Suns vs. Spurs -- Matchup breakdown

For the better part of the last decade, the San Antonio Spurs have been a thorn in the side of the Phoenix Suns. Any time the Spurs have needed a big bucket in crunch time they’ve delivered, and Phoenix has struggled to slow Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

The Spurs have some new weapons this season, but the Suns are also much improved defensively since the Mike D’Antoni era. As always, playoff basketball is a game of matchups, so here is the matchup breakdown amongst the Suns and Spurs starters:

Steve Nash vs. George Hill

Steve Nash


Nash: 20.3 PPG, 12.0 APG, 3.7 TO, 57.4 FG%, 50.0 3P%

Hill: 8.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 46.2 FG%, 33.3 3P%

This matchup certainly gives the Suns some serious trouble. Hill is San Antonio’s hottest player right now — 14.3 points in 35.0 minutes per game in the Dallas series — and Suns fans know all too well about Nash’s defensive deficiencies.

Hill does have a nice three-point shot, but he likes to attack the basket, which is something that Nash severely struggles to defend. So don’t expect Nash to be defending Hill all game, especially when Tony Parker checks in.

But Hill will have his hands full with the two-time MVP as well, and with no Bruce Bowen to constantly grab him and knee him below the belt, expect Nash to continue to produce against the Spurs just like he did during the regular season.

Advantage: Nash

Jason Richardson vs. Manu Ginobili

Manu Ginobili


Richardson: 14.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 48.5 FG%, 50.0 3P%

Ginobili: 12.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 6.0 APG, 34.3 FG%, 18.8% 3P%

Ginobili has struggled shooting the ball against the Suns this season, which is a huge reason why Phoenix took two of three from the Spurs. The crafty lefty has absolutely killed the Suns in prior years, but Phoenix has the option to give Ginobili a few different looks this time around.

Richardson should start the game on Ginobili, but expect both Goran Dragic and Jared Dudley to check him when they’re in the game, and Alvin Gentry will probably give the Andre Miller stopper, Grant Hill, a few cracks at the Argentinean as well.

Ginobili has always been a thorn in the side of the Suns, but this year things could very well be different.

Advantage: Ginobili

Grant Hill vs. Richard Jefferson

Richard Jefferson


Hill: 13.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 51.5 FG%, 60.0 3P%

Jefferson: 13.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 53.6 FG%, 37.5 3P%

As I mentioned before, Grant Hill may be asked to stifle Ginobili or even Parker at times, but I expect Gentry to start him out on Jefferson. Aside from Duncan, RJ has been arguably the most successful Spur against the Suns this season.

He is the ultimate slasher, and if the Spurs decide to get out and run he will be the beneficiary more often than not. But Hill is Phoenix’s best defender and Jefferson averaged a mediocre 9.2 points per game in the Dallas series.

As long as the Suns can keep Jefferson off the offensive glass and keep track of him when he doesn’t have the ball, he shouldn’t be too big of a factor.

Advantage: Jefferson

Amare Stoudemire vs. Tim Duncan

Amare Stoudemire


Stoudemire: 32.7 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.67 SPG, 56.3 FG%

Duncan: 23.0 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 2.33 BPG, 61.7 FG%

This matchup will most likely determine the outcome of the series, and luckily for the Suns, STAT has always been locked in against Duncan and company. This season has been no exception, as he’s exploded for 32.7 points per game against San Antonio, including a 41-point, 12-rebound game in a losing effort.

Duncan is still one of the league’s premier defenders and shot blockers, but Amare has also solidified himself as one of the NBA’s most explosive big man. The winner of this battle may be the winner of each game, but the Suns proved against Portland that they can come out on top even when Amare isn’t himself offensively.

STAT needs to get going early and stay out of foul trouble against Duncan, especially with Phoenix’s depleted front line.

Advantage: Stoudemire

Jarron Collins vs. Antonio McDyess

Antonio McDyess


Collins: 1 game, 3.0 RPG, 2.0 TO

McDyess: 5.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 47.9 FG%

This matchup is hardly worth talking about. Collins won’t play more than 15 minutes, but he can provide a solid defensive presence against Duncan and McDyess. The former Sun is nothing special, but his veteran presence, rebounding ability and outside jumper definitely can’t hurt the Spurs.

