Game Thread: Suns (34-28) at Spurs (41-20)

Spurs 103, Suns 98










I’m sure many fans on Planet Orange are feeling the doom and gloom with the Suns having lost three straight games on this hellish road trip to fall 3 1/2 games behind the Mavs for the final playoff spot.

Also, games in the Alamo City are typically slightly less enjoyable than class at 8 a.m., and there’s a reason I had to tag “San Antonio Spurs” in my recent piece about everything that’s gone wrong for the Suns the past few years.

In light of all that, I’m going to do something different. Here’s five reasons you should be feeling optimistic about the Suns heading into today’s nationally-televised showdown against the team that breaks our hearts.

The Ginobili Factor

The Spurs are a different team without their Manu, who has been out since Feb. 11 with an ankle injury. They’re 29-9 with Ginobili in the lineup but just 12-11 without him this season.

The Suns even managed to steal a 103-98 victory here in San Antonio during the season opener without Ginobili but dropped a couple in Phoenix with him in the lineup, including his 30-points, 18-free throw performance in January.

Considering the way the Suns can’t defend Parker on the pick-and-roll, it’s nice not having another slashing threat in the lineup who they can’t defend either.

They don’t look that bad

Yes, the Suns have lost three in a row, but they have been right there in every one of them. Aside from six crucial minutes in Orlando, the offense has been great, and if the defense would be just a little less bad than they’d be in business.

The past three games have been nothing like that putrid stretch in January when teams like the Bobcats were blowing them out, and they shouldn’t be embarrassed about their effort in any of these three games. They just couldn’t get enough stops to beat a couple of good teams on the road.

The Shaq Attack

The past few games Shaq and Nash have shown signs of being able to co-exist in the Seven Seconds or Shaq system, and here’s a Shaq fact for you to chew on, according to ESPN’s ABC Sunday Dime.

The Shaqtus’ PER entering Friday of 22.6 ranked third all-time among centers 36 or older, and Hakeem the Dream and Kareem weren’t so bad themselves. Shaq’s PER ranks him 11th in the league, and he’s been even better since Amare went down.

Sunday afternoon magic

You might think the Spurs should be heavily favored – and 72 percent of’s first 2,500 voters certainly think so – but would a Suns win be any less probable than beating the mighty Lakers without Nash a couple days after being thrashed in Los Angeles?

No matter what happens in this one, it won’t be more shocking (in a good way) than last Sunday’s statement win on ABC.

They can still salvage the trip

Entering the week, I thought of this as a survival trip, with the Suns just needing to stay within ear shot of the Mavs so they can make their run when their schedule softens.

A win in this one combined with a win Tuesday against the Mavs would make this rough stretch palatable even if it still has been fairly disappointing.

Stay tuned for your regularly scheduled Suns negativity later today, just in case none of this optimism pans out.

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