Was anybody else thinking déjà vu when Duncan spotted up for that open game-tying 3 with seven seconds left?
But unlike in Game 1 of last year’s playoffs series when Duncan’s miraculous 3-pointer led to a come-from-behind San Antonio victory the Suns never recovered from, this time his shot just rimmed out, just like Tony Parker’s potential tying 3 with 39 seconds left.
“I thought, ‘Oh no, not again,’” Amare Stoudemire told Suns.com. “Luckily he missed that one.”
But it seemed like those were the only two shots Duncan and Parker missed, as they both exploded for 32 while the Suns held the rest of the team to 34 combined points in their 103-98 win in which we learned they still can’t guard Duncan and Parker.
That didn’t matter when Stoudemire went on a personal 9-3 run down the stretch, punctuated with a sick tomahawk jam in traffic to put the Suns up, 101-96.
Depth and balance
Suns head coach Terry Porter started the fourth quarter with a lineup that started the game on the bench, while somewhere in New York Mike D’Antoni cringes.
The Suns lost five points during the 3:23 before Porter reinserted four of his starters to play with Barbosa, but the move goes to show how much better the Suns’ depth is than in prior years. Porter will inevitably have to scale back his rotation eventually, but it’s not a bad thing that this team can go two-deep at every position, and that’s not even counting Alando Tucker, who I think can make a contribution if needed.
Eight players logged at least 17 minutes, and the Suns’ bench outscored their counterparts, 42-24.
It was also good to see the entire Suns bench standing in the final two minutes while San Antonio’s sat.
The Suns used the type of balanced attack against the Spurs that should become a trademark of the team. Amare went for 22, including 11 in the fourth, and Barbosa, Shaq,and Nash each scored at least 13.
Lopez and Dragic
In’s first minute of NBA action he showed why the Suns selected him 15th overall in the NBA Draft.
On his first offensive possession he grabbed a rebound in the paint and converted an And-1. Then he grabbed a defensive rebound and threw a nice outlet pass that led to a Boris Diaw transition jam before coming back down and blocking Kurt Thomas’ shot.
At this point I was ready to write an entire entry about how great it is for the Suns to finally have a mobile big man who can defend Parker and the pick-and-roll before the speedy Frenchman proceeded to blow by Lopez on a driving layup and nail a jumper in his face to start the second quarter.
I still believe in the long run that Lopez’s mobility – which I saw firsthand last season shut down Pac-10 offenses – will greatly improve the Suns’ defense, but then again Parker is no Pac-10 point guard.
Dragic, meanwhile, had an uninspiring scoreless debut with two assists, a rebound, a turnover and three fouls in 14 minutes. He made a nice pass on the aforementioned Diaw dunk, but did nothing to make himself stand out. I’m sure that will change as he gets more acclimated to the NBA.
The Spurs used Hack-a-Shaq as some sort of Phil Jackson, head game joke five seconds into the game, and then four more times at the end of the first half.
Shaq made five of his eight free throws, something any Suns fan can live with, but I still hate the strategy. It just mucks up the game, which I guess is what the Spurs want.
“I’ve been saying my whole career it’s going to take more than mathematical strategies to beat me,” Shaq told Suns.com. “You may win a game or two using a mathematical strategy, but in the long run it will never work.”
Overall, Shaq gave the Suns exactly what they need with 15 points and 13 rebounds to help them win the rebounding battle.