Thursday , Apr , 17 , 2008 C.Y. Ellis

Bring on the Sterns: A Phoenix Suns Playoff Preview

Bring on the Sterns: A Phoenix Suns Playoff Preview

During the preseason on more than one night, I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat screaming, “Timmeh!!”  Defending Tim Duncan has been my biggest nightmare and it grew even scarier when the Phoenix Suns traded away their “Duncan-Stopper” Kurt Thomas in the off-season. 

After The Big Acquisition, I often wake up with another nightmare.  I wake up in a cold sweat screaming, “Duckworth!”  For the better part of a decade, my Phoenix Suns were chasing the Los Angeles Lakers.  In 1990, the Suns finally beat the Lakers, only to fall to Portland 4-2 in the Western Conference Finals.  After chasing the Lakers for so long, the other teams had passed both Phoenix and Los Angeles.  The next year, they dropped another playoff series to the Blazers.

The Phoenix Suns went 3-1 against the Sp*rs this year.  The Suns have also won 3 of the last 4 in San Antonio, including last year’s playoffs.  The last two Suns’ wins over San Antonio have been dominating performances.  Have the Suns been too focused on the Sp*rs for too long?

Are the Sp*rs still the team to beat?  They have dropped some ugly games but looked wonderful tonight.  The Utah Jazz looked horrible tonight.  Were the Jazz tanking it to get the Houston Rockets?  Are they just that terrible on the road?  Who knows?

I am looking forward to the Sp*rs, though.  They need their “Big Three” to score over 60 points.  The role players are getting older and slower.  The wings are just not as dangerous as they used to be.  Michael Finley can still have a big game and Bruce Bowen can still hit 3s from the corner in the 4th quarter (he can’t hit a shot in the first 3) when he’s wide open.  But, really, that is about it.  If Finley’s big game (he should get at least one in the series) coincides with a bad game from the Big Three (collectively, they score less than 60) and the Sp*rs squeak out a win, the Suns may be in trouble.  The Suns will be in trouble just because the Sp*rs’ Big 3 will not put up 4 stinkers.

Even though I’m afraid that The Big Acquisition hurt the Suns’ chances against the rest of the west, I am excited about seeing Shaq shut Duncan down yet again.  Talk about nightmares.  Are the Sp*rs fans waking up screaming, “point-four seconds!” or replays of Shaq’s domination over TD in both Laker purple and Phoenix purple?  Shaq and purple is a bad combination for The Big Fundamental.

Let’s talk about age.  Age is a concern on both sides.

Tim Duncan is 31, but is still in great shape.  He’s moving at the same, methodical speed and he is still deadly (until Shaq takes over the defensive responsibility from Amare Stoudemire in the second half).  Tony Parker is 25 and still on the rise.  Manu Ginobili is 30.  Manu is an old thirty.  It’s kind of like Indiana Jones says, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.”  Manu is limping into the series and has been throwing himself at the basket for way too long. 

If anyone on the Sp*rs wears down, it will be their leading scorer and best player.  The role players will also fade away.  That was always their hidden strength, but it no longer exists. 

I am also thinking that Pop may not be the evil genius that he has always been.  Why is Jacque Vaughn playing ahead of Damon Stoudamire?  Really?  Why?  Is Stoudamire that bad all of a sudden?  It is either a sign of Alzheimer’s moving in on Pop or the rough reality that Stoudamire is worthless.  I don’t know.  Discuss amongst yourselves.

That being said, I don’t know how much age will be a factor in these playoffs for the Suns; it will not be in the first round, but maybe in the second.  Shaq will not start getting tired until the second round (Shaq is here for the Sp*rs, after all), and with the extended playoffs (40 days in 40 nights), Steve Nash will not be bothered.  Shaq is here for the Sp*rs.  Make no mistake about it.  He can get through a series with them.  After that?  Who knows?  Maybe he will not be as needed.

I am still convinced that the only reason the Suns beat the L.A. Clippers in 2005 was because of the week-long (5 days is a work week) gap between Game 5 and Game 6.  This gave Nash and his personal trainer enough time to fix that broken back problem of his. 

Regardless of what happens, knocking the Sp*rs out in the first round would be a wonderful feeling.  Didn’t the Rockets win it all from the 6th seed ?  (Answer: “yes”.)  If you want to be the champs, you have to beat the champs.

I want to be conservative and say Suns in 6, but I really think the Suns may be able to do it in 5.

In case anyone was wondering, I’ve been given license to be an even bigger Suns homer than before.  I’m going to start scouting Dallas and New Orleans now.