Suns Grab Another Moral Victory; Up 2-0 vs. Spurs Emotionally

First Round Game 2 vs. Phoenix: Spurs 102, Suns 96 (2-0)

Wow. That was a bit easier than the first game now wasn’t it? I love the Spurs. I fucking love the Spurs. I want to give everyone on the team a hug. Everyone except Horry because I think he probably smells like how old people smell when they live by themselves a while. How excited am I about the Spurs? AusTechSpur (or Wayne to his close friends) and I spent two hours today discussing their potential off season prospects for two hours even though I had a hundred other things I should’ve been doing. And that’s with somewhere between four and 24 games left in the Spurs season. Though I suppose if the Spurs play another 24 games this season yours truly would be in the hospital by Game 17 or so. I couldn’t handle those swings. Who could?

Anyway I’m pretty happy with how things are going obviously, but I still predicted that the home team would win every game, so I’m trying to contain my excitement. Still, if Hill is injured, that’s going to be tough for Phoenix to overcome. And the refs have been oddly neutral so far, almost like they’re objective or impartial professionals. That’s starting to freak me out.

Last Tuesday fucking rocked. The Spurs won Game 2 and the SJ Sharkies won Game 7 vs. the pesky Flames. The day before the Canadians, with my 2nd favorite big-nosed athlete, Alexei Kovalev, won a Game 7 vs. the scrappy Bruins. Then like two hours ago Kovalev scored the tying goal with 30 seconds to go in Game 1 of the second round vs. the Flyers and the Habs won in OT. If the Spurs have a Finals game, the Sharks and Habs are facing off for the Stanley Cup and my homeboys are playing footy all at the same time, I think my head would explode like the guy from Scanners.

Here is your Charley Rosen style recap. Buckle up kids, we’re not going anywhere for a while. I’d suggest printing this out and taking it with you next time you’re not making like Marty Schottenheimer and taking the Browns to the Super Bowl. Holy shit, I spelled Schottenheimer right in the first try. I either know too much about football or I’m subconsciously pumping myself up for Euro 2008. The recap would’ve been done a lot sooner, but this dumb SB Nation site was down the last day and a half.

Also, for the people who want the nickname glossary, here is the post I wrote again . You can refresh yourself with it if you like.

1st quarter:

Bell started the game guarding Tony, with Nash on Bowen. Bell would move to Manu once he checked in around the 3:00 mark.

Tony forced three bad lay-ups into a congested lane and passed it to the hapless finishing Funneler instead of Manu on a 3-on-2 break.

Manu missed his first shot, a lay-up attempt because he had contorted his body expecting contact from Stoudemire, but Amare already carrying one early foul away from the ball drawn by Fab, lunged out of the way to avoid his second and had conceded the basket.

Kurt Thomas had a miserable first quarter, missing two wide open shots well within his range and letting the Suns score on him on five straight trips down the floor; a hat trick for Amare, where S.T.A.T. got by him for a dunk on the first one and then canned two straight jumpers, then Nash after a switch blew by him for a righty lay-up, and then The Big Hustle got really early position on him deep and laid in a one footer.

Amare seemed to set up on the left side seemingly every time down the floor and the Spurs were powerless to stop him, especially when Phoenix ran a set with Stoudemire running a curl coming off the baseline into the left elbow.

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Where "This Didn't Happen In the Second Half" Happens. Or doesn't happen.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Manu gambled trying to close out Nash’s passing lane as the backside defender and the little hoser got it by him to a wide open Bell for a three to make it 26-12.

The quarter and perhaps even the game turned when O’Neal checked out and Boris Diaw, our MVP, checked in. Diaw was an even more liability on defense for the Suns than Thomas was for the Spurs. Within seconds of him checking in Manu victimized him for an and-1, for his first three points of the game. The next trip down Diaw fronted Duncan but there was no help at all on the backside and Hulk easily lobbed it over the Frenchman’s head to Fran for a dunk. The very next trip, after Gino forced a turnover the one time he checked Nash the whole quarter, Duncan executed a sick crossover on Diaw in the open court, almost literally breaking Diaw’s ankle in the process, before passing it to Antoine under the basket for a lay-in.

