Wednesday , May , 09 , 2007 Oly Sandor

Steve Nash & Phoenix Suns Even Up Series, Tony Parker & Manu Ginobili Vanish For San Antonio Spurs

The Phoenix Suns played great defense in their game two win over the San Antonio Spurs … Yes, you read correctly. The Suns used their defense to take game two and tie the series at 1-1 … But Phoenix are actually a reasonable defensive team … Read about Stoudemire, Nash, and Bell’s big games … And what happened to Ginobili and Parker in game two? … Get your recap and analysis right here.

What Happened: ’s bandaged nose, a revamped starting line-up, and new defensive match-ups helped the beat the 101-81 on Tuesday night at US Airways Arena.

The Suns put together impressive second and fourth quarter runs to square their best of seven playoff series at 1-1.

Nash was the key, scoring 12 of his 20 points during those decisive second and fourth quarter spurts. He also added 16 assists.

Amare Stoudemire, free from the burden of guarding Tim Duncan on defense, scored a team-high 27 points to go with nine rebounds.

The Suns used Kurt Thomas to defend San Antonio’s star pivot. Thomas also chipped in with 12 points. Raja Bell had 18 points.

Duncan scored 29 points for the Spurs. But his teammates didn’t give him much help.

, after torching the Suns for 32 points in game one, only scored 13 points in game two. hit for 13 points, while added 6 points on 2-for-9 shooting.

Game three is scheduled for Saturday in San Antonio.

Reaction of Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni on the Suns’ defense:
“Defensively, we were really good. It started with Shawn and Kurt. Their work on those two guys was really good. Finally, we started clicking a little bit offensively. It was really a good effort. We just need to repeat it three more times." (ESPN)

Reaction of Phoenix guard Steve Nash on Kurt Thomas’ play:
"It’s been tough on him not to play as much as he likes," Nash said. "At the same time, it’s a tribute to what type of person, player and teammate he is that he can suffer a lack of playing time and then be able to step up in the biggest game of the season and play so well." (CNNSI)

Reaction of San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich
on the loss:
“The game was all about maintaining a pursuit and aggressiveness. They did that in a variety of ways. It’s disappointing. You have to have five guys committed to doing the same thing. It seemed like we had three, maybe four at times, but not five." (ESPN)

My Take: The Phoenix Suns evened up the series by playing great defense. Yes, by playing great defense.

This isn’t surprising. The Suns are an underrated defensive team. Bell is a nasty lockdown defender, while Marion can match-up against guards and forwards. Throw Thomas in the starting line-up and Phoenix is suddenly a pretty decent defensive team, capable of getting stops.

Coach Mike D’Antoni deserves credit for starting Thomas. The Suns were 7-0 with the veteran forward in the starting line-up. But switching things up during the playoffs can be risky.

Still, it was the right move to make. Stoudemire didn’t have to match-up with Tim Duncan, so STAT had a strong game. Thomas played well, using his wide body on both ends of the floor.

The Spurs blew a golden opportunity  to take control of the series. They didn’t get greedy and seemed content with winning one-of-two road games.

A bigger concern for San Antonio has to be the play of Ginobili. So far the Argentine hasn’t been a factor in the series. In game one, he only scored eight points on 2-of-9 shots. In game two, he had nine points, making just 3-of-9 attempts.

Ginbolili is at his best when penetrating left, drawing contact, and getting to the free throw line. But on Tuesday night, he didn’t shoot a single free throw.

Saturday’s game three should be interesting.

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