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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. gigity - May 6, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    46.74% of statistics are prefabricated…(insert meaningless statistical data, insert my unwanted opinion, blame someone/something, go back to trolling when I should be working at my job)…and…back to sports. Awesome game, I dont care what they wear, say, or think. If someone in the public eye says “boogers taste good”..they will sell, thats America and its co-dependance on the media. People are stupid these days, just try to avoid large groups and protect the ones you love.

  2. AMERICAN MEXICAN - May 6, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    Comprehensive immigration reform so the Illegal Democrats can become legal Democrats and vote.It’s about power , not humanity.Steve C , keep it up. There’s more people who agree with you than disagree. The United States is losing it’s language and culture. It’s already lost it’s borders.This is all by design.The Liberals are creating a giant Welfare State with all these illegals.Forever dependant on MamaBama and keeping the Liberals in power.

  3. Anonymous - May 6, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    Wendy… Nash was born in 1974. In South Africa; moved to Canada as a young boy. Probably didn’t influence Canadian immigration laws at all, particularly during Vietnam War (1955 – 1975). Approx.50-100k U.S. “draft dodgers” went to Canada. Canadian government took “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach at border. Canadian govt. NEVER took an “anti-draft dodger” approach. As long as Mr. Nash’s boss rolls with what Steve says (which, by the way, is also the Boss’s opinion)then Nash is doing exactly “what he’s getting paid to do”. That’s play great basketball for Los Suns and Mr. Sarver. Puts warm behinds in the seats…that’s the “bottom line” (pun intended). Everyone…lighten up, it’s only a game. I am a Lakers fan but enjoy tremendously watching Nash give 100% every minute, every game.

  4. AzMedStudent - May 6, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    I agree that with this new bill, like many other bills, will have the capability of being miss used. I.e. the Patriot Act. We can only hope this bill does not get abused for the wrong reasons. For the most part arizona law enforcement officers are well trained and understand that, as spiderman knows, with great power comes with great responsibility. It will be tough and it may not be swift, but I truly believe that this will one day allow us to allow Mexican families to become Americans if they so choose. But they must fill out the right papers. We need to know who these people are. Just like we want to know who our teachers, gov’t officals, and neighbors are.

  5. angel - May 6, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    that is wrong toyou should try it it’s not as crowded that what I say people who dont like it should leave no one payed the slave that was wrong let go let god.

  6. KnowTheNewLaw - May 6, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    For everyone that wants to think the new law in AZ is wrong, before you start to think you know what it actually reads you should read the NY Times article written by Kris Kobach who helped author the AZ immigration law.

  7. Glen C - May 6, 2010 at 2:25 PM

    Steve C, please explain to me how one “breaks the law by sympathy”? This is the United States of America. We have a document called the U.S. Constitution that includes a group of 10 amendments referred to as the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment guarantees our freedom of speech. Show me where it contains the phrase, “Professional athletes, their owners, and coaches are EXCLUDED from this protection”!
    Playing basketball is what the Suns players do for a living. It is NOT who they are. First and foremost, they’re human beings. You have the right to express your opinion, but they do not because they play basketball and own a team? That is what is wrong with people like you. So long as someone agrees with your opinion, they’re fine. But, make the mistake of disagreeing with you then they must “shut up and play ball”. You are a damn hypocrite!
    Robert Sarver, Steve Nash, and the rest of the Suns are entitled by our laws to speak their mind. This is NOT Communist China, Afghanistan, Russia or some other totalitarian regime we live in, but it’s people like you, Steve C., that make me feel like America is becoming like those fascist governments.

  8. CJ - May 6, 2010 at 2:35 PM


  9. CJ - May 6, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    As with most of the people, both for and against this bill, you have missed the boat, (or basket) I am NOT saying that they should not have an oppinion, but they are making a statement as a business, and if you think they did this because of the law, you are WRONG! They were going to be playing on Cinco de mayo (by the way Mexico does NOT celebrate this,it is an American holiday ONLY) They also were threatened with violence and boycott, and civil unrest at their game if they did not succumb to pressure from people like Al Sharpton, who said,”look out after dark in Arizona, cuz we all look brown at night!” Really? C’mon. I haven’t
    seen them get upset about Martin Luther King holiday being voted down in AZ. Should they be the rainbow Suns in honor of Gay marriage? Nope…..just this, when their pockets were threatened!
    I don’t want to get my friend in the Suns org. in trouble, but that is where I got some of my facts! So as an Arizonan, I say
    GO SUNS….. but stick to basketball!

  10. angel - May 6, 2010 at 3:03 PM

    I love your attitude

  11. CRAZY JIM - May 6, 2010 at 3:08 PM

    This is for you BRAN! You moron!

