Roy, Blazers plan on giving it their all

Portland’s star guard will start tonight in do-or-die game

By Brian T. Smith, Columbian Sports Writer

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TUALATIN, Ore. — Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy does not know how much he can give, nor how much he can produce.

But the heart and soul of a Portland team facing a playoff-elimination game that could mark the end of its season does know this: he is going to give it everything he has.

Roy said he will start tonight against the Phoenix Suns during Game 6 of a Western Conference first-round series.

But Roy conceded that he is unsure whether he is healthy enough or has enough stamina to unleash a classic performance and help keep the Blazers’ season alive. He even acknowledged that he is uncertain whether he can provide a 20-point outing.

“I’ve been thinking about that ever since I’ve been back,” said Roy, following practice Wednesday at the team’s workout facility.

Yet the three-time All-Star, who missed Games 1-3 while recovering from knee surgery, plans to leave nothing in the tank tonight. His minutes will not be limited, and he expects to receive a greenlight from opening tip to final buzzer.

“No limits on minutes. I’m starting,” Roy said. “So, I’m just going to try and play as hard as I can.”

Portland must win tonight to keep its season alive. The task is undoubtedly a major physical and mental challenge for Portland. But several Blazers said that the best way to overcome the obstacle is to employ reverse psychology.

The theory: Game 6 will be held on Portland’s home court, where a passionate sellout crowd should provide the Blazers with invaluable backing and support.

If Portland emerges victorious, pushing the up-and-down series to Game 7 in Phoenix, then both teams will be on the brink of elimination, not just the Blazers.

Factor in that Portland stole Game 1 in Phoenix, and Blazers coach Nate McMillan believes that the current uphill climb his team faces is not as steep as it initially appears.

“The key is, it’s 3-2. So, there’s a good chance. We win this game and it’s a tied series. And then you go back to that seventh game,” McMillan said. “If we take care of business ... who knows who crumbles in that situation?”

Portland guard Andre Miller said past personal experience has shown that teams facing elimination in the playoffs only overcome the odds if they play loose and free.

The 11-year veteran has never made it out of the first round. And when Miller has played for teams that have come close to advancing, the squads have taken the court tense and played tight, essentially guaranteeing disappointment and defeat.

“We’ve got to play a perfect game the next two games,” Miller said.

He added: “We’re going to take (Game 6) as the last game of the season. We want to win this. We want to come out and play hard. We’ve just got to do it, you know? If not, our season’s over.”

But Miller and McMillan acknowledged that talk is cheap. The Blazers have known since the series started how to stop the Suns: Slow down Phoenix’s run-and-gun attack by preventing fast-break points, while winning key statistical categories such as rebounding, free throws and turnovers.

Portland did just that in Games 1 and 4, collecting impressive victories while holding the Suns to 100 points or less in each contest.

But Phoenix averaged 111 points during wins in Games 2, 3 and 5, blowing out the Blazers by an average of 22 points.

By displaying hustle, scrappy play and fight — Portland trademarks during the team’s past three seasons of success — McMillan said the Blazers can dictate the tempo, hold down the Suns and even the series.

And by focusing on the present and not looking ahead, Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge said the resilient Blazers can continue to stay alive.

“We’re not looking at a Game 7,” Aldridge said. “This is a one-game season for us. We’re just going into Game 6 trying to do everything we can to win.”

Notes

• Blazers forward Nicolas Batum said he is still experiencing significant pain in his right shoulder. But Batum has learned to tolerate and play with the discomfort, and expects to start tonight.

• Portland center Marcus Camby is dealing with a sprained left ankle and a dislocated left pinky finger. Camby is also expected to start tonight, though.

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