Finley had a poor defensive showing in the first. He didn’t rotate into the lane on one early possession and could’ve prevented an Amare dunk if he did. He can’t expect Oberto to stay with Amare on a drive from the left wing all the way to the rim. Late in the quarter he left his man, Raja Bell, to help out on a Nash drive where Stevie was a 50/50 bet at best to finish, and left Bell open for his second three pointer in two possessions.

Blotch checked into the game as we went into a small ball alignment (with Tim, Manu, Fin, and Tony) and immediately made a contribution, closing on Amare in the lane and coming up with a steal that led to another fast break lay-up for 36. This is precisely the kind of defensive play that Fin has consistently shown he’s unwilling or unable to make.

Late in the quarter with the only "bigs" in the game Fab for us and Diaw for them, Diaw abused Trash two times in a row for easy buckets. I’m not sure who on the Suns the Argentine center can be expected to guard.

Fortunately we were able to stay within striking distance because as soon as he saw that there were no shot blockers out there, Manu immediately drove inside and scored his second field goal on Bell and Diaw.

D’Antoni and the Suns’ collective deficient defensive IQ’s were once again exploited as The Exception canned his first three pointer of the series in Bell’s mug at the end of the quarter even though Phoenix had a foul to give.

End of one, Suns 35, Spurs 26.

Analysis: Amare couldn’t miss, too many inside points for Phoenix, way too soft interior defense by the Spurs, some forced shots by our guys, Manu and our huge turnover/fast break points edge are the only things keeping us in it.

Big three had all 26 points, and attempted all but three shots (one for Bowen, two for Thomas).

2nd Quarter:

Pop had no choice but to remove Piedra from the game after he gave up another easy bucket and a couple of freebie attempts to Diaw.

From the "sometimes it’s better to be lucky AND good" department, Manu had one of the most awkward 7-0 runs in his career. First after he bricked a floater the rebound came right back to him amongst a gaggle of trees and when he put it up again it looked to be short, but Snaq goaltended it. Then after Bell missed a wide open three because The JV screwed up an assignment, Manu rebounded the ball dribbled to the right wing where he simply had to take the three because Giricek was playing so comically off of him and that swished in. Finally, he seemed to not know what defense the Spurs were in because he was engaged in a conversation with Tim during the play whether he should help double on Shaq or not and after The Big Mumble kicked it out to Gordan at the top of the key Giricek looked to be ready to bear down on Timmy on a 2-on-1 inside the paint with Shaq. Manu had his head turned on the pass and was badly beaten. He stuck his left arm out behind Giricek in a desperate lunge and happened to hit the ball, which came right to Vaughn who casually lobbed it to a streaking Gino at center court. Except when Manu went to slam it he mistimed his steps, took off from too far and almost blew the dunk, and it looked like he felt a twinge in his groin in the process. I’m sure I felt a twinge in my groin after the play, but that’s a different story. Anyway, we cut it to five, 38-33.

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Where "I couldn't give less of a shit about this award" Happens

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Manu went to the bench, in came Tim and Tony, in came Shaq and Stevie, and bang-bang-bang the Suns got an immediate 6-1 run and extended the lead back to 10, 44-34. Two turnovers and a Tony brick for the good guys in that stretch.

I noticed that new Suns GM Steve Kerr was watching the game right next to owner Robert Sarver. That must be awkward in a playoff loss. What does he say to him after Shaq makes a bad play? Something like "Don’t worry, he’ll get it back on the other end" I imagine. Or does he go the opposite way and say, "Trust me, we’d have been down 25 points right now if Marion was still here." Does he just shrug his shoulder or avoid looking at him altogether? I wish I had like a camera and microphone on them the whole game. I imagine right now Kerr is really banking on the home court making a difference.

