PHOENIX — Six months ago the Phoenix Suns got their long-awaited revenge and swept the San Antonio Spurs out of the playoffs.
But that was last season.
And as far as this unit is concerned, none of the two team’s past encounters will play a factor Wednesday, when Phoenix and San Antonio meet for the first time in the young season.
“I don’t think they’ve even thought about last year’s playoffs,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “Somebody asked me if we’d be extra motivated to play the Lakers after last year and they asked me that about Portland and they asked me that about Utah. There’s an ax to grind with every team in the NBA.”
Although that may be true, the Suns-Spurs rivalry always seems to have a little extra to it.
Write it off as the media creating a storyline, but as far the regular season goes, the matchup for Wednesday’s game is about as marquee as it gets.
“It’s going to be a tough game; we kicked them out of the playoffs last year,” Jason Richardson said. “They are going to come here ready. They still got a big three with Manu [Ginobili], Tony [Parker] and Tim [Duncan].”
Phoenix is coming off a tough loss to the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, while the Spurs last played Monday in a 97-88 victory over the Clippers.
“We just got to keep trying to get better, for us, there are certain things we’ve improved on, but there are other areas where we’ve got to get better,” Gentry said. “We’ve done well if you talk about defensive field goal percentage. … We played good but we didn’t played great.”
Also on the to-do list during practice was to start developing a regular season rhythm.
“We still got to find some consistency in what we do; I think that’s the key for us,” Gentry said. “Obviously the offensive rebounding we’ve got to find a way to get that taken care of and then our turnovers are still a concern.”
The layoff between games gave the coach time to evaluate his team through the first week of the season.
“I don’t know if we’re going to be a team that averages 110 points again, but I do think we can be pretty good offensively and hopefully we can be better defensively,” Gentry said. “To me, it’s more about point differential and right now we’re in the red and we got to get to the black.”
Hakim Warrick chimed in on the topic, too.
“It’s been pretty comfortable; we’re getting better every day,” he said. “I have to attack the rim and get to the line, it’s something that I think I can help bring to this team and get [the other team] into the penalty early.”
If Warrick can do just that, Phoenix has a good chance to come away with a win.
Through their first three games this year, the Spurs’ bench averages 29 points per game, while the Suns’ second team scores 35.
San Antonio plays about nine players deep but its overall depth does not compare to the Suns.
One aspect of the game Gentry can predict is who will have the ball if the game is on the line.
“I can’t say it’s going to be all pick-and-roll at the end,” he said. “But you can best believe that Steve is going to be involved in everything that comes down to winning or losing the game.”
Phoenix is the only NBA team whose first four games are all against a 50-win squad from the 2009-10 season. Portland, Utah, the Lakers and San Antonio combined to win an average of 53 regular season games last season. The Suns are also the only NBA team to open against four previous playoff teams.
That brutal stretch to open the year for the Suns isn’t an ideal way to integrate new players, but it has served as a good measuring stick for where the squad is now and where it has to be in the future to be competitive.