Suns' defense huge part of 32-point turnaround

The Suns found a way to limit Tony Parker and the rest of the Spurs not named Manu tonight, which opened the door for Goran Dragic's big night. (AP Photo/Eric Gray)

The Suns found a way to limit Tony Parker and the rest of the Spurs not named Manu tonight, which opened the door for Goran Dragic's big night. (AP Photo/Eric Gray)

Goran Dragic put the Phoenix Suns on his back and single-handedly dismantled the Spurs in tonight’s virtual knockout punch.

Without his 26 second-half points, the Suns would most likely be up 2-1 rather than 3-0. But none of Dragic’s late-game magic would have been possible if it weren’t for Phoenix’s gritty defense, which fueled the Suns’ 32-point turnaround victory.

The first 15 minutes of this game were flat-out ugly for Phoenix. Their rotations were slow and missed assignments were a normal occurrence, leading to wide-open three after wide-open three for Matt Bonner, Manu Ginobili and company.

San Antonio shot 57.7 percent from the field over the first 14 minutes to build its 18-point lead, but right when Tony Parker dropped in a floater to put the Spurs up 39-21 with 8:25 in the second quarter, the lightbulb went on and the Suns put the clamps on San Antonio en route to one of the most impressive playoff comebacks in recent memory.

For the final 32 minutes and 15 seconds of the game, the Suns held Parker and company to 21-of-52 shooting from the floor (40.4 percent). They did a tremendous job forcing the Spurs to become a jump-shooting team, while making Duncan earn his points from the charity stripe (where he went 5-of-13).

As has been the case all series long, the Suns got stops when they needed to. Just as it seemed the Spurs were about to turn this one into a blowout, the Suns turned up the intensity on the defensive end, closing out on shooters, making crisp rotations and forcing Parker, Richard Jefferson and George Hill out of the paint.

The Suns were so effective in their defensive game plan that the trio of Parker, Jefferson and Hill combined for a woeful 7-of-33 from the field. Yes, 7-of-33, as in 21.2 percent.

The biggest worry heading into the series was how the Suns were going to contain Parker and the once red hot George Hill. Who would Nash guard? How would the Suns be able to match up with the Spurs’ supposedly lethal three-guard lineup?

But Phoenix made those concerns a distant memory tonight. George Hill has been a virtual non-factor all series long, and Dragic did a phenomenal job limiting Parker to 2-of-8 shooting over the last 14 minutes of the game. Parker only took six shots outside of the paint (1-of-6), and when he did get to the basket he was met by two or three Suns defenders.

The Suns also slowed down Jefferson, who knifed through the defense for 18 points in Game 2, by forcing him into a mid-range jump shooter — he went 0-of-4 on shots outside of 16 feet. They also kept George Hill out of the lane, as only one of his seven field-goal attempts came inside the paint. Even Ginobili, who was San Antonio’s sole bright spot with 27 points, took 12 of his 17 shots from 16 feet and beyond.

Simply put, the Suns forced the Spurs to be jump shooters, and aside from Ginobili and Bonner, San Antonio wasn’t up to the challenge. Phoenix was once again successful in bottling up at least one of the Spurs’ Big Three, and they even kept The Big Fundamental under 20 points for the first time all series.

Duncan wasn’t much of a factor thanks to some impressive individual defense by Jarron Collins, Channing Frye and Amare Stoudemire, along with a host of double teams from the weak side. He did snare 13 boards, block three shots and get to the line 13 times, but in no way did he kill Phoenix.

It is crazy to call the Suns a defensive team, especially when they knock down 15 threes and go for 110 points. But so many of those points and three-pointers are a direct result of a nice double team, good weakside help or a long Spurs jump shot.

When the Suns can’t get stops, the game slows down and they look mediocre in the half court. But tonight, and for the majority of the series for that matter, the Suns got stops. They made the Spurs beat them from the outside, which was the only formula for an 18-point comeback.

The strategy was successful and thanks to their lock-down defense and the fourth-quarter heroics of Dragic, the Suns are now one win away from ridding themselves of the agony and defeat that has been lingering since 2005.

  • Bond

    3-0 is the only way to get ever. Taste the shame, spurs.