Barry checks into the game and immediately hit a three when Nash was late to close out on him. Imagine that. Our first points from someone outside of the big three, but only the fifth shot attempt, so it’s not like, you know, horrific or anything.

Nash and Tony take turns making each other look stupid on defense for a few possessions.

Horry checks in and immediately gets greeted with jumpers in his mug by Nash and Amare.

Big Shot Blob finally does something and swats O’Neal, which leads to two points when Timmy collects the rebound of Amare’s block on Manu and lays it in.

Manu had two straight stupid passing turnovers trying to get it to Horry that led to two Suns buckets and pushed the margin back to ten. The moral of the story: Don’t pass it to Robert Horry.

Big ED got a wide open corner three and bricked it badly. Afterward he told the media that he was happy it wasn’t an air ball. Really? Is that how low his own expectations of himself have sunk? Just don’t shoot an air ball? You know what? Let me check into an NBA game and get one wide open three. I guarantee you I won’t air ball it. I’ll bet everyone who reads this $5.

The Suns ran a great play against the Spurs small lineup and got burned when both Tony and Tim tried to trap Nash. He saw it coming a mile away and zipped it to Amare dashing into the paint all alone and Gino got there too late to do anything. He should have fouled harder or not fouled at all.

Tony took a hellacious shot to his side careening into The Big Dead End and went down to the floor in a heap. To his credit he got up and played great the rest of the way. O’Neal, who didn’t feel a thing, couldn’t understand why Parker was at the free throw line and probably assumed somebody else fouled him.

Pop employed Hack-a-Shaq near the end of the quarter with a foul to give, just like he did in the first, and D’Antoni promptly took Shaq out, just like he did in the first.

Manu avenged Tony’s pain a bit by giving Nash a sharp elbow to the ribs while executing a turn around jumper.

The Spurs caught a nice four point turn around break from the zebras. First Nash had a drive where he looked like he got bumped a little bit by Timmy from behind on the lay up attempt but there was no call. After Duncan rebounded he gave it Tony who was out of control and crashed into Barbosa, but the Brazilian Blur was called for a block and two free throws Parker. Instead of an 11 point game at half it was seven. Huge.

End of half: Suns 61, Spurs 54

Analysis: Nash and Amare were still slicing and dicing the Spurs on the pick and roll and just about anything S.T.A.T threw up went in on his way to 25 first half points. Our big three all had moments of brilliance combining for 51 points, but all were far from perfect and had a few wobbly possessions on offense. Defensively we played like the Warriors or Nuggets; we forced a few turnovers that we turned into points, but otherwise we were terrible and gave up a lot of easy inside buckets and wide open shots. 18-2 advantage in fast break points. Weird.

3rd Quarter:

Finley gets our first two buckets of the third. On the first play we really didn’t execute it all that well. Both Thomas and Duncan whiffed on their screen attempts of Bell, but Raja was too slow and maybe too surprised by the play anyway and was way too late to stop Fin from drilling a wide open J from the baseline. On the second one, credit Timmy’s basketball IQ. The Suns got caught in a switch and he could have taken a jumper or driven with Bell on him and Shaq nearby. But he saw that The Big Defensive Liability was on Fin, knew he wasn’t going to venture out into the perimeter to check B.O., and waited patiently for Fin to get to his spot on the baseline for another open jumper.

The Suns started off aimlessly (literally) on offense. O’Neal bricked an eight footer against Thomas, starting the second half in place of Oberto, then the next time down Amare tried to shoot from the elbow with Duncan right on him way early in the shot clock and missed badly. Surely he could have gotten a better shot with a pump fake and a drive or passed it to someone more open. The next time down Duncan blocked Shaq out of bounds with eight seconds left on the shot clock and the Suns seemed completely unaware of that fact as they were called for the 24 second violation shortly after the inbound. Nash should have forced up a shot, any shot.

