We’ve built up Spurs-Suns as a big rivalry, but you know the old saying: It’s not really a rivalry until both teams have won when it matters. Thus far, it’s been all Spurs, which means it’s a huge rivalry to the Suns and pretty much another game for San Antonio. The Spurs, in fact, just vanquished their most-hated rival last round when they dispensed with Dallas.
-Prof. Hollinger here
Isn’t that the unfortunate truth? You look around the InterWebs and the Twitter and what have you, and Suns fans hate the Spurs. I don’t know how the players feel about ‘em, exactly, but I would be willing to wager that the three Suns (Nash, STAT, and Barbosa–and Gentry was as an assistant, of course) who were around to get run by the Spurs in 2005, 7, and 8 have a deep-seated hatred for (and uncomfortably vivid memories of) those teams and series.
That’s why I’m proud to say that here at Sun-N-Gun, we have no memory whatsoever of those series. We have no recollection of Robert Horry doing horrible things or The Big Fundamental’s 3-pointer or perennial DPOY (the D is for Dirty) Bruce Bowen trying to destroy ankles or Ginobili throwing himself on the floor every time a Sun looked at him. None whatsoever. In fact, our memory is so bad these days, we don’t even remember the three games the Suns and San Antonio played this year. Two of those are because they just weren’t memorable, one because we’ve chosen to forget–mostly because of this:
Yeah, that sucked. In fact, let’s just take a quick look at some of the numbers from that game, as I think that was the only game that had both teams at full strength and actually trying (they were both very different teams in December, and when they played in April, Garrett Temple started. Mm-hm. Way to show up, San Antonio).
Now, this game ended up being very painful because of that video above. It was too bad, too, because it overshadowed a pretty good game by J-Rich–he went 8-of-13 for 20 points with a couple of 3s…in fact, it was one of the very few games this year in which the Suns lost despite getting at least 20 from Richardson. In fact, the Suns really played well in most aspects of the game–they only got outrebounded by two, and only had one more turnover. However, the Suns got absolutely dominated on the bench. Three Spurs (Jefferson, Blair, and Ginobili) combined for 55 points off the bench, while Frye, Dudley, Dragic, and Amundson banged out 17 points. That’s right, 17. And 11 of those were Frye’s…the other three scored 2 each.
Now, the Spurs are running out a much different starting lineup these days (Hill-Ginobili-Jefferson-Duncan-McDyess), which makes their bench Tony Parker and The Pu-pu Platter. During their series against the Mavs (excluding the Game 5 blowout outlier), the Spurs bench averaged 22.2 points per game. Of that 22.2, 15.4 per game came from the Frenchman. So if my maths are correct, the Spurs got less than 7 points per game from bench players not named Tony. The Suns, on the other hand, got a pretty balanced 34.7 per game from their bench, and that came from a variety of sources.
So what does this mean? Well, the Suns need to do everything they can to push those starters out. None of the Spurs has ever committed a foul in his career (just ask ‘im!), but the Suns would do well to do to attack and try to force the Spurs to dig a bit deeper into that bench. Additionally, a little bit of tempo-pushin’ by the bench may force those old, tired Spurs into a bit more rest than they’re interested in taking.
So that’s Strategy No. 1, right? Push those Spurs. I’ll be back in a bit with a few interesting numbers…and a prediction.