Behind enemy lines with 48 Minutes of Hell

You may think you know everything about San Antonio after all that’s happened between the Suns and Spurs over the years. But to really get the lowdown on those villains from the Lone Star State I sent a handful of questions to Tim Varner of the TrueHoop San Antonio Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell.

Varner gives his take on the rivalry from the Spurs side, discusses how the Spurs have changed since the last time these teams met in postseason and gives a prediction that — believe it or not — Suns fans won’t exactly enjoy reading. Also be sure to check out my take on the Suns-Spurs series over at 48MoH.

This is the biggest rivalry in the NBA to Suns fans. What is this rivalry like to Spurs fans?

The rivalry question is entirely dependent on who you ask. Jesse Blanchard — a writer at 48MoH — sees the Suns as a speed bump on the Spurs’ trek through the playoffs. The Suns have never beat the Spurs in a meaningful series, and, in the eyes of some Spurs fans, this renders “rivalry” into something of an overblown description. And, of course, depending on how quickly the Spurs dismiss the Suns, the “rivalry” may be less of a speed bump and more of a passing lane.  But, you know, one should always admit degrees.

Personally, I think this is absolutely a rivalry, and one of the most entertaining in professional basketball. But it’s a little bittersweet for me. For all the tired talk of ‘the boring Spurs, Spurs-Mavericks and Spurs-Suns series have produced the most engaging, talk-about-it-in-10-years tit for tat competitions of the last decade. So why is it bittersweet?

Whenever the Spurs eliminate the Mavericks from the playoffs, a perverse pleasure swells within me. When Dirk Nowitzki assumes a post series podium with his despondent, end-of-the-ride sigh, I’m all awash in giddy self-affirmation. This has something to do with the way people like Mark Cuban and Jason Terry approach the rivalry. It’s OK with them if we all hate one another, so it’s easy to lose oneself in the occasional moment of fanboy glee. And, I’m half-afraid to admit, it’s a glee entirely unbecoming of an intelligent adult.

Not so with the Suns. Steve Nash is the non-Spur I’d most like to see win a championship, and he is, I think, the most deserving. The Spurs seem to have the Suns in a bad voodoo, but they’ve been good enough to win championships in the past. Sometimes you need a little luck, and they’ve had none.

How have the Spurs changed since the last time these teams faced off with no Bowen/Horry and now a three-guard lineup?

In one sense this is the Duncan-Spurs and the Nash-Suns and we’re simply rebooting the grudge match. But in another, these are completely different teams. The Spurs are more of an offensive team than ever before, and while they still attack through Tim Duncan in the post, much of their current brilliance comes from the three-quard assault of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and George Hill.

There’s a lot of talk about George Hill in the lead up to this series. What should Suns fans know about this guy and what kind of impact do you expect him to make?

Unfortunately for the Suns, George Hill is in bloom. He started coming into his own as a dominant basketball player over the last third of the regular season, but has taken big steps in the last two weeks. Offensively, he can get to the rim, score on midrange pullups, and spots up for three. But, more importantly, he’s San Antonio’s best defender. At the end of the season, John Hollinger rated him as the second-best defensive point guard in basketball, behind Rajon Rondo. Between Parker and Hill, Steve Nash will almost always have a trying assignment. George Hill was, perhaps, the Spur who hurt the Mavericks the most last round. I expect him to play at least as well against the Suns.

I know a lot of Spurs are banged up, so what’s the injury situation around this San Antonio team?

The Spurs don’t really have injury concerns, other than old age. Manu Ginobili’s broken nose might be a greater concern if it weren’t Manu Ginobili’s broken nose. In their different ways, he and Steve Nash are the same.

To me one of the biggest questions in this series is who will Nash guard. If you were Alvin Gentry, who would you put the two-time MVP on?

The Spurs are running a strict three-guard rotation. If I’m Gentry, I’d take my chances on Parker who is, disregarding my last answer, a little slower this season because of injury. But Parker still has zip, and Nash is not moving well right now. So maybe Nash on Hill is a better idea. But, you’re right, it’s a concern from a Suns perspective.

What is it about this team that allows them to turn it on when it counts after seemingly sleepwalking through the season?