  • alexcerna

    another special thing about dragic's outburst earlier was the way he did it. ….schooling blair, duncan, manu, george hill, tony parker, whew

  • duke33suns

    redemption almost done! dragic suns legend!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Arizona Bill

    I still remember Rudy Tomjanovich saying, “Never underestimate the heart of a champion” after the Rockets came back against the Suns on their way to another championship.

    Luckily (I hope), Alvin Gentry respects the Spurs and Greg Popovich and will remind his guys not to take the Spurs lightly.

    But, I gotta tell you… I’m feeling pretty good right now!

  • CornFlakes

    I agree with Grant Hill; considering the circumstances, that was one of the greatest 4th quarter playoff performances by a single player I have ever witnessed in my entire life. Goran Dragic, a BENCH player, rocked a clamp-down defense-minded team single-handedly with 23 points on near-flawless shooting. I could kiss him.

  • Mel.

    I had to double-check my television about halfway through Goran’s performance, just to make sure that I hadn’t accidentally left a copy of NBA Jam running.


  • Jess

    Come Sunday, I hope I finally get to whip out that ol’ broom I saved for such an occasion as this.

  • Brent


    From someone who has watched almost every Suns game this year – this is not a surprise!! Especially when you examine the last 45-50 games. From a match-up perspective, the Spurs are a better match-up because Phoenix doesn't guard Dirk all that well and wouldn't have had home court. However, though it would have been a longer series, I still think they would have beaten the Mavs.

    As for this series, the Spurs should have known this was going to happen. In all 3 games this year in the regular season the Suns had 110+. The Spurs don't have Bowen – who frustrated the hell out of Nash – and they don't have Horry – who made 3's but also was a great team defender. Now that the Suns can get stops when they need to, the Spurs can't keep up – especially Duncan.

    All about mindset for Game 4 though – can't give them any glimmer of hope! No better way to exercise the daemons to sweep them on their home floor!!!!!!!!!

  • Guapito

    Lucky? It should be Destiny with a capital D.

  • Anon

    Dragic also played outstanding defense against Parker. He even blocked Parker at least once maybe twice during the game.

  • Artur Mascarenhas

    Dragic’s performance is already in History. Gotta also praise the rest of our bench: LB and Frye with great shots and Dudley for the usual stuff (cant take these guys for granted)

    Amare had 7 points and we still won? Now, THATS a championship-caliber team! GO SUNS!

  • Jasper Buckleman

    Amare had 7 points and he and Nash were the biggest cheerleaders on the bench. Loving it!

  • Fra

    Hi! Spurs fan here. Just wanted to congratulate you guys, great win, you kicked our butts.

    Even though it’s not tecnically over and I’d love to see the Spurs take a couple your team it’s just too good for us to handle (and quite fun to watch by the way). I’d be rooting for you guys but only if and once the inevitably happens.

    It hurts but we want to stay classy no matter if we win or lose.


  • Fra

    Me again, I have a question as a guy that hasn’t seen that many Suns games this year.

    Do you consider that the way your team has played this series was an actual breakthrough or you’ve been this good for some time now?

    I ask because perhaps you were really lucky to get the Spurs instead of the Mavs, not only you get your revenge but perhaps the past history between the teams made Nash, Amare and the rest to reach new levels.

  • Eric Flagstaff

    Let’s stay focused and Grant Hill-humble everyone! The Spurs are great and we know we have feared them forever. It would be great to win the next game and move on, but that would definitely require the same focus and energy from the boys, just like the first three games. Goran was amazing and LB finally was showed his old beep-beep ways. Go Suns!!!

  • LiLGiT

    Speed kills…LB and Dragon made Spurs defender look so flat-footed out fast Duncan six feet away on the opposite side didn’t get there on time to help

  • Kathi Prescott

    Maybe it was the audacity of the Spurs that fired the Suns up!!!
    Their marquee stated “LA Next”

  • KeZ

    Indeed it´s LA Next…………….for the Suns!!!

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  • Vamsi

    Go Suns!!

  • The Z. Man

    VERY good win, particularly for our young guys.

    Both Dragic and Barbosa were due to explode and did so just at the most important time. Kudos to them both.

    Suns now face this off season with what should be a clearly defined goal: make SURE that all members of the team STAY HERE. Give their best shot to getting STAT to sign. Even MUCH more important is to keep our bench guys. Frye, Louis, and Leandro need to be kept. They worked hard for the Suns. Team chemistry depends on rewarding our young guys.

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