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NBA Playoffs, Suns v. Spurs Game 4: The deed is done.

May 10, 2010, 1:15 AM EDT

Nash_eye.jpgThe Phoenix Suns just swept the San Antonio Spurs. The Phoenix Suns
just swept the San Antonio Spurs. The Phoenix Suns just swept the San
Antonio Spurs.

Maybe if I type that phrase enough times, the
basketball gods will tie my precious typing fingers into knots for my
blasphemy. In what universe could the Suns sweep the Spurs in the
playoffs? In what bizarro dimension is this Phoenix team a
Western Conference finalist, and the most respected franchise in the
league receiving the business end of a broom?

Ours,
apparently. Suspend your disbelief. It’s not easy; it wasn’t easy to
foresee the Suns closing out the series in four games in San
Antonio facing yet another double-digit deficit. Yet they did it,
107-101, because Phoenix has played like the best team in the Western
Conference, even if a little team in Los Angeles would have something
to say about that.

The Suns aren’t just good, they’re damn
good. They’ll be considered underdogs against the Lakers even after
ousting the Spurs in the most impressive of fashions, but any fan,
basketball junkie, or NBA scribe that pencils L.A. in as a Finals
participant needs to take a long, hard look at what Phoenix was able to
accomplish in this series.

Manu Ginobili, who could have made
a legitimate claim as the best Spur over the final stretch of the
regular season, was trapped like mad in the pick and roll and
completely smothered offensively at times. He finished Game 4 with 15
points and nine assists, but shot just 2-of-11 from the field. Tim
Duncan may seem like an imposing match-up for the Suns, but it’s no
secret that Manu and Tony Parker hold the keys to the offense.
Eliminate the threat of Ginobili operating (for either scoring or
playmaking purposes) off of the Spurs’ staple pick-and-roll, and San
Antonio is quite beatable. Quite sweepable, apparently.

Not that
the Suns’ defense ignored Duncan, either. His lack of effectiveness as
the roll man in pick-and-roll situations was shocking, and though
Phoenix committed two defenders and a strong front to the ball-handler
on almost every screen, Duncan never seemed all that open. There were
so many cases where the Suns’ help defenders would beat him to his spot
rolling down the lane in order to contest his attempts or run
interference on the roll lob, and Tim was left in limbo.

That
strategy wasn’t enough to deny him from reaching 17 points (on 50%
shooting) and eight rebounds in Game 4, but the fact that Duncan wasn’t
more of a factor in this series is as much a tribute to the Suns’ post
defense as it was their defensive rotations on the pick-and-roll.

Limit
the effectiveness of those two players on the offensive end, and Tony
Parker’s 22-point, five-assist effort is solid rather than deadly,
George Hill’s night is nice rather than headline-worthy, and hell, Matt
Bonner’s 14 points on just six attempts is nothing special, as opposed
to the Red Rocket that broke the camel’s back.

It’s almost
cliché these days to praise the Suns’ defense, but there’s simply no
way to write a proper recap without giving Phoenix their due. Alvin
Gentry has simply done a phenomenal job — a Popovichian job, dare I
say — of coaching this team into rotating properly on the defensive
end. No matter how much pressure was committed to blitzing Ginobili or
doubling Duncan in the post, the Suns’ defense never seemed to be on
tilt. It was vulnerable at times, but they always recovered.

Phoenix
just came down the court again and again and played consistently solid
defense. It wasn’t so much the effectiveness of the Suns’ D on a
per-point or even per-possession basis (San Antonio still scored 101
points and scored at a rate of 105.2 points per 100 possessions), but
the resiliency of that defense that was the most impressive. It wasn’t
always effective, but the Suns’ rotations were just relentless. They
forced 16 turnovers and limited San Antonio’s three-point attempts
(just 11 to Phoenix’s 24), and they worked, worked, worked.

With
the difficulties that the Suns posed for the Spurs on the other end,
that was obviously enough for them to not only win the series, but do
it without dropping a single game. San Antonio simply lacked the
ability to cover all of the bases of the Suns’ multifaceted offense,
and their peak-too-early performances reeked of a team that was just a
bit outmatched. “They made it hard for us to guard them for 48
minutes,” Gregg Popovich said. “We’d go into the fourth quarter and
someone for them would step up. Those are the kinds of things that
happen with that team.”