You know how folks used to complain about Shaquille O’Neal taking the regular season off, thinking he could turn it on in the playoffs? Then, whenever O’Neal would falter in the postseason, the pundits would say, “See, Shaq should have played harder during the regular season. You can’t just flip a switch.” In some ways, the Spurs take the Shaq approach, minus the love handles, silly quotes in the press and postseason faltering. In other words, they’re very deliberate about their pacing. The Spurs know when to turn it on. And when they flip the switch, the house lights are blindingly bright.

Who do you got?

I like the Spurs in a fairly short series. Five or six. And I say that as one who thinks the Suns are currently the second-best team in the conference. The Spurs just match up well. Nash is a little gimpy, and the Spurs’ three-guard attack will keep him occupied on both sides of the ball. And the threesome of Tim Duncan, Antonio McDyess and DeJuan Blair is too much for the limited-by-injury front line of the Suns. That bit a few paragraphs up about the Suns’ bad luck against the Spurs applies here.

Having said all that, I really do think the Suns are the second-best team in the conference. And maybe better than I realize. The three Suns that most worry me are Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley and Channing Frye. Each of those players could hurt San Antonio. As in Horry-hipcheck-the-Spurs-into-the-scorer’s-table hurt San Antonio. But I see that matchup as Richardson, Dudley and Frye against Gregg Popovich. The smart money is on Popovich. His bark is bigger than their bite.

  • badger


    You are absolutely right, the hoop junkies on 48 minutes of hell are rather cocky. 4 championships will do that to you. The main reasons I think this Suns team will give the Spurs some difficulties is that the organization is finally starting to understand that DEFENSE wins championships.

    As great as every Nash-Stoudimire led team has been, none of them has been defensively sound. This year's team is better on D than any of the others, but they are still going to live and die by the offense, particularly the 3 pointer.

    I recall watching Nash from the 5th row in a Dallas uniform years ago. As long as he got up the floor ahead of Duncan and Robinson, he was VERY effective. However, nearly everytime they had to run a set offense, Dallas struggled to score. In the end, SA won with relative ease. Unfortunately for the Suns, during playoff basketball, bigs hustle back on D.

    Finally, as great and athletically gifted as the Suns teams have been over the years, I think the Spurs have been better coached. Gentry is the best coach to come along, and he is a keeper. However, Popovich is in the elite class because his teams will do everything he asks of them, especially set their egos aside. Can Amare ever do that?

    Spurs in 6.

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  • SpurredOn

    @Joe – It really isn't cockiness (you should've read the Mavs blog last round) as much as confidence in the people who run the show: Pop and his staff, TD, Manu, Tony, Hill and the role players. It's also an understanding of how a full series plays out and the Spurs' ability to handle all that comes their way, whether they win or lose game 1, whether the have home court or not. Lastly, we hear almost every post-season about how the other team is our worst match-up, younger, more athletic, etc. And yet we almost always win because many people follow the stats and highlights instead of the work and discipline.

    I gotta say it's funny for you to call 48MoH people cocky then pick the Suns to win in six, clinching in our arena. One could say the same about you.

  • duaneofly

    One thing you Suns fans (And Mavs fans, and Spurs fan too) should remember is what blog you are on. Of course Spurs fans are going to be cocky and pro-Spurs on 48minutesofhell.

    I read the first Suns vs Spurs article on here and didn't agree with it, but I didn't respond with criticism either. Why? Because of course is going to be pro-Suns.

    I'm picking Spurs in 5, but yeah I do worry about being eliminated by the Suns. You guys are a good team. Also, honestly? I'd rather be eliminated by the Lakers than the Suns.

  • SpursfanSteve

    Duane, i'd rather not get eliminated :)

  • joe

    man, i read the 48 minutes of hell comments and they are some cocky sons of bitches. I do think it will be difficult for the SUNS to match with the 3 guard line up of hill, manu, and tp, but its not in possible. I aslo expect to see some zone especially when amunson and frye are in

    ps I fucking hate the spurs

    SUNS in 6

  • Eric

    Yes Yes we are VERY cocky sons of biaches!! It’s quite simple…next time your in your hometown arena, take a look up in the rafters….I’d be willing to bet that there is nowhere near the amount of banners we have hanging in our rafters. Nuff said….win championships and you get cocky…so with that said sit back and enjoy the ride because S.A. will send that bitch ass Amare,and that greasy headed Nash packing their bags for yet another playoff exit courtesy of my hometown San Antonio Spurs.

