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Spurs and Suns: Two Teams, One Consequence

Over the last decade, the San Antonio Spurs have been one of the best teams in the NBA. And during the last 5 seasons, the Phoenix Suns have been one of the best teams in the league as well. Unfortunately, I don’t see both of these reigns going further than the end of the of this 2010 NBA season.

In the current 2010 NBA Playoffs, both teams are up 3 games to 2, and should be well on their way to advancing to the second round, where these two teams will face off against one another.

However, there remains the remote possibility that neither team makes the second round. While the San Antonio Spurs do have the series advantage, all of the pressure in the world is on them tonight, because if they don’t close this series out in Game 5, in their home building, the Spurs older players might not make it through a Game 7 in Dallas. As for Phoenix, they have to go to Portland tonight and try to close a series on the road. They do have the advantage of being able to come back to Phoenix to close out the series, but Portland has already beaten the Suns in Phoenix during this postseason.

If either the Suns or the Spurs were to lose tonight, and eventually go on to lose their series, I believe that would spell “The End” for each team’s reign at the top of the league. It can be argued that San Antonio’s reign ended two postseasons ago, when the Lakers beat them in the Western Conference Finals like they stole something. And perhaps the Suns reign was over last season, when the team failed to make the NBA Playoffs for the first time since Steve Nash’s return to the desert.

But both teams had a resurgence of sorts this past season. The Phoenix Suns seemingly went from out of the playoffs to the 3rd seed in the Western Conference in what seemed like a matter of a few days. They scorched every team in the NBA for about a month, and the Suns had their most efficient offensive season ever, including that first year with Mike D’Antoni and Steve Nash combining to make one heck of an offensive juggernaut.

While the Spurs didn’t exactly blow through the league, the fact that they finished with 50 wins in a season in which Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker probably didn’t play 40 games together; many people looked at this team with quite the admiring, knowing that if the Spurs big three could get on the floor at the same time during the postseason, they would be a handful.

Thus, at this moment, I don’t think it’s eminently over for both franchises’ current reigns—and neither do the teams themselves. If Phoenix General Manager Steve Kerr thought it was over, he would have sent Amare Stoudemire to the highest bidder before the NBA trade deadline passed back in February. And if the San Antonio Spurs thought their reign was over, they wouldn’t have signed Manu Ginobili to a two-year contract extension a week ago.

However, with the outcome of each team’s current first round series, things can change in a heart beat. If the Spurs were to lose to the Dallas Mavericks, after holding a 3-1 lead, it is fair to say that this team would be shaken up at the end of the year. We all know the Spurs are good enough to close this thing out, so if they don’t win this series, it’s hard to point to anything other than the age and tired legs of their best players. Perhaps a change would only mean trading one or two of the Spurs ancillary pieces. But maybe it means shopping Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, or even considering moving Manu Ginobili, even though they did just lock him up for two more years. I know this sounds crazy to some of you, but who would have thought that the Rockets would have given Hakeem Olajuwon away? Whoever saw Scottie Pippen leaving the Bulls? These things happen in the NBA, and I wouldn’t put it past a great organization like the Spurs to start thinking about their its after what would be a devastating first-round loss.

Then there is the Phoenix Suns. Nobody thought they would even be involved in a series with the Portland Blazers, but giving up a victory on their home floor in Game 1 of the series changed the entire complexion of this matchup. There is no doubt in my mind that had the Phoenix Suns blown the Portland Blazers out in Game 1 the same way they blew them out in Game 2, Brandon Roy would be at home somewhere watching these games on a television screen and not on the basketball court playing against the Suns. But that win in Game 1 gave the Blazers just a little bit of hope, and with thoughts of advancing to the second round, the Blazers decided to roll out their franchise guy in hopes of stealing a series victory.

And if the Blazers do steal this series, the Suns players need to do more than pack their lockers after this game. They need to start packing up their Arizona homes, because they won’t have a job in Phoenix anymore. Amare certainly won’t want to come back to Phoenix if they lose in the first round; so you can kiss him goodbye in free agency. Grant Hill, Jason Richardson and Leandro Barbosa are all extremely expendable. And if guys like that start to go, wouldn’t you expect that Steve Nash, who is playing fewer and fewer minutes every season, would have to consider “other options”…? I’m not suggesting retirement, but I’m not ignoring that possibility either.

Of course, here I am, pontificating about dire consequences for what are some very unlikely outcomes. Both the Spurs and Suns hold 3-2 leads in their series, and both teams were up 3-1 at one point, an advantage only 8 teams in NBA history have relinquished. So in all likelihood, both teams will advance to the second round, and these two teams will face one another.

Then here we are again. What happens to the loser of that series? Is all a wash, or is losing to your postseason, mortal enemy even more cause for concern?

No matter what happens in the first round, or in the second round, if and when these two teams meet up, either the Spurs or the Suns is going home very unhappy after this postseason. And both teams would be going home with either aging stars or expendable ones. Therefore, if you have loved the championship fundamentals of the Spurs over the last decade, or the offensive magnetism of the Suns over the last five years, you better enjoy it while you still can. Because the way things are drawn up, one (or both) of these teams isn’t coming back for the 2010-2011 NBA season looking anything like what they look like right now.

[[This article originally appeared on the The Sports Watchers]]


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