I was not going to post about the game last night, mostly because I have no idea what the loss means for the rest of the series. However, I keep seeing posts and comments to the effect of "we played like crap and it was still close, so we got this series". Just like game 1 vs the Mavericks.
So why is this different?
Newsflash: These are not the Mavericks. These are not the Suns of years past, mostly as they are now coached by one Alvin Gentry, not Mike D'Antoni. Yes, we played like crap yesterday and we are not likely to do that again. Pop will adjust. Players will step up. However, the Sun's did not play unusually out of their mind either. Gentry will adjust. Their players will also keep stepping up. Unlike the Mavs, the Suns have pretty good leadership in the form of Steve Nash and Grant Hill. They are also a step beyond motivated for this series - not likely that any of them will take a game off.
We have better defense than that
Our defensive system is amongst the best in the NBA but can be exploited by someone like Nash if we don't react quickly. Let's face it - we have not been consistent playing our system this year, never mind playing it to perfection *and* reacting extra quickly.
Big deal, we just missed some shots
Yes, we missed some shots early on that we normally would not have. Yes, that gave them the early lead. Here is the part that has me still unsure about the series - we have absolutely no idea how the Suns would have responded if they did not have that early lead. Certainly when we cut it close in the third they made an extra push and pulled away again. i.e. making those early shots does *not* mean the rest of the game would be exactly the same and we would win the game.
Note that some of the crappy play was caused by the Suns. They took RJ out of the game early by denying him a path to the basket. Nash simply outplayed George Hill. They closed off lanes and tempted us to take jumpers early instead of penetrating, and we did just that. Old man Grant Hill made the little hustle plays and made us look bad the way the Spurs usually make other teams look bad.
As an aside, Grant Hill has always been one of my favorite players - intelligent, hard working on both O and D. What a Spur he would have made. And what could have been if not for injuries and other circumstances.
Manu was not himself and has not been for a while. He still has the same daredevil style of play, but I feel he is not mentally his usual godlike self. That may the mask or it may be mental fatigue or some combination. There have been a few times when he would normally instinctively make a brilliant pass or otherwise figure out the perfect thing to do but now takes it to the basket himself. He goes all out on every play and that may be taking a toll on him, or maybe we just have to wait until the noseguard is not needed any more. Obviously he is still one of the best players on the court, but he is just missing that omniscience that separates him from mere mortals.
We also don't have a reliable supporting cast again (other than Dice, of course). RJ is maddeningly inconsistent. Bogans hit from outside but I am not sure we want to count on that. Bonner's outside shot has disappeared. Let us not talk of Roger Mason. I still have faith in George Hill though. However, we need more than that against this incarnation of the Suns.
Are you saying we suck and will lose?
Not at all. We did keep it close. We did outplay them at times, especially when playing Pop's brand of small ball that we fans love and have been clamoring for all season. There were some other great moments too, especially a fastbreak where we had three different passes in the paint before the bucket- classic Spurs chemistry that was a thing of beauty. Tony was also a great spark, partly as he can be unstoppable on offense, but partly because he came off the bench. If he had started and Manu was bench then Manu would have been the same spark. RJ will play well at least two of the remaining games. Hill will step it up. If we can just get a three point shooter to step up and give us spacing they absolutely cannot stop Duncan.
So what the hell are you saying?
What am I saying here? Nothing, to be honest. As stated above I have no idea what game one means for the rest of the series - both teams have obvious adjustments to make. One thing I am sure of is that these Suns are mentally stronger than past incarnations and are much better coached than before. Luckily the Spurs are always mentally strong and have even better coaching, but we still better show up ready to play.