Advantage: McDyess

Suns’ bench vs. Spurs’ bench

The Suns’ bench finally came on near the end of the Portland series, and Dudley and Channing Frye were the catalysts. Dudley should have a huge role in this series as he may guard Parker, Hill, Ginobili and Jefferson all in the same game.

Frye’s three-point prowess will also be huge for the Suns, as his ability to pull Duncan and company away from the hoop could open up lanes for Amare and the Phoenix guards. Dragic and Barbosa will also have a big role in trying to check the Ginobilis, Hills and Parkers.

The Spurs’ bench isn’t quite as impressive as Phoenix’s, but any time you have Parker coming off the pine you can’t complain. He has torched the Suns in years past and Phoenix needs to keep him in check, plain and simple.

Other than Parker, DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner, the Spurs’ bench doesn’t have too much to offer.

Advantage: Suns’ bench

  • Ryan

    The spurs bench led the league in bench points this season

  • rene


    No joke, this blog is weak.

  • justin

  • ChrisG

    The day Duncan follows Channing Frye out to the 3 pt line is the day I eat all of my Spurs championship attire.

    Get a clue pal

  • Mateo

    Plus I don’t think this guy has seen a Spur’s game since January. Manu struggled shooting against everyone this season, but he is much better now. And while I would give Nash an advantage over Hill, it is not that lopsided. Hill is a good defender.

  • Gordon

    I see the sheep from the Land of Muddy Sewer Water have appeared. Your team is: 1) Older 2) A step slower 3) You lack Thug 1(Horry) and Thug 2 (Bowen) meaning a straight up game with the Suns is NOT to your advantage. AND, in conclusion, the Suns WILL ATTACK the basket like the Mavs did to TORCH THE SPURS in Game 5 of that series. That said, Suns in 6 and Spurs go home.

  • micah

    Suns fans have said the same thing every playoff series with the Spurs since 2005, “this time its different”. In 2007 the Suns team was different, better than in 2005 in whatever way Suns supporters were claiming, and the Spurs won. (they won, call them cheaters, thugs, call it a conspiracy – the Suns got absolutely hosed in game 6) Same thing in 2008 – the Suns had Shaq, they were more physical, more defensive minded, but the same result – out in a 4-1 series win for the Spurs.

    This year its no different, all the Suns supporters are claiming this team is different, they play defense, they have great shooters, Amare is on fire… all this may be true but its not unlike the stuff said about the last few Suns teams that have lost to the Spurs. Bottom line is that the thing thats been consisten since 2005 is Ginobili, Duncan, and Parker, and granted they are all older I’m not believing any Steve and Amare led team can beat those three, not until I see it at least.

    So keep on touting how this years team is different just like the 2007 and 2008 teams and I’m just going to keep expecting that no one on the Suns will be able to stop Tim, Tony, or Manu. What will be different this year is the Suns won’t be out in 5, the Spurs will take it in 6.

  • adam

    You guys have a good argument,as a SUNS fans,i’ll only say


  • FloridaSunsFan

    I have been a PHX fan since Tom Chambers became a Sun… There is no team that has caused me more anguish than the SA Spurs, and I can say that I always want them to lose, while at the same time expecting them to win… no matter who they play, no matter what the "experts" say.

    I am always supportive and hopeful when they play the Spurs, but I am never confident that we have overcome our own doubt in our ability to beat them. I believe that will be a non-factor this year so now it comes down to who is better on the court this year. That is only going to be determined on-court. I will not be suprised if we lose, or if we win, but I expect us to win in 6.

    Popovich is the best coach in the NBA, the big 3 for SA are historic and can crush an opponent.

    Phoenix has the ability to win, the question is wether or not they believe they can.

