Spurs beating Suns at their old game - East Valley Tribune: News

Spurs beating Suns at their old game

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Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 3:39 pm | Updated: 9:26 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The Phoenix Suns can’t stay with the San Antonio Spurs in the open floor. Say that again – slowly — so that the Suns can keep up.

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Phoenix’s mantra after the Shaquille O’Neal trade was that they could now play both their trademark up-tempo style and the halfcourt game with post-ups and pick-and-rolls. But after being outscored an incredible 23-4 in fastbreak points in Tuesday’s 102-96 loss to the Spurs, the Suns have to face facts: When the tempo speeds up, they fall behind.

The Spurs had 12 fasbreak points in the second quarter, when they cut an early 14-point Phoenix lead in half, and five more in the decisive third quarter. Over the same span, the Suns had a grand total of zero — none, nothing.

It didn’t help that their fastest player, Leandro Barbosa, was scoreless for the first time this season and was a minus-18 in his 24 minutes on the floor Tuesday. Or that Grant Hill, who usually fills the lanes on the fastbreak, played just 20 minutes again and was in shape to run the floor when he did play thanks to an abdomen/groin injury that isn’t getting any better.

Even when the Suns were effective early (taking a 26-12 lead) and rallied late (a 14-2 run to close a 17-point deficit to five), they had to do it step by slow step. By when the Spurs make their runs, it comes in transition baskets off turnovers and missed shots — you know, the same way Phoenix made their living for years.

Add that to easy baskets the Spurs are getting off pick-and-roll drives to the basket (they have 128 points in the paint in the first two games) and the Suns’ strategy to stay home on outside shooters is playing into San Antonio’s hands.

TAMING TONY

One of the reasons the Suns felt comfortable trading Shawn Marion in the O’Neal deal was because Grant Hill would be able to assume many of his perimeter defense responsibilities.

But after playing 70 regular season games — his most in nearly a decade — and missing only five games due to injury (the other seven were due to an emergency appendectomy in January), Hill has a serious injury at the worst time. His injury isn’t likely to respond to short-term rest and has proven too painful to play through. That means no Marion and no Hill to put on Parker or help Raja Bell with Manu Ginobili, which was a major part of their defensive game plan.

If Hill can’t play a full game, and that seems more and more likely since six days of rest over the last eight hasn’t help, and Barbosa can’t make a contribution on either end, the Suns have to look at other options. Gordan Giricek guarded Ginobili for Utah in last year’s Western Conference finals and has some good size. He would likely get the first shot over rookie D.J. Strawberry, who has been given some limited defensive assignments during the season.

BONUS SHOTS

• The Suns will try to become only the 14th team in league history to overcome an 0-2 deficit in a best-of-seven series. Two teams did it last year, however, (Cleveland against Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals, and Utah over Houston in the Western Conference quarterfinals).

• The only team to overcome an 0-2 deficit to the Spurs was O’Neal’s 2004 Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 Western Conference semifinals — when they knocked the Spurs out with a back-door sweep (4-2). Shaq and the Miami Heat also overcame an 0-2 hole against Dallas in the 2006 NBA Finals.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The Suns failed to score on 15 of their first 16 possessions of the third quarter — missing 12 of 13 shots and committing five turnovers in the first eight minutes after shooting 61 percent and committing four total turnovers in the first half.

“We missed some shots we normally make,” said Amare Stoudemire, who was 0-for-4 in the quarter after an 11-for-14 first half. “They played pretty good defense, but sometimes the shots don’t fall.”

A possession-by-possession breakdown upholds Stoudemire’s claim:

Possession 1: Shaquille O’Neal missed a contested 5-footer.

Possession 2: Amare Stoudemire misses an open 13-foot, fouls Michael Finley chasing a rebound.

Possession 3: Tim Duncan blocked an O’Neal 3-footer out of bounds. With eight seconds on the shot clock, the Suns failed to get off a shot and were called for a 24-second violation.

Possession 4: Stoudemire fumbles a low pick-and-roll pass from Nash for a turnover.

Possession 5: O’Neal missed a contested layup.

Possession 6: Steve Nash missed a 14-foot fade-away jumper with plenty of time on the clock. Suns grab the rebound and O’Neal is fouled. He misses both free throws.

Possession 7: O’Neal misses two free throws.

Possession 8: Stoudemire misses a two-foot layup. O’Neal rebounds, but has the ball stolen by Tony Parker before his put-back attempt.

Possession 9: Stoudemire misses an open 8-footer

Possession 10: Leandro Barbosa misses an open 3-pointer.

Possession 11: Nash dribbles the ball off his own foot for a turnover.

Possession 12: Nash breaks the spell with an off-balance 14-foot fade-away at the 5:35 mark, snapping an 11-0 San Antonio run and bringing Phoenix back within two points (65-63).

Possession 13: Stoudemire misses an open 4-footer.

Possession 14: Raja Bell comes up short on a driving layup

Possession 15: Another failed attempt at the pick-and roll results in a Nash turnover.

Possession 16: Bell misses a jumper a step inside the 3-point line.

Possession 17: Down 71-63, Gordan Giricek stops San Antonio’s 17-2 run with a running, finger-roll layup.

BONUS SHOTS

• The Suns will try to become only the 14th team in league history to overcome an 0-2 deficit in a best-of-seven series. Two teams did it last year, however, (Cleveland against Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals and Utah over Houston in the Western Conference quarterfinals).

• The only team to overcome an 0-2 deficit to the Spurs was O’Neal’s 2004 Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 Western Conference semifinals — when they knocked the Spurs out with a back-door sweep (4-2). Shaq and the Miami Heat also overcame an 0-2 hole against Dallas in the 2006 NBA Finals.

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