It Wasn’t Ideal

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

That is what Steve Nash had to say about his eye that had swollen shut during game 4 of the Suns-Spurs series.

But, they finally did it. The Suns finally overcame the Spurs in a playoff series. No curses, no bench clearing altercations, no broken noses, no miracle 3-point shot by a power forward/center depending on the All-Star/First Team All-NBA vote. There was a black eye on Nash that swelled shut, but that wasn’t going to deter the Suns this time.

That could have been the catalyst for another Sun meltdown, Nash possessing 50% of his normal vision, but it wasn’t. If anything, it put everything into focus for Phoenix.

The sweep of the Spurs doesn’t signal the end of an era, but it does begin to shut the window. Duncan is 35, Ginobili 33, and Parker has been riddled with injuries for a few seasons. Maybe this will be the dawning of the George Hill era, who has taken some heat for not performing in the Phoenix series as he did in the regular season/parts of the Dallas series. Whatever, he seems to fit in well in the San Antonio system, plus with another year of tutelage and practice with the corner three will make his contributions in the future major factors.

The Richard Jefferson experiment seems to be a failed one, Roger Mason was hardly utilized except for game 4, the bench looks unusually weak. This was not the typical San Antonio team, to say the least.

Phoenix, on the other hand, looked really good in this series. Goran Dragic has been unthinkably good this series, Jared Dudley and Louis Amundson provided hustle and “toughness” off the bench (which I believe implies that the rest of the Suns aren’t tough enough, which really doesn’t ring true), Robin Lopez has yet to lace up for a single minute yet the Suns still swept the Spurs.

It is casual to write off the Spurs performance as wear and tear and exhaustion from the Dallas series, but the Suns might be older and dealt with a similarly tough series against Portland (albeit an injured Blazers team). The Suns were better than the Spurs, for the first time in the Duncan era.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Stoudemire always plays well against the Spurs, so his numbers this series are of no surprise, and what else can be expected of Nash? He looked like, well, I can’t even describe it. He certainly didn’t looks absent of pain. His left eye worked to compensate for his narrowing vision in his right eye, eventually completing the shutdown process and leaving him without peripheral vision on his right side. Yet, he was still a creator, visionary, shot maker down the stretch.

This wasn’t supposed to be a Phoenix team that competed this season. Nash was “old”, Amare had the appearances of a man on the way out, the rest of the team comprised with role players who, at least some of them, were far too old to contribute (Grant Hill). I had a little faith in the Suns (note: not little faith, a little faith). A deep playoff run was not supposed to be in their cards, yet they are playing with that hand.

Next certainly lies the favorites: the Los Angeles Lakers. I would have thought that the Phoenix-San Antonio series would be the most grueling sweep of the playoffs, let alone the Semifinals, but if the Lakers beat the Jazz (who are slightly favored at home) then that would have to earn most contested sweep (in case there was any wondering, Atlanta lost this contest when the flight landed in Orlando before game 1).

The Lakers present an obvious challenge: size. They also present another, making Jason Richardson work for points. Richardson will probably be matched up against Artest defensively, but offensively the Lakers can throw Ron or “First-Team” defender Kobe Bryant at him. Nash will go against Derek Fisher unless he burns him for two games, then Kobe might be switched on him. Amare has to hope and pray that Robin Lopez gets healthy quick, because Gasol and Bynum are going to be hard to handle for Channing Frye or Jarron Collins.

It isn’t logical that Phoenix could hang with Los Angeles for an entire series. LA has too much size to have to play Suns ball. The series will be about, as it always is with Phoenix, who can impose their will. If it turns into a half court game, LA is the heavy favorite. If it is a run-and-gun game, Phoenix has a chance. See, LA can still win playing Phoenix’s brand of basketball, or at least their old brand.

However, few had the Suns beating the Spurs, who had just beaten the sexy choice to win the West in Dallas. Charles Barkley was laughed at by Kenny for even picking the Suns.

I will be rooting for the Suns, because its fun. It is fun to watch Phoenix play basketball. LA has the star power and the clear marketing advantage (any of the three teams from the East who would advance have an obvious connection with LA: Orlando is a rematch, Boston is a rematch that extends decades and only a few seasons, and Cleveland presents Kobe vs. LeBron). But Phoenix has flair. They play up-tempo.

And this question may be ludicrous, but is Alvin Gentry a better coach than Mike D’Antoni? Certainly, D’Antoni has reached the Conference Finals before, where Gentry just landed. However, everyone talks about this Suns team as the toughest and most defensive oriented, which isn’t saying much, but still. The bench may be better than years past when Barbosa was the main player, but D’Antoni had better starting 5’s nearly every season. I’m not saying that this is clearly the case, but Gentry has made a push for consideration.

Nash said that his eye “wasn’t ideal”, but the Suns winning certainly was.


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