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NBA Playoffs, Suns v. Spurs Game 2: Ignore the shiny superstars, this one's about the reserves

May 6, 2010, 12:34 AM EDT

dudley.pngTim Duncan had 29 points and 10 boards, the Spurs had an effective field goal percentage of 55.1%, and George Hill and Richard Jefferson combined for 32 points (including a 18-10 double-double). It just wasn’t enough. San Antonio made runs and they pressed Phoenix repeatedly, but every lineup the Suns put on the floor had an answer.

Regardless of which five of the Suns — I’m sorry, Los Suns — were on the floor, they were able to compete. Things were looking bright for the Spurs after they racked up a 10-point lead in the game’s first 12 minutes, but from that point on, the Suns simply outworked and outperformed them. Duncan was brilliant, Parker’s game was lethal at times, and the help from RJ and Hill was much-needed, but the Suns really looked the part of the better team on Wednesday night in beating the Spurs 110-102.

Probably because they were the better team. It was Phoenix that was able to persevere despite poor shooting (the Suns’ eFG% was a full seven percentage points below their regular season average) thanks to effort plays (18 offensive rebounds will do wonders), huge three-pointers (Channing Frye and Jason Richardson were especially prolific), and their frequent trips to the free throw line (37 FTAs to the Spurs’ 22). San Antonio may still be something of a powerhouse, but Phoenix clearly wasn’t ready to play the role of the underdog in this series. They’re playing like the 3-seed that they are, and right now it’s a bit too much for the Spurs.

The Suns remain the most deceptively deep team in the playoffs, and Alvin Gentry’s decision to run with a bench unit at times is not at all misguided. Every player off the Phoenix bench plays with an incredible energy, and the unique combination of shooting, defense, hustle, talent, and rebounding among the Suns’ reserves has a tremendous impact on a frequent basis. Frye and Jared Dudley were the heroes this time around, but on Friday it could just as easily be Lou Amundson and Goran Dragic.

The Suns had two essential 17-8 runs, one to start the second quarter and another to start the fourth. Any guess as to which lineup was on the floor for Phoenix? The reserve unit did serious damage in the second, and reprised their roles as gangbusters to start the fourth quarter with the help of Grant Hill. The first run brought a solid San Antonio lead to a measly two points, and the second run gave Phoenix a seven-point edge that the starters would essentially hold for the rest of the game.

Contrast that success with the limited production from the Spurs bench — Tony Parker aside, San Antonio’s reserves scored four points on 28.5% shooting in almost 29 combined minutes — and it’s no wonder why Duncan, Parker, Jefferson, and Hill weren’t enough. The four productive Suns starters (woe is Jarron Collins) just about went point-for-point with the four highest-scoring Spurs, meaning this game really was won in the trenches.

When both teams were looking for a spark, Jared Dudley came up with offensive rebounds and loose balls while Tim Duncan ran on tired legs. Channing Frye shot the lights out while Matt Bonner clanged away open looks. Having a reliable bench is a luxury that few head coaches have in the NBA, but Alvin Gentry is a lucky man. Or really, a man that has done his job over the course of the season in not only recognizing the talent that he had but also in grooming them for situations just like this one both as individual players and as a unit. This did not happen by accident.

If the Suns end up winning two more games, one could look at two of Phoenix’s offensive sequences in the mid-fourth quarter as the series’ defining moments. With Channing Frye as the lone big man on the floor for Phoenix, Tim Duncan was out of his element. He had no one to guard and no way to help. The Suns moved the ball, set screens to force switches, and isolated Grant Hill against Duncan. That was Phoenix’s game plan: they used two straight possessions with the specific purpose of going at one of the greatest defenders of all time.

And it worked. Hill hit two huge jumpers over Duncan, each helping to preserve the Suns’ then-vulnerable lead. The point is not Tim’s decline from his glory days, but just the fact that whereas he was once the matchup nightmare for the Suns, it now seems that the Suns are the problematic matchup for him. All of a sudden it’s the Spurs trying to find a place to put Duncan on defense rather than the Suns desperately searching for someone who can defend him.

