ValleyoftheSuns staff writers Michael Schwartz, Mike Schmitz and Tyler Lockman break down the upcoming series between the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs by discussing whether we believe in curses, choosing one Spur who must be limited and picking a winner in this series.
Are the Suns cursed against the Spurs?
Michael Schwartz: It’s only a curse if you believe it is, and the Suns aren’t buying it. Only Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa remain from all three previous playoff series, and Nash doesn’t believe in curses anyway. That’s a good thing because when you believe in it you can panic at the slightest sense of danger. While that could describe some Suns fans, it won’t describe the players on the floor. The Suns have lost to San Antonio teams that were tougher defensively and were clutch offensively. Sure, there have been some bizarre plays, but this Suns team is grounded enough not to get caught into the hype of a media-pushing curse.
Mike Schmitz: Considering all of the times the Suns fell short against the Spurs because of some type of freak play — the Robert Horry hip check, the Tim Duncan three-pointer, etc. – it would be easy to blame it on some sort of curse. But in every one of those losses the Suns could have done something slightly better to come out victorious. There is no secret formula to the game of basketball – outplay your opponent and more often than not you’ll win. The Suns need to put all “curses” aside and focus on playing the game rather than who’s going to leave their bench first.
Tyler Lockman: As a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, I am all too familiar with alleged curses. However, that doesn’t mean I believe in them. While the Suns-Spurs series history has all the markings of a curse (suspensions, no calls, losing despite the “big” acquisition of Shaq, etc.), I don’t buy it.
The Suns have faced some bad luck and maybe some unfair decisions, but the Spurs, in most cases, have simply been the better team. They’ve had more complete teams. The wrinkle in the curse theory that keeps reoccurring, just like the Cubs? This year is different.
Spur that must be limited
Michael Schwartz: Duncan will always get his and Manu is tough as well, but the scariest member of the Big Three for me has always been Tony Parker. Especially if the Suns put Grant Hill on Manu (and I’m not sure if Grant can guard Parker anyway), I just don’t know who will be guarding Eva’s hubby. He will blow by J-Rich, and we know Nash on Parker isn’t a good idea. I suppose Goran Dragic will check him some off the bench, but I really think the Suns will be susceptible to some monster games from the Frenchman, who always seems to burn them in the playoffs.
Mike Schmitz: For the Suns, stopping the Spurs has always come down to limiting the effectiveness of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Although Phoenix needs to keep a close eye on Parker, Ginobili is the Spur the Suns have to put the clamps on. Is it a coincidence that in the two Phoenix wins this season Ginobili combined for 17 points on 7-of-22 shooting? Considering the fact that in the only San Antonio win Ginobili went for 21 points, six rebounds and eight assists, and it’s far from a coincidence. The crafty Argentinean gives the Spurs that second/third scoring threat — a la Jason Richardson — and the Suns need to limit his effectiveness to keep the series competitive.
Tyler Lockman: This seems obvious, but to me there is no question Tim Duncan will have the greatest impact on how the Spurs play in this series. Duncan has been written off at times because he is getting older, but when the playoffs started, he took his game to another level. He burst out of the gate with 27 points in Game 1 against the Mavericks, 25 points and 17 rebounds in Game 2 and 25 points in Game 3. That’s more like 2003 Tim Duncan who led the Spurs to a title.
The Mavericks found a way to limit Duncan to four points in Game 4 though and the result was drastically different. Such will be the case for the Suns. Without the physical presence of Robin Lopez, the task is much tougher. The efforts of Channing Frye, Amare Stoudemire and Lou Amundson must be outstanding from the start.
Michael Schwartz: If you believe in NBA conspiracies at all, you’ve got to think this series will go seven games so the networks can get the full juice out of it. Even if you don’t believe in conspiracies, these are two evenly-matched teams that will struggle to get any separation from each other. Unlike the Portland series, I see a number of closely-contested games that come down to the final minute. I expect the Suns to split the first two at home, get one back in San Antonio and then win Game 7. The Suns have not lost consecutive games since January, and they finally possess the defensive prowess to be competitive with the Spurs as well as maybe the deepest bench in game, so I think the Suns will take it in a thrilling seventh game.
Suns in 7
Mike Schmitz: Given the history between these two teams, there is no way in my mind that this series doesn’t make it to seven games. Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash are seeking revenge, and the Suns have the right pieces to the puzzle to finally win a playoff series from the Spurs. As always, almost every game should come down to a final possession or two, but this Suns team is doing too many things right to fall short once again. The Phoenix Suns finally elude the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs, and all is well on Planet Orange.
Suns in 7
Tyler Lockman: As much as it’s been said in years before, I really think this team is different. The big thing is the ability to succeed without a significant contribution from Nash or Stoudemire. The balance on this team has changed its dynamic.
Previous Suns teams were crippled by injuries, off nights or suspensions. But the pieces this team has have built a system that is able to shift the load when needed. That ability on top of the ability to play defense (which doesn’t always mean they’ll do it) and the league’s most efficient offense could finally get the Suns over the hump.
However, the Spurs are a very good team, particularly right now in playoff mode. They’ll try to slow the Suns down like the Trail Blazers did. This series is going to seven games, with the Suns squeaking into the Western Conference Finals.
Suns in 7