For once Amare got the ball on the right elbow instead of the left and he hesitated before driving. Parker’s man was Hill at the top of the key but after a half that saw Grant attempt one shot, he knew he wasn’t about to get the ball so he gambled and cheated inside, coming up with a steal and two free throw attempts after yet another Suns turnover. Parker bricked his second but luckily the ball went out of bounds on the Suns and Finley got another wide open free throw jumper after shaking Bell thanks to a screen from The Hooligan. Tied at 61.

After another Shaq miss against Thomas, Parker committed his second turnover early in the half, barreling into Nash for the charge. No matter though as Stevie bricked a fadeaway jumper with Duncan contesting.

After the future Hall of Fame big men exchanged a couple of empty trips on the charity stripe, the Suns once again fed the ball to Amare who strangely decided to start settling for jumpers. The Spurs finally took their first lead at the 7:04 mark on another curl move, again beating Bell who was screened by Oberto.

With Fin red hot, it was Bowen Manu checked in for. The Suns offense, still in disarray almost turned the ball over on several occasions before settling for a desperate Barbosa fadeaway three point attempt with two seconds left on the clock. Manu promptly canned his first jumper after Shaq left him alone, deciding not to contest his shot even though Schnozzo had already picked up his dribble. Why he thought a rebound would be available for a free throw Manu jumper I have no idea. Some people can make free throws pretty easily there, Big Fella.

Nash finally broke the Suns point drought at the 5:30 mark with a tough fadeaway over Finley. Ragged play from both sides and a lot of easy bricks before Udoka ends the madness, cleaning up Tony’s missed jumper to restore the lead to four for the good guys. More hurried shots and turnovers from Phoenix leading to four more easy points from Ime.

The Suns finally string two baskets together with Giricek driving past Barry and then O’Neal getting good position on Tim, but we are lucky enough to break their run with Manu sticking his nose in there on a rebound and getting a loose ball foul on The Big Loose Ball Foul.

From there we go to Hack-a-Shaq for three consecutive defensive possessions – with Nash out of the game no less, which I think is dumb – and he promptly makes five of six. When fouled regularly he was only two of eight. The only enjoyable part of the sequence was watching Shaq attempt to run away from White Jesus to avoid being fouled.

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Where "MumblemumblemumblemumbleFLOPmumblemumblemumbleCheeseburgermumble" Happens

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The offense is very haphazard for both sides. When Shaq isn’t fouled Barbosa is missing all kinds of easy shots and the Spurs meanwhile made do on six Gino free throws, a Duncan put back slam off a Manu miss, and a Barry fast break touchdown off a football pass from Timmy Manning.

End of third, Spurs 81, Suns 72

Analysis: The Suns suffered through a miserable quarter, scoring just 11 points and making a mere three free throws. Some of it was better defense from Thomas and Oberto and particularly Parker who hounded Nash and their bigs into turnovers, but a lot of it was the Suns settling for lazy contested jumpers and having a lot of problems holding onto the ball for whatever reason. They were very nervous and panicky, especially once the Spurs took the lead. The whole team had this "here we go again" look about them. The Spurs meanwhile weren’t crisp at all offensively, outside of the plays run for Finley, but they got to the line, got some offensive boards and some easy transition buckets. Neither team got much of anything going in open half court offense.

4th Quarter:

Manu hits his second three with Giricek on him and third overall to give the Spurs their first double figure lead, 84-73.

On the Inside Trax feature they catch D’Antoni talking to his guys and he is sounding WAAAAAY too much like Jeff Foxworthy. "If yaooooo think being a good coach is telling your team ‘C’mon guys let’s play harder’ then you might be Mike D’Antoni."

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Where "Everyone knows you're getting outcoached but you" Happens

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Telling sequence: Amare settles for an elbow jumper on Fab and bricks, Fab gets an offensive board of Ime’s missed three, and Antoine executes a perfect stop and go move past Amare for a lay-up. It’s like a microcosm of the second half.