He may still get his 29, but apparently Phoenix can live with that. There’s enough scoring and enough depth that it just doesn’t matter. We could be in for a very different series when things shift to San Antonio, but two games into the series, it’s abundantly clear that the Suns are not messing around. This is a dangerous team playing with a lot of confidence, and unless the Spurs pull off the four-wins-in-five-games mini-miracle, they’ll soon be rolling into the Western Conference Finals.       

  1. Mr. Beach - May 6, 2010 at 1:08 PM

    If you don’t think athletes can make a difference let’s take a trip down memory lane to Mexico City 1968. Mr. Tommie Smith and Mr. John Carlos on the podium after the 220. They had the spotlight and the guts. And as for this dude Joe Arpaio who claims to be America’s toughest sheriff, well I’ve seen him before. I believe it was in Alabama in the early 1960’s but at that time he went by the name Eugene “Bull” Corrors.

  2. Anonymous - May 6, 2010 at 1:08 PM

    So you can voice your opinion, but Steve Nash can’t? Makes alot of sense.

  3. kevin - May 6, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    Don’t know what koolaid you’ve been drinking but most of us in AZ DO support this law as well as a majority of Hispanic AZ residents. Sarver had no right to inject this into sports PERIOD.

  4. Jose D. - May 6, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    I am boycotting the Suns too because illegal is illegal. I had to work hard for my citizenship and right to be in this country and so should everyone else. Keep politics out of sports! I don’t tune into CNN to watch sports and certainly don’t want to see politics on ESPN.

  5. Tony Varela - May 6, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    You are not a law breaker by being in opposition to government policies. You are a law breaker when you violate an established law. Please read the laws on immigration passed by the federal government, and you will find that entering the country without an approved document (visa, passport, etc.) is illegal. By the way, if they were going to change the uniforms, why not use “Los Soles” which is the complete translation?

  6. inka - May 6, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    Where do you get that illegals don’t pay taxes on the wages. Of course they do only they get nothing for them. I am so tired of hearing about how illegals get so much without paying into the system. I get at least three or four email a week that say something about illegals getting so many benefits from our welfare system, including food stamps. That is just not true, the only thing a person who is not a US citizen can receive from any welfare system is emergency medical care. I am retired from Arizona’s welfare (Family Assistance) and the laws are very strict, any illegal who gets anything from the welfare system is getting them because the worker who approved the case is ignorant of the law and has made a mistake. I was proud of the Sun’s for making a statement. Obviously they realize, as do I, that this new law is redundant and is nothing more than racial profiling aimed at the Hispanics, both legal and illegal. The authorities already had the right to ask for I.D. they always have had, they didn’t need a new law. Think about it, what is the first thing a law enforcement officer asks you when you get pulled over for any traffic infraction? Isn’t it for your I.D.? This law is a slap in the face of every law abiding Hispanic citizen in this country. And please, don’t say that there are many other races that are affected, we all know that this is aimed at Mexicans. It has gotten so almost all of the ills in the country are being blamed on those of Mexican heritage. Americans are angry and want someone or something to blame for all that is happening but they need to find answers not blame the Mexicans, our problems are not their fault. I applaud all those who have stood up and spoken out against this new and unneeded, unneccesary racial profiling law.

  7. danp50 - May 6, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    Many of you seem to be missing the point. Regardless of how you feel about Arizona’s new law the issue is whether it is all right to put a political statement on a pro player’s uniform. Will you be ok if in a couple of years the team decides to wear Pallin for President jerseys? How about “stamp out abortion” shorts? No matter what your political beliefs are, the basketball court is not the proper forum for advertising them.

  8. Alex G. - May 6, 2010 at 1:25 PM

    Hey Alex, aside from you needing to re-learn some High School lessons. What “group” do all the angry minorities belong to? Because you seem to love running your mouth, with little to back it up, other than the old, ‘this is America and I can call all white people racists’. Because no race other then white people house any fears or preconceieved notions about another race. Let me know if you need help understanding this.

