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Richardson puts on a show in Suns' rout of Blazers

The Canadian Press

4/23/2010 2:13:27 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Jason Richardson scored a playoff career-high 42 points and the Phoenix Suns dominated from the start in a 108-89 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night that gave them a 2-1 lead in their first-round series.

The Suns led by as many as 31 points before Portland mounted a rally in the fourth quarter, closing within 91-80 after Rudy Fernandez hit three consecutive three-pointers.

The burst came too late for the Blazers, who suffered a setback when starting forward Nicolas Batum aggravated a shoulder injury in the first half and did not return.

Phoenix dropped the opening game of the series 105-100 at home but rebounded with a 119-90 victory on Tuesday night. Game 4 is Saturday at Portland.

Home-court advantage meant nothing for the Blazers. The red-clad Rose Garden fans even booed their team as the players left the court with a 66-37 deficit at the break.

Portland was dismal from the free throw line, making just 16-of-28 attempts.

Amare Stoudemire had 20 points for the Suns, while Steve Nash finished with 13 points and 10 assists.

LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 17 points. Andre Miller, who scored 31 in Portland's Game 1 win, was off for the second straight game and finished with just 11.

The Suns jumped on Portland early, quickly quieting the sellout crowd. Steve Nash's left-handed layup midway through the first quarter put Phoenix in front 16-6.

The Blazers were conservative, hampered by early fouls on both Fernandez and Aldridge. It didn't help when Jerryd Bayless was hit with a technical, and coach Nate McMillan had to signal his team to calm down.

Richardson hit a three-pointer and Leandro Barbosa made a layup to close out the first period with a 34-16 Suns lead.

Richardson, who had 29 points in the Suns' Game 2 victory, had 21 in the first half alone while the Blazers unsuccessfully used second-year guard Bayless to defend him.

Batum was questionable before the game after hurting his shoulder in the second half of Game 2 when he collided with Nash. But he started -- and answered any questions about his shoulder with an early two-handed dunk.

But late in the first half, Batum was fouled under the Blazers basket and appeared to re-injure himself. He quickly retreated to the locker room.

The injury was of concern because Batum, the team's primary perimeter defender, had surgery on the shoulder just before the opener and missed the first 45 games of the season.

The Blazers are already thin because of injuries. All-star guard Brandon Roy tore the meniscus in his right knee and had arthroscopic surgery two days before the playoffs got under way.

Portland mustered some energy in the second half, closing to 82-67 on Bayless' 20-foot jumper early in the fourth quarter before Fernandez went on his three-point flurry.

Batum's injury was yet another in a string that have afflicted the Blazers all season. Centres Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla needed season-ending knee surgeries and Fernandez had mid-season back troubles. Former forward Travis Outlaw, who was traded to the Clippers, sat out for a time with a foot injury.

Roy missed more that a dozen games with a sore hamstring earlier this year before the slight meniscus tear was discovered.

In all, 13 Blazers missed a combined 311 regular-season games, second only to the Warriors this season. Only Miller and forward Martell Webster played in all 82 games.

NOTES: Portland and Phoenix have met six times in the playoffs before, with each side taking three series. Phoenix has won three of the four first-round series. ... The Blazers were 2-1 against the Suns during the regular season.