Suns/Spurs Game 1 Recap
What didn’t happen will surprise you.
by Dennis Tarwood / @tuffyr
Here’s a best-seller that will never be: Stuff That Didn’t Happen. It’s not one of those fantastical novels that imagine an alternate reality where John F. Kennedy lived to be 83 or Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter. No, this would be a laundry list of all the stuff that didn’t happen in a given day.
For example, you didn’t chuck it all and become a beet farmer. You didn’t stop by the Quik Mart for a gallon of chocolate milk. You didn’t transubstantiate anything. You didn’t… look, this one’s a hard nut to crack. Let’s try this a new way:
The Phoenix Suns won Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals 111-102 Monday by forcing the San Antonio Spurs to not dominate the interior while led in part by a resurgent Jason Richardson (27 pts on 16 shots), who did not wilt in the second round after a dominating first-round series against a less-than-dominating opponent.
The Spurs did not take advantage of their size and strength inside, settling for jump shots a bit too often as aggressive fly-out D on Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili kept them to merely being really good. Tim Duncan’s 20/11/4 didn’t reflect a 4-9 free throw night or how Channing Frye, who struggled with Juwan Howard in the post in the first round, could man him up down low all night.
Steve Nash did not buckle at the knees (or his sore hip) at the sight of quick and/or tall point guards, instead sinking 13-19 shots for 33 points and 10 rebounds. In fact, the Spurs did not lose because they played poor offensive basketball as much as they did not play defensive basketball well enough on the long rebounds which led to 27 fast-break points for Phoenix.
George Hill, who has both dominated and disappeared in these playoffs, didn’t get any expectations set by Gregg Popovich before the series. “I just want him to play, keep getting better, have fun, and enjoy the experience,” Popovich insisted. That’s just as well for Hill as he wouldn’t have met any expectations Popovich didn’t set for Game 1 with 2-9 shooting and four personal fouls that didn’t show good positioning.
The Suns didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the early jump shooting fetish/woes of the Spurs, depositing 8 fast-break points in the first quarter on their way to a 31-22 lead. The lead stretched to as much as 14 before halftime, when the Suns didn’t remember to come back out of the locker room in a timely fashion and returned to find their 10-point halftime advantage hadn’t stuck around.
The Spurs took a three-point lead less than five minutes into the third quarter thanks to three consecutive blocks by Tim Duncan, who didn’t allow the Suns to run away with the game or the series. Still, by the end of the third, the Suns proved they didn’t let the shock of the Spurs’ attack awe them into collapse. The lead had returned to 10 by the end of the third.
Once again, the Gray Tide rolled in on the Suns in the fourth as San Antonio finally didn’t have to settle for jump shots only, pulling the lead back to a mere point midway through the final frame with 9-10 shooting in the paint. However, a continued inability to hit from three (1-10 in the fourth) combined with a Jason Richardson long bomb that put the game away with 90 seconds left kept the Spurs from claiming an early series advantage.
Jason Richardson didn’t have a magic explanation for his recent offensive explosion. “It’s the playoffs. I’m not worrying about anything. If I miss a shot, oh well… I’ve got seven years pent up from not being in the playoffs, so I’m leaving it all out on the floor.”
Nash agreed about Richardson’s lack of worry lines. “He’s a talented scorer. When he gets his confidence going and he’s knocking down shots, we’re a really good team.”
The Spurs weren’t as positive after the game. Popovich: “We didn’t react very quickly (to Nash).” Duncan: “Our focus wasn’t where we wanted it to be.”
Neither team will feel negatively about their performance overall and will be ready for Game 2 Wednesday. Now for our next book idea: Things That Never Existed. First, a Spurs 1-0 series lead…
– Conan O’Brien visited Phoenix last Friday night with Robin Lopez in attendance, wearing a Griffey White Sox jersey. Oh, how excited Lopez must have felt when O’Brien came out to an adoring crowd of 5,000 in a Suns jersey… only to see it was Channing Frye’s jersey. (And doesn’t that one scream ‘L.A. Calculation’? “We need a local team jersey. Let’s also choose the guy that went to school at U of A so we get even more cheap cheers.”)
– Lopez, by the way, didn’t make the active roster in Game 1 but will be a series of game-time decisions the rest of the way.
– Gregg Popovich gifted Alvin Gentry with a case of wines from his Oregon winery before the series. Gentry jokingly offered to send over some Boone’s Farm. Apparently, Gentry’s not above poisoning his opponent.