Suns/Spurs Series Preview
I don’t do quagmires.
by Dennis Tarwood / @tuffyr
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know.”
—United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Phoenix Suns fans know what they need to know about the San Antonio Spurs. An informal poll in Phoenix of media and fans revealed this matchup was the one most dreaded in the first round. (Note that the Lakers were practically out of reach during this ‘poll’ as the Suns were not really in contention for the eighth spot at that time.)
The venom in Phoenix creates the loudest crowds at US Airways Arena at any point during the season, louder than Kobe hate. (And that’s some mighty fine hate.) Of course, one is loathe to refer to this as a rivalry as we know the Suns haven’t bested the Spurs in the playoffs since 2000, when Tim Duncan (known heretofore as The Merlin Wall) couldn’t play.
The San Antonio Spurs think they know what they need to know about themselves. Even late in the regular season, they felt confident that they had a sense of rhythm back. Gregg Popovich told the assembled media in Phoenix a month ago that he only feared the Lakers in the Playoffs (and who knows whose leg he was pulling there).
We know we get to lean on the pace canard again in this series; the Suns will win if they run and the Spurs will drag their feet and rebound the basketball and so on.
We all know the Suns struggled a bit against a Portland Trail Blazers squad lacking depth, talent, and (in the case of Rudy Fernandez) a sense of purpose. We know the Spurs put down the 55-win Dallas Mavericks, a gifted roster, like it was an act of mercy: humanely, cleanly, and without regret.
We clearly know how this series will go down.
We don’t know a damned thing.
For example, we know the Suns blew the doors off the Blazers in three of the six games, making the series less of a struggle than previously intimated. We also know the Mavericks, nominal #2 Western Conference seed, could not have been less impressive in their series against the Spurs. Who tested whom, exactly?
We know big guards tear up Steve Nash. We know fast guards whip by Steve Nash. We know Steve Nash can’t guard…. uhm, guards, apparently. We also watched Tony Parker and Co. give Jason Kidd a 7.0/1.5 AST/TO ratio in six games. We also know Jason Kidd would love a comparison to Steve Nash these days. So what do we really know about the point guard matchup?
We know the Suns took the season series 2-1, but we also know only the last game’s rosters remotely resemble the ones that will participate in this series.
We know Duncan, Antonio McDyess, and DeJuan Blair will chew up the Suns’ interior and spit out the seeds. Except the Suns would prefer to leave those six barely-functional knees in the breeze during in-game wind sprints. How many ACLs do you need to see the back of Amar’e Stoudemire’s jersey repeatedly?
Also, the Suns stood with the tallest trees in the league when Robin Lopez patrolled the lane as a starter mid-season. Alvin Gentry, who has sighed and shrugged and looked at the ceiling wistfully when Lopez’s timetable for return from a back injury came up recently, now has started flirting with the notion that Robin Lopez may not only play in this series but could be on the active roster Monday night. What do we know about the presence and abilities of a weakened Robin Lopez?
Do we know George Hill at all?
And we sure as hell don’t know what we don’t know. Who knew a Nash bash would help decide the 2007 edition?
So what do we actually know about this series?
We know Manu Ginobili can count on ordering room service in Phoenix.
We know that bungee cords will be attached to all Suns players not currently in the game to prevent them from ever leaving the bench area.
We know referee selections for the series will be watched closely. (Is there any chance Joey Crawford doesn’t work this series?)
We know what we said in the first round: the Suns’ second unit is better than yours.
We know the Suns haven’t bested the Spurs since the 2000 NBA Playoffs. We also know the Alamo hasn’t had a victory in a good long while. These both hold the same historical relevance.
We know it’s a requirement of sportswriters everywhere to predict series despite knowing all we know, all we don’t know, and all we don’t know we don’t know about this matchup and finding most of the entries in the latter two categories.
So we’ll take the Phoenix Suns in seven games, though we wouldn’t be surprised or disappointed in any other outcome. Take it from us; we did pick the Suns in six in the last series. (And you know what that’s worth.)
“If I know the answer, I’ll tell you the answer. And if I don’t, I’ll just respond cleverly.” – Rumsfeld