The Suns try Supersizing it with Shaq, Amare and Diaw in there as the small forward – and Fab gets an easy lay-up off the pick and roll with Tony. Good golly. It’s like watching Greece against Team USA in the ’06 World Championships.

Mug gets called for a foul on what looked to be a clean block on The Big Rodeo Clown and looked like he was about to cry. Kinda weak.

Amare tried to close out on Tony’s floater, but had no idea exactly how to. Defense is still a new concept for him. Meanwhilehe’s still bricking jumpers.

The Suns entire team swarms Tony at the top of the key leaving Trash all alone in the paint. Amare is still athletic enough to goaltend the shot, but whatever.

With 7:57 left in the game, Tony hits his first jumper. You’d think we’d be down 17 instead of up 17 when reading such news, no?

The Suns try guarding Tony with his countryman Diaw, and it works wonders. Tony doesn’t even hit rim, and on the ensuing break Nash drills an open three. Time out, Pop. Not sure who screwed that one up. If I had to guess… Horry.

Diaw’s not man enough to post up Manu and dishes it to Amare, who absolutely has a legitimate beef that he was fouled by Oberto. Fab quickly appeases the basketball gods by picking up an over the back foul on the trip down and sending Amare to the line.

Where he bricks both.

Again Diaw refuses to shoot against Manu pinned at his back. Amare winds up with the ball and Manu absolutely fouls him, grabbing his wrist. It’s as obvious as the infamous one on Dirk in 2006, but the zebras saw a clean block. They’re not doing him any favors in this half after all the jumpers he’s settled for.

Manu, again to appease the basketball gods, immediately turns it over on the next possession, just so we could behold the sight of Diaw being unable to successfully post up Tony. For those of you paying attention, Mr. Diaw can score at will against Fabricio Oberto, but is unable to outmuscle our two guards who average 6’4" in height and maybe 180 lbs in weight.

Outside of the occasional successfully Parker foray into the lane, our offense has been largely incompetent this quarter. Parker has eight, Oberto four, and Manu three. 15 points in eight minutes. And we still led by 11.

A Nash fadeaway over Duncan cuts it to 96-91 with 2:41 left. A 14-2 run for the Suns, sans Shaq. Nash made three shots, Amare had two on a put back, and the other five came on free throws. The Spurs meanwhile sputtered with bricks from Timmy and Tony and a couple of turnovers.

Amare hits Timmy on the back of the head going for a shot block and one made free throw stops the run. I was getting nervous there. Shaq was actually whistling during the shots. Prick.

D’Antoni’s bizarre love affair with Diaw continues and the Surrendermonkey finds yet another Spurs guard he can’t post up, this time the Caribbean Queen. Finley forces him into a travel and the ensuing highlight reel pass from Hulk to Fran for a dunk ices the game. Parker hits a jumper in Shaq’s mug just for good measure.

Parker bricks a shot and then gets too fancy for a turnover, Amare hits a meaningless three. Manu fouled hard by Bell, blah blah blah. I think Manu flopped egregiously twice in a span of three seconds. Things like that don’t help his reputation. The basketball gods punish him with a missed free throw. Whatever. 2-0 motherfuckers.

Final score: Spurs 102, Suns 96

Analysis: The guys hold on despite playing their sloppiest and unfocused offensive quarter of the game. They seemingly had no plan half the time and Pop was stubborn in realizing that the middle pick and roll was pretty much the only play that was working. They were fortunate that the Suns only mustered 24 points of their own in a hail of missed shots and bricked free throws. Nash’s point guard play was downright pitiful in the second half and he couldn’t set up his teammates for anything easy. The Suns abandoned their pick and roll and I can’t quite figure out why.

Things you should know:

Last night Tim, Tony, and Manu combined for 51 points in the first half and 79 for the game. They just missed cracking 80 because Tim had a subpar game from the field and the line. Still, so far Tim and Tony they are averaging 29 pts per game in this series. Gino meanwhile is slumping, at 26.5 per game. That’s 84.5 for the big three folks. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that if they keep the average over 80, the Spurs will be very, very difficult to beat.