    P.S. – I hate crybaby ass mother fucking suns fans!!!

  • SpursfanSteve

    The only way to protect Nash’s inability to play D will be for yall to play a zone. If we can break the zone, Spurs in 6. If yall elect not to play a zone, could be Spurs in 5. I’d agree with Tim that yall are the second best team in the conference and a top 5 or 6 team in the league, but we just matchup too well with yall. We will win the same way we’ve won in the past: controlling the pace, and chasing yall off the 3 point line. A’m’a’r’e can score all he wants, and hopefully we just let Nash shoot. If we hold ya’ll under 100, which i think we can, we win.

    Looking forward to tip off. Go Spurs Go!

  • Sebastian

    I agree with ‘SpurredOn’, its not about the statistics but rather the heart and will of which team wants to win the most, and from the team I saw in the first round its the Spurs who dismantled a talented mavs team and brought them down in the same number of games as the suns team who played against half a Blazers team.

    The thing I hate the most is how poeple go on a rant about how spurs are too old and they will be blown away by the suns speed, but hold it there a sec, the suns are not in any better position age wise. Nash and Hill are also on the wrong side of 30 may I remind you. Second, havent you guys learned anything about the spurs defense? Theyre not aiming to shut down amare or Nash, theyre shutting down everyone else cuase no matter if nash and stoudemire score thirty each, thats just 60 points.

    That said it should be a fun series to watch and im picking my spurs in 6

  • jay thatch

    so spurs are going to sweep the suns now after losing game 1? the suns won despite playing 5 on 6 (the refs being the spurs 6th player on the court as usual). now anyone watching game one knows what the suns are up aganist and i can honestly say the only thing i was surprised at was not all the terrible calls by the pop puppets aka the refs, it was how poorly the spurs shot the ball and how much they didn't seem to care. they looked listless. even the expected complaining to the officials was less vehement that what we are used to. popavich barley showed any type of emotion. he should join the world series of poker, nobody would ever know what cards he had. maybe he just picked up a bad burrito from one of the local taco peddleing street vendors that the good sheriff over here missed, and was just trying to hold it all in both figurativly, and literaly. can't wait to see the roadkill that this series churns out, speedbump or not!

  • BlaseE

    “What is it about this team that allows them to turn it on when it counts after seemingly sleepwalking through the season?”

    To add to Tim’s response, the Spurs see controlled minutes more than maybe any other team in the league during the regular season. The switch is so bright in the playoffs because our 3 guards can more or less cover the 96 minutes of both guards spots + another 8 minutes at SF if needed.

    And with the front court, Duncan and Dice getting more minutes tightens up the execution with their veteran experience….not that Bonner makes many mistakes. Blair: you take the bad with the good, and the good is really good often enough.

    Against Dallas we also committed to attacking the paint in our winning efforts. I haven’t personally compared the shot charts but I’m guessing Duncan’s average shot was 3 feet or so closer than regular season and that was against two serious centers. It wasn’t exactly a freak of nature that Duncan, Manu, Parker, Hill, Dice, and RJ could lead a team to a victory without a 3 point make. Somehow, I don’t see this Suns incarnation ever being able to achieve or come close to that feat.

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  • Chad

    What's with all of the Spurs fans on the Suns blog? Are you that eager to talk shit?

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  • The Z. Man

    Michael, why would you interview someone like Tim who obviously knows ZERO about this game?

    Waste of our time. Nash is who he feared least but should have feared most. Dominated George Hill and then some. Why are Spurs fans among sports most arrogant fans?

    Took care of the Spurs…1…2…3…4. THIS time, the REAL question is can we do the same to the Lakers and come back from having our backs against the wall? Can we do what the Heat did in the Championship 4 years earlier, when, after losing the first two on the road to the number one seed Mavs, they came back to beat the Mavs at home in game 3 and beat them at home again in game four? Suns have already done that!!!! Now can we continue that momentum, like the Heat did 4 years ago, to beat them not just twice, but…1…2…3…4? Leandro the Laker Killer has arrived and this is his time.

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

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