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Spurs-Suns Could be Among Best in History

By Daniel Strickland on April 19, 2008.

The 2008 playoffs just started an hour ago and conventional wisdom has it that the Celtics will face the Lakers in the Finals and the San Antonio Spurs’ season might be over two weeks from now.

No doubt, with all the drama of last year’s series, when Robert Horry checked Steve Nash into the scorer’s table during game four and Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw were suspended for game five for leaving the bench, the first round matchup between the Spurs and Suns is the series to watch.

Dan Bickley writes for The Arizona Republic:

As battle-scarred basketball fans in the Valley can attest, the Suns meet almost all the requirements of a classic, timeless sporting tale. The only thing missing is the happy ending. And to get there, they must finally slay that dragon, that black-and-silver beast living in San Antonio.

Across the NBA, this playoff series between the Suns and the Spurs is attracting major attention. Given the caliber of teams involved and their respective championship aspirations, it could rank among the best first-round series in the sport’s history. It’s that good.

But in these parts, it’s also deeply personal. It’s about revenge and settling the score. It’s about standing up and defeating the schoolyard bully. It’s about closure and putting a long-standing nightmare to bed.

“It’s mostly for the fans, and three-fifths of our starting lineup was not here when this all started,” Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “But they (the Spurs) do represent the defending champions. They do wear black. So they do serve the part, (representing) a little bit of evil. And the players know there’s a rivalry going on. You can come in late and still pick up on that.”

Suns fans have every right to be hopeful that they’ll find redemption this year, after losing to the Spurs in the second round in 2007.

Paola Boivin writes for The Arizona Republic:

The Spurs have issues. They’ve lost three of their past six games, including that 90-64 fiasco against Utah. Let’s not forget the 21-point defeat to the Lakers and the 17-point loss to the Suns.

For all the good things that an experienced roster can bring, sometimes experience is spelled A-G-E down the stretch, and you can’t help but wonder if that’s what’s going on here. Look at some of their second-half point totals recently: 26, 33, 34.

Yuck.

Last season they led the NBA in point differential. This season, they’re barely in the Top 10. Offensively, they can’t spread the floor the way they have in the past. This is not exactly a team heading into the postseason with a lot of confidence.

The Suns, meanwhile, finally have shed their one-dimensional tag.

Their flexibility was evident in back-to-back games against Memphis and San Antonio.

They played like the old up-tempo Suns against the Grizzlies, and the newfangled Suns against the Spurs, thanks to tough defense and fourth-quarter dominance.

“We’re more equipped to handle different things that come at us,” D’Antoni said. “That was the whole point of the trade.”

Ah, yes. The trade. Have you noticed what Shaquille O’Neal has done to Tim Duncan, recently? O’Neal has limited Duncan to 15-of-40 shooting in their past two meetings.

The super-sized Saguaro gets giddy when talking about defending San Antonio’s cyborg in the post.


Kiwi Sean Marks is giddy about his career-high 16 points and 13 rebounds against the Blazers. Less so about facing his former Spurs teammates.

Suns fans should keep this in mind, lest they get too ‘giddy’ and start counting their trophy too soon: four-time NBA champion Tim Duncan has never been eliminated in the first round. And that fact won’t change this year.

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Comments

  1. The Monkee Cage April 20, 2008

    Game one lived up to the billing. If all the games go like this I may have a heart attack. What a freakin’ game.

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