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
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.
Jason Richardson vs. 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.
Grant Hill vs. 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.
Amare Stoudemire vs. Tim Duncan
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.
Jarron Collins vs. 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.
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