Game 3 preview: Suns at Spurs

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Western Conference Semifinals Game 3
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Suns 110, Spurs 96

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only 6.1 percent of NBA teams that have gone down 2-0 in a best-of-seven series have come back to win. That’s 14 of 228 times. However, since the second round of the 2004 playoffs, 12.7 percent of teams in a 2-0 hole have come back to win (7 of 55). The last team to do it? That’s right, the San Antonio Spurs in 2008.

With that in mind, the Suns cannot take Game 3 lightly. The Spurs are probably the last team that will let a 2-0 deficit get under its skin.

“They’re not going anywhere,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said after practice Thursday. “They will not go quietly in the night. We understand that going down there. It will not be easy.”

Before we look at keys to this game, here’s a fact you may not want to know (I say this for the sake of everyone not getting too confident with this lead): The last two times the Suns held a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Semifinals, they lost in seven games (1994 and 1995).

Keys to the game

Focus

The environment in the AT&T Center is going to be incredible. The Spurs have planned a white out and the team’s fans can’t be happy with a 2-0 deficit.

“That place is extremely loud, which is great,” Suns forward Amare Stoudemire said. “We feed off the opposing team’s crowd.”

The Suns’ focus throughout the playoffs has been nothing short of amazing. It’s totally clear that everyone is on the same page. Everyone knows what the goal is and how to get it done. With a 2-0 lead, the Suns can’t get comfortable. They did it a few times during the regular season and haven’t had the chance to during the playoffs. The Suns have to treat this game like its an elimination game — like they should every playoff game.

“The atmosphere’s totally, totally amped up,” Stoudemire said. “They’re going to be ready to play. We’ve got to make sure we’re hungry.”

Defense

After playing some impressive ‘D’ in Game 1, the Suns took a step backward in Game 2. The Spurs were able to negate the Suns’ defensive efforts for much of the game, and that’s a problem because now they’ll be looking to exploit that.

If the Spurs can figure out how to capitalize on their ability to beat the Suns’ defense, this series could be tied up quickly. The Suns will need to bolster their defensive plan and continue to limit Tim Duncan. They did it in Game 1, and they need to do it again.

“These guys are starting to take pride in their defense,” Gentry said. “They were really disappointed that San Antonio shot what they shot the other night.”

Point guards

Steve Nash is clearly winning the point guard battle in this series. His 33-point, 10-assist performance in Game 1 was the difference maker, and the 19 points and six assists in Game 2 were a big part of the Suns’ team win. Just what you expect from a two-time MVP.

However, it’s a little more telling that the Spurs starter George Hill is struggling. If the Spurs stick with Hill, it gives the Suns a chance to jump ahead early. If Hill is struggling, the team may not be able to find a rhythm.

Tony Parker, however, has played very well, and the Spurs’ fate rests heavily on his performance. The same goes for the Suns and Nash, but not quite as much.

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Tags: Phoenix Suns Playoffs San Antonio Spurs Suns Game Preview

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