  9. Kevin - May 6, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    What a ridiculous idea, the natives DID have the border closed to their ability the same goes for what is now Mexico before it was taken from its’ indians. Tell it to the ranchers who have their property invaded daily by armed houligans. Tell it to the Pinal county deputy who faced down AK47s this week.

  10. born american - May 6, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    who are you trying to convince that MOST people in az are against govenor Brewer give me a break most people (LEGAL AMERICANS)are with her and her attempt to rescue our social security and welfare programs that are being wiped out do to the illegals in our state please go to the welfare offices and look at who is in line for there free food ,money,and anything else thet can steal from us hard working AMERICANS that have paid taxes all there lives,these people that have paid taxes can stay the rest need to go back to there country via a bus or in handcuffs AMERICANS need to stand up to these freeloaders go back to your crime ridden countries and stop polluting what is left of AMERICA i have a real hard time giving up my security (which i have worked 50 years to achive )so some illegal can have free health care for ther 6 babies and free food to feed them not to mention the fact that they make no attempt to learn our language they leave it up to the school district to teach them adding on the cost to us tax paying AMERICANS go to Mexico and try to get the government to pay for you to learn there language lol

  11. angel - May 6, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    god created the heaven and the earth in jesus day’s pepletraveled for days and nights god didn’t say I created white man for usa black man for africa ANd mEXICAN FOR MEXICO a black man bought christerfor columbus her on a boat he was rowing while christerfor was drunk and sleep. All christipher discoved is that the indian beat him here whoever don’t want mexicans here need totake their you know what somewher else. who do you think made these territory laws? Not god greedy white people but don’t worry because god will punish people like that a slow and painful dealth I live my life as god is watching and judgeing me. When I see people suffering so hard when they are dieng I use to ask myself why are they suffering so hard and long and I talk to the family and hearing the life they led and the way they teat people I find out wgy and then some people go quickly without suffering and thats usually the good people. I don’t have as much free time as you so don’t worry about my grammer mistakes.

  12. foreveryoung - May 6, 2010 at 1:35 PM

    Everyone has the right to their opinion no matter what the do for a living. standing up for what you believe in is a basic american freedom. We have the right to disagree, but whenever we start putting another one down and calling them names because they don’t share our particular belief, then we are becoming less than what we truly are. Americans! Voice your opinion intelligently and articulately. Then I assure you, that would get the respect it deserve.

  13. Wendy - May 6, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    I have a question for Steve Nash – he’s Canadian, right? What the h was going on back in the 60’s when Our guys from the U.S. of A
    wanted to go to Canada, because they disagreed with the Vietnam
    War, and Canada would NOT let them in, and if they did get in,
    they were arrested or deported?
    So Mr. Nash – explain that? Canada has very harsh laws regarding
    legal and illegal – WE weren’t allowed to just waltz into YOUR
    COUNTRY back then, and I’m sure now, so why should the U.S. allow
    people to just waltz into our country? You have no
    business critizing what the U.S. does here when your country is no better! I suggest you keep your comments to yourself – play basketball – stop dragging basketball into a political debate, and
    do what you get paid to do. Take my word for it, Canada is no better, and their laws are harsher!
    So, Steve, Shut the……….up!

  14. AzMedStudent - May 6, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    As a life long resident of Arizona I feel that I need to clarify something for everyone. This Law is not meant to be racist or discriminating to the Mexican People. Growing up in AZ most if not all of us have mexican friends. We don’t care about 60 year old Mrs. Martinez. We care about the fact that we need to regulate control of immigration for the stability of our state economy. We want people to have a chance to join us as Americans and enjoy the freedoms and opportunities we all share. We just want them to do it legally. Plus as long as immigrants migrate illegally, we also get drug dealers, ex-convicts, sex offenders, and murders. These people are then arrested tried and sent to our jails that we pay for with our money. We are just seeking the regulation and safety we feel is best. I agree the suns should have kept politics out of sports. But we do support mexicans who are hard working and took the rights steps to become genuine citizens of AMERICA! GO SUNS!!