  • Matt

    I’ve been a suns fan ever since 2003. I’ve seen all that the Suns have been through in the hands of the Spurs. I believe in the Suns. They got themselves to a great 3rd seed and they have a lot of things going for them. However since this is the Spurs they’re dealing with and knowing how potent and deadly they are and have proven to be in their oust of Dallas, I believe that somehow, finally, the playing field has been leveled with the way both teams have been performing.

    We can all go back to statistics, previous remarks and statements but everyone understands that what matters is the here and now. The moment that ball is tipped its a totally different story, each year. I remain confident in my belief that finally the suns have what it takes to take the series after a trying and challenging 7 games. I definitely do not expect many blowout losses, hopefully, but I foresee very close games up ahead! :) My deepest respects to the Spurs and their fans! Truly a great team! All that is left now is the game to be played best by both teams!

    Suns in 7!

  • dmc465

    Gordon: Spurs are older, eh?

    Suns starting five: 160 combined yrs.
    Spurs starting five: 154 combined yrs.

    (Not gonna bother with the bench math, but all the Spurs’ key guys are under 30, just like the Suns.)

    And just to be clear: “Thug 1″ and “Thug 2″ aren’t the reason the Spurs won all those past series. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili are.

    All that being said, I think I speak for many a fellow Spurs fan when I say the Suns are one of the few rival teams I admire, respect, and enjoy watching (can’t say the same for Dallas or LA, unfortunately).

    If the Spurs can’t go all the way, I’d be thrilled to see Steve and Grant – two of the most deserving players in the league – finally capture the prize.

    Should be a fun series.

  • Laker fan

    The Spurs bench led the league because Manu was on it. Manu is starting now but to be dismissive of having Tony Parker coming off the bench is a little silly

    And Ginobili was struggling early but 34% shooting is still 34% shooting. He wasn’t struggling that bad overall.

    I do expect to see the Spurs in the conference finals

  • Jesse Blanchard

    “Hill does have a nice three-point shot, but he likes to attack the basket, which is something that Nash severely struggles to defend. So don’t expect Nash to be defending Hill all game, especially when Tony Parker checks in.”

    If this implies that it’s preferable for Nash to be on Tony Parker than on George Hill then this is a little bit off. When the Spurs go to their three guard lineup it will undoubtedly be Hill that the Suns try to hide Nash on.

    Hill starred at the end of the Dallas series, but I’m sure both teams will tell you a lot of it had to do with the attention the Mavericks had to pay to Duncan, Ginobili and Parker after the first couple games were layup lines. That got Hill free for some jumpers, as he is much better off the ball and spotting up than creating on his own.

    And for all intents and purposes, the Duncan|Stoudemire and McDyess|Collins matchups should be switched as i doubt Duncan and Amare ever guard each other.

    This is a hard series to predict as we have not seen each other in these current incarnations. But I disagree with your key matchup. The Spurs have been able to move past the Suns for years with Amare going off. I think the key is Tony Parker. I am assuming Hill and Dudley will get their shots at Manu Ginobili, so that’s going to leave Nash, Richardson and Gragic on Parker.

    I’ve not seen the Suns enough to criticize Amare’s “improved defense” but it will be the key as the Spurs run pick and rolls as opposed to isolations.

    The Suns have the deeper bench, the Spurs have the best player coming off the bench. Should be fun.

  • Nadeem

    This is a very week blog post. I completely agree with Jesse (for the record, is by far the best truehoop blog).

    In the past, Amare has dominated the Spurs because the Spurs allow him to. They try to contain everyone else on the floor and allow Amere to have his 35 points.

    Saying that the Spurs bench is nothing more than Parker, Bonner and Blair is correct. But u missed the point. Pop is running a tight 7 man rotation. Parker and (sometimes) Bonner are the only bench players to get meaningful minutes. Thats called playing your best players for majority of the minutes. Welcome to playoff basketball.

  • Nadeem

    i meant weak*

  • KG

    I think its hilarious that since 48minutesofhell doesn’t have a preview up yet, all the Spurs fans come over here and just rip the writer apart. I think this post is expectedly optimistic, but the beauty of the playoffs is that anything can happen.