At various points in this series, that
nameless “someone” that stepped up has been a strong perimeter
defender, a three-point shooter, a hustle rebounder, and an undersung
reserve. In Game 4, it was Steve Nash, who came back into the game
after receiving six stitches over his right eye in the third quarter to
lead the Suns to a remarkable close-out performance. Nash, with one eye
swollen shut, was responsible for 21 of his team’s 31 points while the
game was still meaningful.

“I just feel fortunate that I had the
chance to get back out there,” Steve Nash said. “I don’t know how it
didn’t keep me on the sidelines.” It’s something of a wonder that it
didn’t. Nash’s eye was not only bruised, but swollen almost completely
shut. So naturally, he not only hit a pull-up three in transition just
moments after returning the floor, but got excellent looks for both
himself and Amar’e Stoudemire in the game’s deciding minutes.

Amar’e
was a force on his own for most of the game (he had 29 points of his
own), but with Nash spoon-feeding him wide open mid-range jumpers to
complement his prior assault of layups, dunks, and runners, he was
finally able to exact his revenge against San Antonio. “It’s
beautiful,” Stoudemire said of finally defeating the Spurs in the
postseason after falling short in four straight attempts. “It feels
great.”

It must. Phoenix has a long road to head, but the sight
of San Antonio’s corpse at their feet has to offer some relief. If not
as evidence that the Suns have exorcised their demons, then at least as
validation of their success this season. This is no longer the team
that struggled to match up with the Blazers at times, but a deep,
talented squad capable of giving any playoff opponent a run for their money. Even the Lakers. Even an opponent waiting beyond that’s even more challenging.

That’s
just how good these Suns are, and though Phoenix still continues to
surprise — as they did tonight, even when their series victory seemed
imminent — nothing about this team should be startling from this point
forward. Based on their performance from this series, we should expect
the best from the Suns. They’ve played well enough to earn that.   

  1. pjthedoors - May 10, 2010 at 8:05 AM

    Wow they beat the mighty 7 seeded Spurs. LOL!

  2. zonashadow - May 10, 2010 at 8:17 AM

    Suns will win the West Finals. The Suns will beat the Lakers in 6 games and then will go on to a championship for the first time since 1993. A very classy team, the Suns are the most professional team in the NBA. No thugs on their team like the Spurs. The Suns do not resort to thug playing like LA, Spurs, Celtics have been doing. What a pure team we have in Phoenix.

  3. N - May 10, 2010 at 8:50 AM

    Please name the thugs on LA, Spurs or Celtics….

  4. mack - May 10, 2010 at 9:01 AM

    The Suns are the best match-up the Lakers could hope for. They have no interior defense. They are not very athletic. They can shoot the 3 tho I will give them that. As for them ever winning a championship…LOL….I don’t think they will get their 1st for another 20 years. Sorry but beating the 7th seeded Spurs doesn’t put fear into the hearts of the Lakers…The Lakers best matchups to beat them in the West were Nuggets, Thunder, and Blazers. Everyone else doesn’t have the athleticism or length to bother the CHAMPS….

  5. chancellor - May 10, 2010 at 9:03 AM

    It will be interesting to see Suns v.s. Cavs in Final. And either Nash or James to take back home.

  6. the duke - May 10, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    Suns v. Cavs? Good luck with that.

  7. Craig W. - May 10, 2010 at 9:49 AM

    Each round the opponent is different and gets tougher. That’s the NBA playoffs. Phoenix has earned its way here and belongs. However, like fans everywhere, success breeds seeming contempt for the next opponents. I don’t care which team you root for, the next round is going to be a real battle.

  8. PHX LIFER - May 10, 2010 at 9:57 AM

    Yes the lakers are big and that is great but so are they beat up and barely winning their games. Suns are your typical team playing their best when the playoffs present themselves. The suns will have a hard time with interior defense but they just beat two teams that were bigger then them and all they did is play annoying defense while running them off the court. The Lakers are good but right now as we speak the Suns are just better so Flakers look out we are going to wear your team out!

  9. BostonLakerFan - May 10, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    Phoenix’s bench will outplay the Laker bench. That’s the one area where the Suns will dominate. It might even push the series to 6 games (at best) with the Lakers prevailing in the end.
    You’d have to be one of those “playoff only” fans who shows up in May or June to believe otherwise. The Lakers have absolutely manhandled the Suns since the arrival of Pau Gasol.