  12. Pro Sports Are About Money - May 6, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    What amuses me most about this is how well Sun’s owner Robert Sarver’s ploy is working. Sarver was smart enough to see that the Diamondbacks were attracting protests around the country due to the fact that they were from the “racist” State of Arizona. Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, their management isn’t as politically savvy as that of the Suns. Sarver knew it would only be a matter of time before liberal do-gooders started pounding the Suns for being from the Grand Canyon State, the 21st Century’s answer to the Third Reich. Hmmmm . . . what to do? I know! How about a marketing campaign in which the Suns preemptively announce that they are against SB 2070. Yeah, that’s the ticket, we’ll have Amare and Steve wear their “Los Suns” jerseys and encourage them all to use the word “misguided” repeatedly when they talk to the media about the new statute. That way, the Diamondbacks will take it in the shorts instead of Los Suns. Mr. Sarver, you are brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

  13. Chris Simpson - May 6, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    How can you say that when every survey taken has shown a higher margin of support in AZ despite the number of Hispanics included in the polls

  14. JP - May 6, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    I am listening to all these comments and I have to just mention one thing. Which 70 percent approve of this law in Arizona ? Maybe the 70 percent white population? I was born here in Glendale and I am saddened at this law. My parents were also born in the united states. But lately I have had a couple of people stick there head out of thier car and yell “Go back to mexico” just because I am a brown skinned American. This exactly why we are screaming out that this law is racial profiling. Im sure these dumb ignorant people that are yelling out go back to mexico are going to become police officers, sherriffs and border patrol agents. I agree we have a immigration problem but why should us latino americans be harrassed because some non elected governor wants to make a big name for herself. There already is existing laws that would prevent illegal immigration. But these goverment leaders have done such a bad job that there is no money to enforce the borders. And this is just an excuse for white people to finally show thier true colors about being racists. You all should put on hitler mustaches. You all have every other attribute Hiltler had.

  15. Hitler Comparison Ridiculous - May 6, 2010 at 3:57 PM

    “You all should put on hitler mustaches. You all have every other attribute Hiltler had.”
    Except maybe for some tiny differences, like how Hitler exterminated millions of people because he hated their culture, while United States citizens and legal residents of Arizona enjoy the same constitutional rights in Arizona that they could exercise anywhere else in the United States.

  16. Nineo - May 6, 2010 at 3:58 PM

    Steve Nash can say whatever the heck he wants. It disgusts me that just because you disagree with him you think he shouldn’t be allowed to speak his mind. If Grant Hill were preaching about ‘closing the borders’ you’d love it!

  17. AZDude - May 6, 2010 at 4:17 PM

    There are currently over two million residents in the state of Arizona and it’s estimated that 460,000 of them are illegal.
    Those of you who are saying that this doesn’t cause the state of AZ to loose great deals of money, you are incorrect. Those of you who say that it doesn’t cause more crime are wrong. People are racially profiled on a daily basis on every continent of this world. Give it a rest already!
    The federal government has failed the great state of AZ. They fail to recognize the severity of the issue, and they fail to do anything to protect the residents of the state and the nation. 13 other states are alread on board with similar legislation proposed since AZ had the up-front-nuts to be the first.
    If you don’t like the way AZ is fending for itself and the well-being of it’s legal residents, well, kiss my A$$! Way to go AZ! Way to go Gov. Brewer! Taking America back for Americans! What a concept!

  18. C. Martin - May 6, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    Everyone has a right to his/her opinion. That’s what makes this country great. What NONE OF US has the right to do is break the law, no matter the skin color. The color of one’s skin doesn’t determine character. Principles do! If I were to go to Mexico I would hope to God I’d have the decency to do it legally, with a passport in hand, not sneek into the country and expect to get something for nothing because I have the audacity to think my skin color or the circumstances of my life makes me special. My parents 61 years ago taught me to do what’s right. I may not always like it, but with right and wrong there’s never a grey area. You’re on one side of the fence or the other, and you live with the consequences. If the Federal Government of this country live by that rule we wouldn’t be in this mess!

  19. Drummer - May 6, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    I’m so sick of people playing the race card on this issue I could puke. Arizona didn’t change the immigration law and it’s not a racial issue. It’s a United States national law that isn’t being enforced. For those of you who are too stupid to understand, whether you’re white, black, brown, purple or orange skin, the immigration law is there for two major reasons. First, to check on an alien’s background. We don’t want your felons or terrorists entering and staying in our country. Second, there is a process in place in order to not allow this country to immigrate in too fast of a rate due to lack of jobs and economy to support the immigration from other countries. In this case, it’s mainly leaking through from Mexico. True these people work hard and want a better life. But most of them don’t pay taxes, get free healthcare and access, then turn and send the money they’ve made out of this country back into Mexico. It’s a lethal process for our economy that’s gone on long enough. America welcomes immigration, just not illegal immigration that busts our states budget. We’re seriously in the red over this problem, it needs to be fixed. Now shut up and know what you’re talking about before you chime in.