    And the “Spurs are old, don’t have a thug” comments are hilarious! They’ve been saying the Spurs are old for 10 years. Horry bumps Nash and the Suns players can’t control themselves, and that’s the ONLY reason the Spurs won that series. Otherwise, PHX probably would have swept them!

  • NamSpurs

    Its the same old ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda” story for the Suns. u guys are in esteemed company. U and the Mavs!

    By the way, that hip check was just a playoff foul. Your delicate darling Nash (who i actually like) sold that. It was just a regular hard playoff foul. The Spurs would have won the series regardless like they did the following year.

    Suns fans, there is no reason for u all to be embarrassed. Your team lost to the better team in the previous playoffs and that storyline will continue this year. Wish we can bring Nash over to the Spurs and get him a ring.

  • NamSpurs


    Even without the Horry foul, Suns could not have swept the Spurs simply because the series was 2-2 at that point.

    For future reference, Swept = 4-0

  • KG

    @dmc465 You can’t compare ages to determine “old”. Remember, the Spurs players have a LOT of extra milage on them from all the deep playoff runs and Championships.

  • KG

    @NamSpurs that was me being sarcastic.

  • NamSpurs

    @KG – My bad!

  • ptrizzle

    spurs fans=like to take it up the ass. the suns are the best team in the league since the all star break. DEEP BENCH, bitches, 6+ 40% or better 3p shooters, much improved defense, they can beat you many different ways. suck it, pompous san antonio retards, you're going down!

  • Neutral

    As a mavs fan, it is fans like ptrizzle that crack me up. Some of these fans are so bitter they can’t even see things that are in front of them.
    Anyhow, after game one, I expect Tony Parker to start and exploit Nash’s weak defense – which will wear him out. I expect Pop to make good and lethal adjustments. And that Hill kid (that torched us) will probably not be doing that poorly again.
    For Nash’s sake, I hope you guys can get out of this series. But then you meet the Lakers, who will probably have rested a few days when you guys meet them.
    And I found out something yesterday that I didn’t know – Alvin Gentry was an assistant of Pop?? haha, that is rich – the best coach you’ve had in a while is from the Spurs. If you can’t beat them, join them I guess. Mavs should take notice.

  • ptrizzle

    hey neutral, i was just venting some frustration with the rhetoric i was reading. i’m not a stereotypical “bitter” suns fan. i’ve actually only been watching them for the last 3 or 4 years. they are now up 3-0 against the spurs, and i am as surprised as anyone. but, anyone who has been watching the suns this season knows, they have much greater depth than they have in the past, an amazing team chemistry, and they actually play defense now. not to mention, THE BEST 3 point shooting team in the league. look at their box score for tonight’s game. it looks completely different than the box score for the last game, which looks completely different from the previous game… by the way, i have nothing but respect for the spurs and pop is obviously a great coach, i just love the suns and would like to see them get past the spurs. the lakers will be less of a challenge, especially if robin lopez is back.

  • The Z. Man

    Mike – Sorry to open and read this so late.

    Hate matchup analysis because we don't know how and who the coaches are going to give defensive assignments to until after they play. Very good thing Suns did not have our weakest defensive player J-Rich defend Manu. Who knows how many games may have been lost. Hill did a very good job on Manu. This was the matchup to analyze and should take place after they start to play. Then, if we switch on say Andre Miller from J-Rich to Hill, run an updated matchup analysis so that it's current and correct.

    Four games vs. the Spurs have proven each and every one of the 24 comments to this blog to be way off the mark. Down right laughable, most of them, particularly from the Spurs fans. Now, we're heading in the wrong direction in the Conference Finals and I'm pleased to see Michael push the case for small ball. I have been lobbying for this and then some for a good long time. I call it "TINY BALL." Play one fast big plus our 4 fastest (regardless of size) and turn the Lakers size into a disadvantage. Nash, Barbosa, Dragic (or Dudley), STAT and Dudley, Louis, or Hill. Will change the entire flow of the game.

    MUST start and also finish with LB. Let's go SUNS!!!!