  10. gary - May 10, 2010 at 10:22 AM

    lol,lol,lol,lol,lol,lol,lol,YOU ARE A moron,I wonder if they will all be saying that when The Lakers SWEEP the Suns back to where they belong,Beating up on an aging Sur team aint no biggy,try it against L.A.stupid,Laker took 3 of 4 in regular season and without a problem,bye bye Suns.

  11. ibejeph - May 10, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    All this talk from Phoenix fans sounds mighty familiar. I remember in the 7-second or less era all the talk, talk, talk…before you all go and crown yourselves champs for beating an old, 7th seeded Spurs team, you need to get through LA. Good luck with that.

  12. Reality Check - May 10, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    Wow, another idiot blogger takes the “sexy” pick over the best team in the league.
    How did that thinking work out for last season’s “sexy” pick, the Denver Nuggets? They were supposed to end LA as well.
    Phoenix has no way to combat LA’s greatest advantages: Unmatched size, strength and ability inside and the game’s greatest closer.
    LA in 5.

  13. PIMPNUTS - May 10, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    FU*K THE LAKERS!!!

  14. underdog fan - May 10, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    Suns fans and bandwagon don’t need to talk smack unless they win the WCF. Yeah, I was impressed but mostly shocked when u guys beat the aging spurs, the 7th seed, heh. We’ll see how you’re gonna pass LA.

  15. me(: - May 10, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    well they are goin to have to get past the Lakers. but good luck with that suns. Lakers are so goin to win!(:

  16. MobTown - May 10, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    Yeah, The same Spurs that wiped the floor with one of the hottest teams coming into the playoffs, the Mavs.
    The same team that writers were gushing over after the first round series.
    And, the same team that only lost 4 more games than the Suns! We’re not exactly talking about the Bulls Vs. Cleveland are we? The 3-8 seeds in the west weren’t sorted out until the last week of the season. A little more parity than the East, no?
    And for everyone else talking about L.A.’s dominance, wasn’t Cleveland supposed to be the team to beat last year? And they got their ass handed to them by the Magic.
    Sorry L.A. fans, but when you’re bench is playing like Sh#t, your star player is starting to look like he’s played a lot of games, your PG is having trouble staying in front of D.Will, and Bynum’s knee looks like it’s about to pop, it doesn’t exactly scream 5 game series to me.
    Do what do, but don’t expect the Suns to bend over and take it because you’re the Lakers.

  17. Omnius - May 10, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    So what the Suns beat the aged Spurs who are a mere shadow of the championship team they once were. The Spurs were just too old and didn’t have the will to play their best when they needed to. Don’t equate beating the lowly Spurs with being able to beat the Awesome Lakers. Lakers in 5 or 6 for sure!

  18. Reality Check - May 10, 2010 at 11:46 AM

    MobTown, who are the reigning kings of the NBA again?
    Blam…scoreboard.

  19. Hatelakers - May 10, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    I really hate laker fans!!!

  20. Reality Check - May 10, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    Don’t hate us because we’re beautiful…
    -The Lakers and their fans

  21. Anthony - May 10, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    Poor Mike D’Antoni. If only he didn’t refuse to play the bench or have just a little defense in his play book. Oh well, hope he’s having fun with the Knicks.

  22. jonny mac - May 10, 2010 at 12:15 PM

    wow…when did all this laker hating start?…must be a red state blue state thing….Look, ALL the teams currently in or ahead in the playoffs are great, have great players, and great fans. The competition of the playoffs is merely to determine who is the best that particular year. It doesn’t take away fmo the many great performances across the board this season and so far in the playoffs. The NBA is fantastic because it has so many great players, great teams and great fans…..Now that all the peace-making is done…….GOT RINGS?….LOL!…..sorry I couldn’t resist! :)

  23. Hatelakers - May 10, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    everyone outside of california hates lakers, wake up and put down the pot
    lakers are just bad actors led by a convict
    performance = actors
    BEAT the la la play actors

  24. phantom - May 10, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    whatever a-hole. who’s your team? the warriors?

  25. phantom - May 10, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    whatever a-hole. who’s your team? the warriors?

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