Oddly enough right now Kobe, Pau and Luke Walton (Luke Walton?) are also averaging 84.5, but they’re playing the Nuggets, so that doesn’t count.

Here are the five highest scoring playoff games for The Real Big Three. You’ll notice that most of them came in overtimes and the only losses came against the Mavs. The only other three person combination in the 80’s was last year’s Game 1 at Phoenix, with Finley achieving 3rd banana status.

2005 Quarterfinals Game 3 @ Nuggets, 92 pts (Tim 39, Tony 29, Manu 24) – OT

2006 Semi-Finals Game 4 @ Mavs, 90 pts (Tony 33, Tim 31, Manu 26) - OT

2008 Quarterfinals Game 1 vs. Suns, 90 pts (Tim 40, Tony 26, Manu 24) – 2OT

2006 Semi-Finals Game 7 vs. Mavs, 88 pts (Tim 41, Tony 24, Manu 23) - OT

2007 Semi-Finals Game 6 vs. Suns, 87 pts (Manu 33, Tony 30, Tim 24)

2007 Semi-Finals Game 1 @ Suns, 84 pts (Tim 33, Tony 32, Finley 19)

Also, the only time we had four guys with 20+ was…

2005 Conference Finals Game 1 @ Suns, 98 pts (Tony 29, Tim 28, Brent 21, Manu 20)

Ime Udoka had another awful game from thee point land, and indeed many of the shots he took weren’t even in rhythm, but otherwise he had a really solid game, his defense was good, and he led the team with a +17. We killed the Suns with Tinyball last night, basically going to it whenever Shaq sat on the bench (and Diaw was on the floor) and Udoka makes us a pretty dangerous Tinyball team with his size and rebounding.

Diaw and Barbosa, by the way were both -18. And Barbosa and Hill combined for as many points as me and Matthew. Me likey.

Stoudemire has had identical score lines of 33 points and 7 rebounds in the two games. While he’s scoring a ton, that rebounding total is weak. In fact he and Diaw combined for nine rebounds in 65 minutes between them. I’m shocked that the Suns only managed six offensive boards in the game. Maybe S.T.A.T. and O’Neal are so spooked about picking up unnecessary over the back fouls that they’re not going to bother trying for offensive rebounds. Maybe D’Antoni is worried about the vaunted Spurs running game (and who wouldn’t be, it’s been such a force all season). I have to think that after Game 1 that that was a factor in them letting Tony and Manu get into the paint at will as well. These guys can’t play defense without fouling, so they’ve decided to just not play defense. Brilliant.

The two teams combined for 24 three point attempts. That’s three per quarter per team. One shot launched every four minutes. It’s like I don’t even know Phoenix-San Antonio anymore. The Warriors jack like 24 threes per half.

Bruce Bowen is far and away our worst minus player for the series, at -17. In fact, you could just remove the word "minus" from that previous sentence and it’d still work.

The Suns are really, really hurting right now missing Grant Hill. He could’ve helped guard Tony at one end and burned Finley on the other. If he doesn’t get better quickly, they have no chance. Bruce and Tony are taking turns on Nash and staying fresh doing so, mixing up his looks and just wearing him out. He looked so drained in that second half.

The super big line-up the Suns put out there can’t work if Diaw can’t post up anybody and he rebounds like a point guard.

The Suns can’t run a pick and roll without Nash. They went to post-ups or Isos exclusively without him and it led to a lot of jumpers and bricks. I don’t know why they changed what was working and I really don’t know why D’Antoni thinks Diaw is some star. He looks desperate to find a scorer other than Amare and Nash, and it’s tough for Bell or Barbosa to do much if people aren’t leaving them. The thing is we were leaving them in the 1st half, but in the second half Nash didn’t do a whole lot of driving and kicking. Again, I don’t know why the Suns abandoned what was working. They slowed their offense down and tried to get everything on post ups. It’s not really their game, outside of Shaq, and he doesn’t have the stamina to do it repeatedly.

