So I was doing some peeking at some numbers in thinking about what might happen in this series. I thought it would be helpful to take a look at several rate stats for the Suns, the Spurs, and their first round opponents to try to get a feel for how this second round might go. The explanations for all of these stats can be found here. The numbers in parentheses refer to the team’s NBA rank this season in each category. Regular season stats:
Looking just at those numbers, I guess it shouldn’t be any surprise to anyone that these series turned out the way they did. Phoenix, this season, was better than Portland overall (though it was fairly close when you look at it on the full-season scale). San Antonio was better than Dallas (although not by a whole lot, except in terms of rebounding). Sometimes it’s just that simple, right? Right. Let’s take a look at these crews through the first round of the playoffs:
I don’t know about you, but I find this to be awfully interesting. The Suns, much-maligned for their rebounding, the team everyone said couldn’t get it done in the playoffs because they didn’t do things like rebound and play defense, are first in the NBA in Rebound Rate during the playoffs. That 52 means they pulled down 52% of the available rebounds during their 6 games against the Blazers. And that’s without Robin Lopez, whose absence has inspired much lamentation from Suns folk. Apparently, his presence was not as essential as many people thought. The Spurs? Much closer to Portland than the Suns in terms of Offensive Rebounding and Overall Rebounding Rate. The Suns were also significantly better than the Spurs in Offensive Efficiency against what was an efficient defense during the regular season, while the Spurs were better on defense than the Suns, but they certainly weren’t playing a Suns-caliber juggernaut.
So what does this mean? Well, really, probably not all that much. I see that the Spurs and Blazers were fairly similar, stats-wise, over the course of the season. I see that the Suns were fairly dominant statistically, while the Spurs were not. I see that if the Suns play like they did in their four wins against the Blazers, it probably won’t matter how the Spurs play.
Finally, I wanna talk a little more about history. Does the history (and, more specifically, the playoff history) between these teams matter? Well, sure it matters…to the fans and to the media. But to the players and the coaches? I can’t imagine it actually does. Again, most of these guys haven’t played the Spurs in the playoffs. The few that have, especially Nash and STAT, are guys who might be motivated by it but won’t press because of it. So overall, I really think it’s far more of a promotional gimmick than anything else. The teevee folks’ll show highlights of the silliness that happened years ago, but nobody who matters will care.
All these factors combined? I’ve gotta think that right now, the Suns are just better than the Spurs. Anything can happen, of course, but I think the Suns take care of business. In fact, I’ll take ‘em in 6. Step on their necks, Suns.