PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns spoiled the San Antonio Spurs’ 2009-10 season, and they have a chance to do so once again this year with the teams set to square off twice more this season, starting with Sunday’s ABC matinee.
Of course, watching The Dragon vanquish the Spurs in Game 3 and then a one-eyed Nash finish off a satisfying series sweep isn’t exactly the same as putting a dent in San Antonio’s hopes for the West’s No. 1 seed.
But for a Suns team that would have to win out and have New Orleans lose out to reach the playoffs at this point, putting a dent in a contender’s playoff path is all they really have left to play for, and knocking the Spurs down a peg would be attractive for Phoenix even in Summer League.
The Spurs had been steamrolling the league all season until the All-Star break, a time when the Lakers flipped a switch and San Antonio has looked average at best. They have been awful lately, losing six in a row for the first time in the Tim Duncan Era while battling injury issues as Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have all sat out at times during this stretch.
The Spurs can hear the Lakers breathing down their necks as they are just 1 1/2 games up on the Lake Show after leading them by as many as nine games at one point, and a Spurs loss and Lakers win on ABC this afternoon would lead to a tie in the loss column.
San Antonio badly needs to beat the struggling Suns to get back on track, and their issues notwithstanding they will be heavy favorites with Steve Nash missing the game as he continues to suffer from flu-like symptoms that caused him to miss Friday’s game. According to The Arizona Republic, Nash is expected to rejoin the team Tuesday in Chicago.
That means the Spurs will get their first taste of Aaron Brooks and Zabian Dowdell after all those epic playoff clashes versus Nash. The duo played well against the Clippers on Friday, splitting the minutes down the middle in quarter by quarter shifts and finishing with a combined 26 points and 11 assists to help the Suns win their game win in five tries this season without Nash. None of the previous offensive efforts sans Nash were particularly pretty.
Head coach Alvin Gentry has said he wants to see different players work with different combinations, so it will be nice to see both of these point guards get heavy minutes with the starters as the Suns continue their evaluations for next season.
Dowdell was particularly impressive against the Clippers, leading the game-changing second quarter run, and he knows time without Nash represents a major opportunity for him to show the rest of the league as well as the Suns he deserves more than a minimum contract and the last spot on a bench next season.
The Suns and Spurs have clashed in many a battle royale this time of year over the course of the past decade, and for some time they seemed destined for another go around in the first round of the playoffs this season as well.
That won’t happen with the Suns all but mathematically eliminated, but after all the heartache this franchise has caused in the Valley during the Nash Era there’s no team the Suns would rather play spoiler against than the Spurs.
“Let’s go and see if we can beat San Antonio and let’s make this an enjoyable trip,” Grant Hill said,
Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick and Vince Carter held up a scorecard rating Jared Dudley’s “dunk” in the scorebook as a no dunk during an FS Arizona interview following Friday’s game, so Dudley remains stuck on eight for the season so far as his teammates are concerned. Dudley said it would be ideal for him to reach his goal of 10 for the year in the season finale at home against the Spurs on April 13, “but that’s kind of pushing the envelope.”