Game Notes: Spurs at Suns
Phoenix puts the cool on.
by Dennis Tarwood / @tuffyr
Suns fans banished one of the jackals on their spirit walk to the Playoffs with a 112-101 win from their Suns in Phoenix Wednesday that left the Spurs chasing the Suns around the Amar’e maypole unsuccessfully on the rear end of a back-to-back for the Texas team.
The Spurs also struggled without Grade A Tony Parker; his 25 minutes were moderately effective on offense (5-10 FG, 5 AST, 2 TO, no visits to the line), but he was practically leaning on Goran Dragic at halfcourt in the fourth quarter to stay propped up.
His support staff, spot starter Garrett Temple (with George Hill out) and Roger Mason Jr, played the part of the elephant cleanup crew in the parade of Steve Nash and Goran Dragic loops around the pick ‘n roll circuit. Nash particularly benefited by posting an 18/4/12 with one turnover and the ability to take the whole fourth quarter off.
“Pick and rolls are generally our bread and butter,” Nash noted again after the game. “We expect them to be good for us most nights.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich declined to target any one person’s efforts. “As a team, we did a pretty poor job on pick-and-roll D. It wasn’t (one man’s) fault.”
Popovich claimed fear of the Lakers as a Playoff opponent before the game. “All of us (Western Conference teams) are beating each other up and trying our ass off to hide from the Lakers as best we can if everyone’s being honest.”
But his biggest enemy has to be fatigue: Parker’s lax conditioning due to his recent return from injury and the 34+ minutes posted by Richard Jefferson, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili in their second concurrent night. If any doubt exists about the localized bout of exhaustion, consider the Spurs shot 17-28 from the free-throw line, including a seven-of-18 first half.
Between the 19 long misses from three and the 18 turnovers for the Spurs, the Suns were able to weather the San Antonio storm inside for much of the first half and used the last 90 seconds of the half as practice for the imposition of the Suns Way onto the Spurs in the second half.
Pop spoke about the naysayers who point out the flaws in the Suns and how the Suns flat-out ignore them. “(The Suns) do what they do and they do it well. (Gentry’s) done well with that philosophy.”
Jared Dudley, newfound podcast star after a turn on Bill Simmons’ ESPN audio joint, had no issues reaching out to his new media friends on Twitter to ask how to tackle Manu Ginobili. “So what I’m getting from y’all is make him go right, be physical with him, and keep him out the lane. Ok ok I’ll let my teammates know. Thanks.”
After the Suns let go of the entire advance scouting team, Dudley applied his advice on the Argentinean and quieted him to a dull spot in the second half. Ginobili made only one shot in the whole second half to the pleasure of the fairly vindictive Phoenix crowd. (This is the same crowd that took delight in Tim Duncan receiving an accidental elbow to the head from Manu in the second quarter.)
The Suns extended their lead to 17 in the fourth before Popovich emptied the bench and the Spurs pulled back within nine to make matters presentable.
The Suns, in a three-way tie for second in the West, travel Friday to Oklahoma City to play one of the three teams tied for sixth. One of the other teams knotted up at the six spot, San Antonio, take on the Grizzlies at home Friday.
– Pop held court before the game to the delight of the assembled unwashed media masses, his tongue firmly in cheek on most every comment. Opinions on Tony Parker’s status (“he’s still cute, still got all that Hollywood bullshit”), rumors about Manu’s contract extension curiously leaked to ESPN just before they got on site for the game (“Do you believe them?”), and Republican political strategy (“You don’t want to paint yourself in a corner. It’s like saying the health care plan’s going to be Armageddon. It’s hard to come back from that.”).
He only paused long enough to respond to Nash running by the crowd to the practice court when Steve dropped a playful expletive on Coach. “Go practice your jumper! Maybe you’ll make a shot tonight if you go shoot a few. We’re going under on every pick-and-roll!”
– Once the game started, Richard Jefferson blew by Grant Hill for the and one soon after tip. Hill immediately bent over and retied his shoes. Problem solved.
– Later in the first, Nash airballed a long two. Amar’e Stoudemire assumed it was tipped and lobbied for Suns ball. Nash tossed a no-look “never mind; I pooched it” hand motion to Amar’e, who dropped the matter.
– Lute OIson stopped by after the game to see Channing Frye, much to both men’s delight. Though not spotted, it might be assumed he also dropped by to see Richard Jefferson.
– Lou Amundson and Matt Bonner earned matching techs at the end of the first quarter for bumping one another. Depending on your point of view, you can call it Playoff intensity or Playoff clumsiness.
– Stoudemire nearly halved the number of redheads in the L by accident. Matt Bonner hit a running hook from nine feet at the end of the third quarter. Amar’e Stoudemire blindly lashed out with his fist in anger at this, not realizing Bonner’s head was near the air Amar’e tried to abuse. Only Bonner’s quick reflexes saved his life. (Stop giggling.)
– Steve Nash stopped on his run to the locker room for the half to spend 15 seconds pampering a 3-year-old with his jersey on being held by his father. The kid slowly realized the guy from TV had just ruffled his hair and pointed the fellow out to his father. Dad put the kid down as Nash sprinted away and the kid chased Nash down the hall quite unsuccessfully. This also describes Garrett Temple’s night fairly well.
– We’ve been pushing all season for Tim Duncan’s nickname to be The Merlin Wall. Duncan’s thought on the moniker? “Probably better than The Big Fundamental. I’d run with it.” He may have been sincere, too; he almost smiled. Consider it done, MW.