I’m sure the Phoenix Suns have been waiting for this moment. Not only did they wait to get back into the second round… but they get yet another crack at their nemesis, the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs eliminated the Suns four of the last five times the Suns were in the Playoffs.
I’m also pretty sure my buddies from the desert are happy that they got rid of the Portland TrailBlazers in six games. I bring back Greg Esposito from the Phoenix Fanster Community… and I also brought in an old friend of ours, Ben York, who used to run the outstanding Ben’s Suns Blog. Now Ben writes for SLAM Magazine, where he writes a regular column for the WNBA. By the way, follow them on Twitter. Greg’s username is @The_Real_Espo and Ben’s username is @bjyork.
They are from Planet Orange… so their font is in orange. Enjoy!
Truth be told… how do you feel? The Suns were favorites to win against the Blazers, anyway… but how do you feel now that the Suns are back in the 2nd Round of the playoffs since 2007?
GREG: I feel happy but reserved. The Suns didn’t look great at time against the Blazers. Amar’e Stoudemire didn’t have a dominant game and Steve Nash was hurting and they still dispatched of Portland in six games. They’ll need both Nash and STAT to step up against the Spurs if they hope to win. So long story short, I’m cautiously optimistic.
BEN: I’m excited, obviously. More than anything, it is validation for the players and coaches that have worked so hard to develop this young squad. It is confidence boost to the bench and vindication that the type of personnel Kerr brought in has finally paid off. I think they are slowly but surely winning a lot of NBA fans over. No question about it, if the Suns are going to advance past the 2nd round they’ll need to collectively play much better than they did in the Blazers series.
Do you think the Blazers shouldn’t have taken the Suns to six games?
GREG: The Blazers were a scrappy team and, as we learned in Round 1, everyone in the West is strong. To say they shouldn’t have taken the Suns to six games would be a disservice to Portland. Now if it had gone to seven games, it would have been a different story.
BEN: Sure, I would’ve liked for the Suns to finish off the Blazers in 5, but they are too good of a team and are too well coached. They play with a lot of heart. I think the Suns made the proper adjustments after Miller destroyed them in game 1 and the Blazers had a difficult time bouncing back from the onslaught in games 2 and 3. Kudos to Roy for playing injured and keeping it close.
Jason Richardson has been quite the X-Factor in this postseason so far. Anyone else out there that also deserves to get props?
GREG: Jared Dudley, Grant Hill, and Goran Dragic all deserve recognition as well. The defense both Hill and Dudley played on Andre Miller was fantastic and the hustle both brought sparked the team during droughts. Dragic deserves praise for the way he stepped up in Game Six while Nash was slowed by his ailing hip.
BEN: I think the entire Suns bench deserves more recognition. You saw how badly Steve Nash played in game 6. If not for Goran Dragic having the poise to run the offense but also to put some points on the board then the Suns don’t win that game. Also, Jared Dudley has bounced back extremely well after his poor shooting to start the series. The bench has stepped up in a big way, especially with the loss of Robin Lopez who, coincidentally, will probably miss the entire Spurs series. Jarron Collins will be relied on again.
So… it’s the Spurs again. Tell me how much you dislike them… or respect them.
GREG: The honest answer is that I respect and hate the Spurs like an older sibling. You respect them because you pretty much have to. They’ve accomplished more than you and can kick your ass if you don’t. You hate them because they’ve kicked your ass so many times but you know at some point, you’ll be as good… if not better than them and things will even out. That time is now for the Suns.
BEN: I don’t like them but it’s because they are so good and they have such a psychological hold over the Suns (and me). At the same time, if the Suns are ever going to go anywhere, they’ll need to conquer this demon (yes, I related the Spurs to demons figuratively…kind of). The Portland fans whined over and over again about how “tough” the Suns were and how they played “dirty” during their series. Obviously, as a Suns fan, I LOVED to hear how supposedly tough the Suns played. I don’t think the series was that physical at all. But if I’m honest, I wonder if this is how the Spurs felt when the Suns fans “whined” about how physical the Spurs were? Granted, I think the Spurs were much more physical in their multiple series against the Suns than Phoenix was in the Portland series. Either way, I hate them because they beat the Suns…as I do every team that beats the Suns.
Keys for the Suns to beat the Spurs… asides from players not getting off the bench during a scuffle and Steve Nash’s nose not gushing with blood?
GREG: This is a simple one. Rebounding is the key for the Suns they can’t let the Spurs get second chance points. It’s a given that Duncan will get his but if guys like DeJuan Blair and Antonio McDyess pile up a lot of rebounds, the Suns are in big trouble.
BEN: Amar’e Stoudemire HAS to play well. The Suns can’t beat the Spurs if he puts up numbers similar to the Portland series. Amar’e has to put up the 35 points a night that he did in 2005 but play better defense and I think he will. Nash also has to have a better series than he did against the Blazers. The different thing about the Suns this year is that they can win games playing different styles; it’s not just the typical run-you-out-of-the-gym type of game people are accustomed to. Still, their greatest strength is pushing the tempo. However, I think this series will come down to the Suns getting defensive stops when they need them – something they’ve never been able to do in the playoffs against the Spurs.
Prediction for this series?
GREG: This is tough. It’s like being asked to pick which sports movie is the best between Happy Gilmore and Hoosiers. Your heart wants to say Happy Gilmore because it makes you laugh and feel good. Your brain, however, tells you to pick Hoosiers because years of conditioning has lead you to believe it’s the better film. Like Ben Roesthlisberger and Kobe Bryant, I’m going to go against my better judgement and put myself in a situation I shouldn’t. I’m going to take the Suns in 6.
BEN: I think it goes 7 games. Who wins? I don’t know. It’s not that I’m not confident in the Suns; it’s really that I have no idea. I think it comes down to who wants it more, as cliche as that sounds.
Anything you want to say to the Spurs fans? Or everyone else?
GREG: Dear San Antonio Spurs, I hate you. I hate you so much that the combination of silver, white and black on anything like the Raiders, a penguin or anything else, even my wife, makes me sick. Oh, and we installed seat belts on our bench so you won’t be baiting us into any suspensions this time around.
PS. The Lakers better take care of business fast because you’ll have your hands full in the Western Conference Finals.
BEN: The Suns are a good team. The Spurs are a good team. The better team will win the series. All the controversy in the past doesn’t matter anymore, even if the Spurs had to cheat to get there.
PHOTO CREDITS: 1) Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images. 2) Matt York/AP. 3) D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images.