Suns Rout Spurs, Even Series at 1-1The Phoenix Suns salvaged their season--for the moment--with a 101-81 victory over the San Antonio Spurs, evening their Western Conference semifinal series at 1-1. The next two games will be played in San Antonio, so a Phoenix loss would have resulted in a 2-0 deficit that would have likely meant almost certain elimination. The Suns still must win at least one road game to regain the homecourt advantage. Steve Nash had 20 points and 16 assists, though he shot an un-Nash like 7-17 (.412). Amare Stoudemire contributed 27 points and nine rebounds. He was slightly outshined by Tim Duncan (29 points, 11 rebounds, two blocked shots) but Duncan received no help from his teammates, who combined to shoot just 21-57 (.368). Superstars' games are portable but most everyone else plays better at home, so if form holds then Duncan's supporting cast will do better in the next two games while Nash's (other than Stoudemire) will do worse.
The Spurs led 25-19 after the first quarter but their offense simply died the rest of the way. The story of this game was not so much about the Suns' uptempo style versus the Spurs' preferred slower pace but simply about the Suns making shots and the Spurs missing them. Still, Phoenix had two 30 point quarters; L.A. Lakers' Coach Phil Jackson's philosophy for beating the Suns stipulates that you have to limit them to one 30 point quarter per game, so the Spurs' usually great defense was somewhat subpar--but that is also a function of missing so many shots, which naturally feeds the other team's fastbreak.
As great as the Spurs are, it would have been surprising for them to take two games in Phoenix. The Suns are a very good team and, obviously, had the better regular season record (that is why they have homecourt advantage in the series--or, had it before Game One). The Suns knew that they had to win this game and I suspect that when this series is over we will see that they played their best game on Tuesday while the Spurs played their worst. Expect two hard fought games in San Antonio. The Spurs will probably take a 3-1 lead before the series heads back to Phoenix but I would not put it past the Suns to get one win in San Antonio, forcing the Spurs to win Game Five on the road and close the series out at home in Game Six.
posted by David Friedman @ 7:39 AM