazers in Game 2 to even series

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The Canadian Press
4/21/2010 2:27:16 AM
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PHOENIX -- The Phoenix Suns finally broke away from the methodical style of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Boy, did they break away.

Jason Richardson scored 29 points, Grant Hill made 10-of-11 shots for 20, and the Suns routed the Blazers 119-90 Tuesday night to emphatically tie the first-round playoff series 1-1.

"The game just went by fast," Portland's Andre Miller said. "They hit us with the transition game. That's what they've been doing all year."

When the mercurial Richardson has a night like this, his team almost always wins. Phoenix is 27-4 this season when he scores at least 20.

Richardson could concentrate on scoring after being freed from the chore of guarding Miller. Coach Alvin Gentry turned to the 37-year-old Hill, and Miller managed just 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting after getting 31 in Portland's 105-100 victory in Game 1.

"I just tried to make him work," Hill said. "He's a great player and I have a lot of respect for him. We're close in age. He just had an off night tonight and I expect him to play better in Game 3."

Richardson marvelled at Hill's performance.

"I don't know how Grant guarded him. He did a good job on him tonight and scored 20," Richardson said. "I couldn't do it."

Amare Stoudemire added 18 points for Phoenix. Victoria's Steve Nash pushed the team from the start and finished with 13 points and 16 assists.

"We were just more aggressive getting the ball up the floor and moving bodies around so they weren't set," Nash said, "and they weren't able to zone it up as well."

The one-sided nature of the victory only slightly dampened the Blazers' satisfaction at getting a split in Phoenix.

"We got a win but you don't want to lose like that going home," Miller said. "But we're definitely still motivated. It's a seven-game series."

Portland coach Nate McMillan saw the blowout as a warning as his team returns home for Game 3 on Thursday night.

"We came in and got a split, but based on tonight's game and that sense of urgency and understanding, it's still a long ways to go," he said. "You have to win four games. They came out and imposed their will on us from the start."

Martell Webster led the Blazers with 16 points. Nicolas Batum also scored 12 before leaving with a right shoulder strain at the end of the third quarter. He said he was going to have an MRI on Wednesday but didn't think the injury would keep him out of Thursday's game. The injury-ravaged Blazers already are without leading scorer Brandon Roy for the series.

Roy or no Roy, no team was better than Portland all season in disrupting the Suns' offence. But the Blazers didn't do it this time.

Phoenix shot 52 per cent to the Trail Blazers' 38 per cent. The Suns led by 14 at the half and blew it open in the third quarter.

The Blazers had won three of four meetings this season, counting their Game 1 victory that gave them home-court advantage, and didn't allow more than 102 points in any of them. Phoenix, the No. 3 seed, faced the possibility of going to Portland down 2-0.

The concern didn't last for long as the Blazers failed to slow down the NBA's highest-scoring team. The Suns dominated the points in the paint 58-38 and had a 26-12 advantage in second-chance points.

"We didn't give them a chance to get their defence established," Gentry said. "They're really good -- I think they're as good as anybody in the NBA if you get them in a halfcourt defence."

Portland trailed 63-49 at the half, and any hopes for a comeback vanished in the Suns' blistering third quarter.

Richardson had five as the Suns outscored Portland 13-4 to lead 78-58 with six minutes to go in the period. During the run, Nash provided the highlight of the night with a circus basket. The 36-year-old playmaker drove to the hoop and, with his back to the basket, banked the ball in with his left hand. Portland went nearly five minutes without a field goal while the Suns poured it on.

Nash started the game with seven assists on the first eight baskets, and he scored the other one. He had nine assists at the end of the first quarter and 12 at halftime.

Richardson, 4 of 12 from the field in the first game, scored 15 in the first quarter, one more than he did in all of Game 1, and had 20 at the break. Hill, who shot 2 of 9 in Game 1, made his first 10 shots, most of them mid-range jumpers, before finally missing one.

NOTES: The Suns have not lost two in a row since Jan. 26. ... The Trail Blazers signed the 36-year-old Marcus Camby to a two-year extension earlier in the day. ... One of Phoenix's three missed free throws in 24 attempts was by Nash, the NBA's leading free throw shooter (94 per cent) who missed 14 the entire regular season. ... Richardson was two points shy of his career playoff high.

Steve Nash (Photo: P.A. Molumby/Getty Images)

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(Photo: P.A. Molumby/Getty Images)
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