  20. Pablo - May 6, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    Really….I live here in Arizona and the majority of the illegals here don’t pay taxes because they are paid under the table working landscaping etc. The only ones paying taxes are usually using someone else’s identity, hence Arizona is the state with the highest identity theft. Just 3 years ago I was struck by an illegal that was driving a vehicle without a license and insurance. The driver was cited but never showed to court. What do you think that does to my insurance rate? My next question could be earth-shattering……..When a person from a European country comes over illegally, what happens to them? They get sent back. so why wouldn’t that happen in these cases as well? Is there a reason why a Latino should be treated differently? How about if you illegally immigrated to Mexico? I can tell you because I own a business in Mexico that you would receive harsher treatment than you would here. Trust me, there are plenty of jobs in Mexico. The real issue here is that Mexicans do not want to work for the money they get in Mexico, they would rather come here and make more. This has been made out to be a discriminatory issue when in fact it is a legality issue. If you are here legally, you shouldn’t have to worry right? BTW, I am Hispanic.

  21. Joe - May 6, 2010 at 5:10 PM

    I just flew to Florida with my wife, then back to L.A. She was frisked four times, including one time when we weren’t even at a security checkpoint. I was not touched.
    She’s brown. I’m white.
    Yeah, sure it’s not racism. Bull.
    Those of you saying that legal folks just need to show their driver’s license, have you ever been pulled over on this kind of suspicion? Wasted 5, 10, 20 minutes while somebody checks to see if you’re a liar? The problem is not the treatment of *illegals*. It’s the treatment of LEGAL CITIZENS and LEGAL IMMIGRANTS as a result of this brain-dead law.
    Second problem? The cost. How much time do you want your cops wasting on checking the identities of LEGAL citizens, rather than following leads and investigating real crimes? Any idea how many lawsuits the state will face as a result of this? I’m betting the court cases will cost AZ citizens a lot more money than the boycotting.
    I’m all for organized immigration. But I work for a major law firm, and I get a glimpse of how insanely difficult it is to legally immigrate to the States, whether you’re a laborer or a computer programmer. It’s nuts! The laws are so bass-ackwards, it’s amazing we get anything done in our border states.

  22. Angie - May 6, 2010 at 5:12 PM

    I love the Suns, but you need to understand they didn’t wear these jerseys for the first time last night!!! They have worn them two times prior in past years!!! Did you make a comment and response then? Or is it just because to the new law??
    Plus, the illegal immigrants are “ALL NOT AT FAULT” the US has to take some blame too. US give them the jobs WE don’t want, you give them homes that THEY can’t afford, WE give them stamps and healthcare when WE can’t even feed and fend for ourselves. It’s a two way street!!! I agree with the law in partial! I am a Mexican-American and I was born and raised here in Arizona!! But the illegals need to know if they want something they need to go by it the right way and get what they want and need. Let go of your Mexican citizenship and become US citizens!!!

  23. jp - May 6, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    kmom you’re an idiot who obviously has not read the law. If you think it is anti-American then match the AZ law to the federal immigration law on the books. You’ll be suprised to see it’s the same law, that is why the current federal administration is not able to do anything about it.
    Keep politics out of sports.

  24. ER - May 6, 2010 at 5:40 PM

    I totally agree with what you said and you said it. It was perfect. For those who think this is a racial issue, please read the bill before you say anything. I am of hispanic decent and I think this has all been blown out of proportion. I went to Washington D.C. to fight for more money for education for those who needed the help the most, so don’t call me racist because I support this Bill. It mimmicks the Federal Bill. Why isn’t anyone screaming about that? Everyone has a right to their opinion, as long as it supports your opinion (not you AZMED). That is not the way it should be. You have your opinion, I have mine. Can’t we just agree to disagree and find a solution that way instead of tearing each other and our country apart? If Sports and Hollywood were the proper place for politics, then let them all run for office. Be careful, don’t let your brains spill out from being so open minded!

  25. AP - May 6, 2010 at 6:14 PM

    SB 1070 is to make sure you are here legally, period. However no one is objecting to the fact that businesses in our state keep hiring these same illegals (that we want to see deported) at low wages with no benefits. Benefits that we tax paying residents end up paying in higher taxes and higher health premiums. Governor Brewer means well but this bill stops short by making sure that businesses that hire illegals are held accountable for their actions. And in closing, if the issue with illegals was so simple to solve why nothing happened during 2001 to 2008? Lets not blame everything on current administration.

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