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Short-handed Blazers fight past Nash, Suns in Game 1

The Sports Network

4/19/2010 2:31:42 AM

Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) - Andre Miller scored 31 points -- 15 in the final eight minutes -- to tie a playoff career-high, and the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers became the only road team to win their opening game with a 105-100 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Miller, who is taking a bulk of the ball-handling duties in the absence of Brandon Roy, added eight assists and three steals for the Blazers, who are looking to snap a four-series losing streak that dates back to 2000. Roy will miss at least this series with a torn meniscus in his right knee, and that news came well after Portland lost centers Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla earlier in the season.

"I was just trying to stay aggressive and play solid transition defense," Miller said. "I was just trying to get the ball up court before they could set their defense and force some mismatches."

LaMarcus Aldridge provided a good low-post presence in scoring 22 points, while Nicolas Batum added 18 in the win. Jerryd Bayless came off the bench to contribute 18 points to help the Blazers grab home-court advantage, and Marcus Camby grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds.

Steve Nash had 25 points and nine assists to lead the Suns, although he missed a potential game-tying three-pointer in the final seconds. Phoenix, who came into the game winning 14 of 16 and its last eight home games, shot only 41.8 percent overall from the field in the loss.

"We just didn't play well enough tonight. We got ourselves in some good positions, but we couldn't finish it," Nash said. "We couldn't really get going and make a bunch of shots."

After missing the playoffs last season, Phoenix won 54 games this season and was largely viewed as a threat to unseat the Lakers as Western Conference champs. Instead of holding serve at home on Sunday, the Suns became the lone top-4 seed to lose Game 1 of their first round series.

Amare Stoudemire scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds before fouling out late, and Leandro Barbosa had 13 points in defeat.

The Blazers trailed by four with eight minutes to play, but Miller spearheaded a 15-8 stretch, scoring 11 points during a 4 1/2 minute span.

Miller's two free throws gave the visitors a 92-89 lead, and Bayless increased the cushion to 99-92 after his two makes from the line with 1 1/2 minutes to go ended a 7-3 spurt.

The Suns fought back, though, and a Nash layup with 54.5 ticks left brought Phoenix to within 99-95. Portland looked to put the game away, as Camby snuck behind the defense for an uncontested dunk attempt, but the ball bounced off the back rim.

Jared Dudley missed a three for the Suns that would have made it a one-point game, and Bayless went 1-of-2 from the line for a 100-95 lead with 37.5 seconds left.

The Portland lead stood at 103-97 with 15.8 seconds left before a Jason Richardson off-balance three cut the Suns' deficit to three. Phoenix fouled Bayless on the inbounds play, but the 83-percent free throw shooter missed both, giving the Suns one more chance.

Nash came down the court and fired a long-range three, but his shot was off the mark; Miller drilled two free throws at the other end to seal Portland's win.

Neither team led by double-digits throughout the game, with Portland's 17-8 advantage late in the first serving as the game's largest margin.

The Suns rallied to trail only 25-24 heading into the second, and both teams scored 19 points in the second quarter to account for the 44-43 halftime score.

A 7-0 Phoenix burst early in the third provided a 56-52 lead on a Grant Hill jumper, but Camby's 20-foot jumper for Portland tied the game at 62-all with 4 1/2 minutes remaining.

The game remained close until a Channing Frye basket in the final seconds sent the hosts into the fourth ahead, 72-70.

The Blazers scored the first five points of the fourth, but Phoenix responded with a 9-2 burst to grab an 81-77 lead on a Stoudemire tip shot with 8 1/2 minutes left to play.

Game Notes:

The Blazers won the regular season series, 2-1...Portland won 13 of its final 17 games of the regular season...These two teams have matched up six times in the playoffs, with each club winning three times...Phoenix went 11-of-32 from three-point range, while Portland went 6-of-17...The game featured eight lead changes and 12 ties...The Suns went 32-9 at home in the regular season, while Portland went 24-17 -- the second-best road record in the West (Mavericks)...Portland snapped an 18-game road Game 1 losing streak, with its last such win coming on April 20, 1983 against the then-Seattle Supersonics.