Was it me or did every Suns turnover lead to a fast break lay-up and every Spurs turnover lead to a Suns jump shot?

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Where "Attack Mode" Happens

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Game 3 Adjustments:

Let’s face it, this smells like "The Pussy Game" doesn’t it? I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if we lost by 25. Pop is really good about sensing these things, sacrificing a loss, not playing his studs very much, throwing in the towel early, pretending to be really pissed but not being angry at all. I think he’s not going to change a thing, he’ll let D’Antoni show his hand and take note of all his adjustments, and then he’ll counter those adjustments and go for the win in Game 4 when the Suns are overconfident.

However, for the sake of fantasy, let’s pretend that the Spurs will be offended by Phoenix’s repeated contentions that they’re the better team. Let’s visualize them wanting to send the rest of the league and all the media nitwits a message that no, the Suns wouldn’t have prevailed last year without the suspensions. Let’s imagine that they come out swinging, determined to humiliate the Suns on their home floor and end the series as quick as possible, to keep pace with the Lakers, Jazz, and Hornets who are all breezing by their inferior opponents.

It doesn’t sound like any Spurs team I know, but the object of the game is to win, right? So how should the Spurs go about it?

For one, we can’t afford to go down 15 early again. That means we need offense. That means we need to exploit Nash right away and not let him devote his energies to 100% offense, 0% defense for the first six minutes, when the Suns will come out like gangbusters. That means we need The Exception.

Start Manu. Test Nash right away by making him guard Tony right off the bat. We don’t need Bowen to start this game. The Suns will come out so geeked up that Bowen’s defense on Nash will not make a difference. In fact he might be whistled for two quick ticky tack fouls right away. I think it’d be better to match the Suns punch for offensive punch in the first six minutes to deflate the crowd. Then, just when Stevie is feeling a little wobbly, then sick Bowen on him at the six minute mark (subbing for Fin) and go for the kill.

Look more for the high-low game between Duncan and the other big, especially if it’s Oberto. The Suns are ignoring our other bigs. I still believe Bonner could be of service here, especially against Shaq.

Get Brent more shots. Try something unexpected, like a pick and roll between Manu and Barry, just to see how they’d react to it. Or something slightly more conventional, like Tim and Barry. The Mango Tree can dribble and pass.

The Suns will expect us to run plays for Finley to start the second half after having done it two straight games. So again, let’s exploit this by using him as a decoy or by starting Manu.

I expect the Suns to be so conscious of our points in the paint that they’ll zone us and have five guys in the paint. How about a Tim-Fin-Manu-Bones-Tony line-up? Would that be something you'd be interested in? Shooters, ball handlers, passers everywhere. Open threes galore. Defensively we can’t victimized too badly as long as we zone them right back. We’ve got more shooters right now than they do.

Keep the Hack-a-Shaq comin’, but only with Nash on the court. I don’t think he’s got many 5 of 6 stretches in him.

We have more depth than these guys, more options, and certainly a better coach. We can beat them if we put our minds to it and want to. The key question is, "Do we want to?"

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Where "I wonder if I can have Marc Jackson's job at ABC" Happens

Your 3 Stars…

3. Tim Duncan – Not as much of an offensive force this time out, but he made up for it on defense and the boards. He’ll still be strong for us when we need him to be.

2. Manu Ginobili – Almost singlehandedly kept the Spurs in the game when it looked like they were going to get run off the floor. Outside of some careless turnovers, he really didn’t do anything poorly out there. He melted into the background when Tony was feeling it and waited for his chances in the second half and didn’t force the issue much.

1. Tony Parker – He took a beating and didn’t give a shit. Played a super defensive second half on Nash and at times, Barbosa. His help defense really bothered the Suns bigs. A super effort from him, but that jumper is still shaky.

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