Previous week’s games
4/18/10 Blazers 105, SUNS 100
4/20/10 SUNS 119, Blazers 90

Upcoming week’s games
4/22/10 SUNS @ Blazers, 7 p.m., My45, NBATV
4/24/10 SUNS @ Blazers, 1:30 p.m., My45, TNT
4/26/10 SUNS vs Blazers, 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona, TNT

With the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinals series between the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trailblazers shifting to Oregon tonight all knotted up at a game a piece, Suns Spot has decided to take a look at the three keys to the Purple Gang picking up a win tonight and taking back home court advantage.

1. Jump on Portland early

The Suns need to come out with the same intensity to start game three that they had to start game two. Force Portland into taking bad shots, grab the boards and run. The crowd at the Rose Garden is sure to be fired up, so Phoenix would be wise to take them out from the get-go. If the guys from Planet Orange can pick up the tempo early, the Trailblazers won’t have the offensive firepower to keep up, and we could see another one-sided affair.

On the flip side, if Portland is able to control the pace and turn the game into a grind-it-out dogfight, Phoenix can still be greatly effective. Just feed the ball to Grant Hill or Jason Richardson and let them pound the Blazer guards on the inside and all will be well on Planet Orange.

2. Amar’e must be aggressive

The Suns have to effectively contain Andre Miller. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

In game one of the series, Suns forward Amar’e Stoudemire showed Portland center Marcus Camby way too much respect. I’m not sure if it was in STAT’s head or what, but he forced too many jump shots on Sunday. In game two on Tuesday, Stoudemire did a much better job of attacking Camby and the other Portland bigs and earned some more free throws for his efforts. Camby may be a good defender, but if Amar’e attacks him, Amar’e will get his way. Amar’e is just too big and fast for Camby to shut down. Sure, Camby will cause some problems and stop him on occasion, but at the end of the day, this is a battle Amar’e will win.

While Amar’e’s scoring totals from the first two games were identical, the second game was a much more effective performance. When he is aggressive and driving hard to the basket, he not only gets to the charity stripe, but he also causes the opposition’s defense to collapse. As a result, outside-shooting Suns like Jason Richardson benefited greatly by getting a little more space to get off wide-open looks. If Amar’e continues to be aggressive on the offensive end, this series is in the bag for Phoenix.

3. Shut down Andre Miller

Without Brandon Roy, Portland’s only shot to even remain competitive in this series is to make sure Andre Miller has an explosion on the offensive end, much like he did in game one. In game two, Suns coach Alvin Gentry made a great defensive adjustment by placing Grant Hill on Miller. Miller basically has no outside jumper, so he must back down his defender to score. With the taller Hill and Jared Dudley putting a body on him, Miller was virtually useless in the second game. Phoenix must come out with this same plan in game three. Shut down Miller, and the game is over before it starts.

If you’re curious to see if the Suns can implement these keys into a victory, be sure to head over to Native New Yorker in Tempe (1301 E. Broadway Rd.) where the Suns will be hosting a playoff viewing party along with Sports 620 KTAR and Budweiser.

The Gorilla, along with members of the Sunsationals and Verve Sol Patrol, will tip-off the festivities at 6:30 p.m. with contests and giveaways. Suns Ring of Honor member Alvan Adams will also be on hand to visit with fans and sign autographs.

Other Suns-minded places to check out the game Downtown: Majerle’s, Coach & Willie’s and Alice Cooperstown.