  15. Anthony - May 6, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    You’re right. But each year the one thing they didn’t do is make it political. It’s not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with the law. It’s about bringing it into the sport.

  16. Joe - May 6, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    Director 101 – Where do you get your facts? Over 80% of the people agree with Jan Brewer. Read the bill. It’s the most HUMANE bill ever written. As the federal gov’t does nothing, it’s the one shot to prevent people wanting freedom to have to walk down a path of enslavery. You think transporting people in a box truck in 110 degree weather and enabling coyotes to profit tens of thousands of dollars is humane? But it’s OK to let coyotes kill hard working American citizens who provide the very jobs these immigrants are wishing to obtain? AZ is not racist, it’s patriotic. We don’t care of one’s race or origin, only if they are legal. As for the Suns, this is a free country. Suns can do what they want, I am smart enough to separate politics from basketball. It’s a business, and Sarver owns the Suns. He can do what he wants.

  17. angel - May 6, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    sorry nick that wasn’t meant for you I like you Iwas just commenting in hurry.

  18. wordcreatr - May 6, 2010 at 1:54 PM

    Steve C, I say this as a true independent, not left nor right — You’re a whiner.
    The players live in this state and the organization is a business that operates here, so yes, they can voice their opinion. You don’t like it, don’t watch them.
    We need comprehensive immigration, this law is just a ham-handed way of going about it.

  19. angel - May 6, 2010 at 1:54 PM

    some people didn’t have do tak any step theystole ther way from the indians illegal send them away. If you not Idian you are just as illegal they should have never let them get in they need to make them legal then protect the border The only chance they have is Obama

  20. Lobo72 - May 6, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    If they are not a legalized citizen or don’t have a work permit and are having payroll taxes withheld by their employer then they have submitted a stolen social security number as their tax id #. This makes them not only an illegal immigrant, but a perpetrator of fraud as well. While these are not violent crimes, they are crimes. Being illegal means you are in the country without the permission of the U.S. government.
    How would I be treated if I crossed into Mexico without permission and was picked up by the federales down there. You can bet I would not get out of that cell for a long, long time unless I could come up with a lot of “payola” for the authorities.

  21. Anonymous - May 6, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    telling it to you they all are doing wrong god didn’t put any bounderies man did but god said we are born imperfect. We were all created equal stop the hate let go let god

  22. Jonathan C - May 6, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    The law though it SAYS it’s against racial profile, it does so with a wink and nod. So, poor Ms. Martinez just might get stopped and detained at a drunk driving checkpoint. Or if her headlight is busted, the last thing Sheriff Joe needs is more latitude.

  23. PM - May 6, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    I find your ignorance incredible! Whose country do you think you are in? Arizona, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and California belonged to Mexico until the U.S. stole this land from Mexico. Get a grip. What about McCain and Kyle doing their job? They sat on this for how many years? Bush was in office for 8 distrastrous years and his administrations did nothing but why blame Obama who has only been in office for 1 year? What a hypocrite.

  24. Crazy Jim - May 6, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    It is funny to me that you are ALL arguing over something that I bet almost none of you have read, “the Suns included!” I read the SB 1070 and there is not one thing racial in it. It simply gives the officer involved in a stop, or arrest, the right to say to someone, whom they suspect to be illegal, are you here legally, if so let me see your ID! I have had to do that very same thing at the border, between Mexico, and Arizona (where I live)every time I come into this country. Are the border patrol racist? And as far as Taxes go, Ya can’t pay taxes if you are paid under the table!!!
    And if you are illegal and paying taxes, you have broken your second law, first you are here illegally, and second, you must have a fake ID…PERIOD! The Jerseys WERE schedualed to be worn, BUT, the Suns announced that they would be worn in protest! Again,
    read the law or SHUT UP! ALSO Play basketball, and leave the law to the people who know, are informed, and enforce it! AL, and Charles…shut the hell up!

  25. Jim - May 6, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Whether you like the Sun’s stand on Bill 1070 or not. They, as everyone else, have every right to voice their opinion.
    Spurs 0-2
    Suns 2-0
    GO SUNS!!!

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