Suns Down Spurs
The Phoenix Suns battled back from an early first quarter deficit and very slow start to break away in the fourth quarter to win 103-87. They say that great teams impose their will and style of play on the other team. Last night San Antonio imposed their will early and made the Suns fight hard for this win.
The Suns appeared anxious for this game, and even for the other big games we've played thus far. They've generally not played Suns basketball for these games against the elite teams. I know part of that is because when you play good teams, you are going to have a much more difficult time due to the talent of the opposition.
The Suns started out with the slowest quarter they've had the entire season. It wasn't until a series of steals, deflections and a defensive stance in the second quarter that we were able to get back into the game. This momentum shift occurred after Raja Bell went out, with what was reported as 'aggravated inflammation' in his knee, and Leandro Barbosa came in. Leandro and Shawn Marion, among others, immediately began attacking passing lanes and came up with steals and fast break opportunities to even the score.
Leandro played exceptional in Raja's absense. He is quickly establishing his face as Phoenix Suns basketball. As for the other reserves, James Jones continues to play well. He seems to get more athletic or loose in each game he plays. He has been catching guys with a pump fake and taking them off the dribble before creating his own shot. That is a very nice dimension he has added. Marcus Banks even played good in the anemic eight minutes he got, he didn't shoot particularly well but really, nobody did. I like the pesky defense he played when we needed something extra.
All our starters played well. Boris Diaw became aggressive when the team needed it and also created once the defense was focused on his scoring. This included a very nice drop pass to Amare from the right block after he took a head of steam at the Spurs defense in the paint.
The Matrix made big plays every time we needed it. He is clearly the Suns defensive anchor and he, along with Amare, hit the boards hard. Shawn disrupted San Antonio with three steals and two blocks. Say it with me: Shawn Marion for Defensive Player of the Year. He is everywhere, swinging at shots, including a hardcore block on Tim Duncan that was wrongly called as a foul.
Shawn literally wound up and batted the ball with force out of Tim's hands. I saw the replay, he never even hit Duncan's hand. All ball, all the way. Inversely, on the other end, Tim Duncan racked up a bunch of blocks by routinely hacking the crap out of Suns scorers and since he has that 'great defender' pin from the ref's, he gets away with it.
With Shawn's great play setting the tone, Amare quietly had a huge night. He was so focused on getting rebounds, you didn't notice him until the second half. He did a phenomenal job on the glass, however with a career high 23 'bounds, including eight offensive. This is a game where we usually get killed on the boards but with Amare and Shawn we crushed the Spurs on the glass 51-41.
I have to credit the Spurs, they play hard and they play great defense. We are just playing better this year. They disrupted Steve Nash a bit but he still had a huge game with another double double. He just couldn't get very many easy shots.
The 16 points we won by is misleading, this game was much closer than that score indicates. We were neck and neck up until near the end of the dourth quarter; I want to say around the four minute mark. That's when we imposed our will on the Spurs, finally. Amare really closed this game out for us.
Oh, and for the record, Ginobili is the league's biggest bitch. He should seriously be banned. The play where he kneed Amare in the nuts was simply dirty basketball and should warrant a suspension. You cannot drive into the lane leading with your knee extended. If you can't take the contact stay out of the paint. It was not Amare's fault like Charles Barkley misleadingly mentioned. Amare was directly under the hoop, Ginobili had plenty of space to shoot the shot. He went in there, didn't want the contact so he stuck his knee out and into Amare's balls. I wouldn't be mad if Amare was suspended for introducing his fist to Ginobili's face for a bitch move like that.
Did I mention that Amare was a beast in the paint? He played solid defense on Tim Duncan without getting in foul trouble. In those last four minutes, Amare was ravenous. Any ball clanking off the rim was ripped down by Stoudemire. If it was on defense, he initiated the fast break. When it was on offense, he tossed anyone near him away and threw down the put-back dunk. In a word: unstoppable. During this last four minutes Amare made the Spurs frantically looking for points. They couldn't stop him so they had to score, fast. The Spurs were running, on fumes, jacking up bad threes and we were giving them the business at the other end.
It was this beautiful fourth quarter run that made the game a blowout. Hopefully this silences a couple critics here and there. Spurs coach Greg Popovich had some words when asked if he thinks the Suns' style can't work:
I think it's bull (expletive)... Good basketball teams are good basketball teams. They are playing better defense now than they've ever before. Offensively, they're more dangerous than they've ever been and tougher to guard than they've ever been. The record they have and the way they've been playing, I honestly don't think it's fool's gold.