I went home from the airport at around 1 am with my head throbbing. It had been an exhausting day with a “bidding-my-friend- goodbye” scene serving as a finale. I went to bed and was instantly cradled by the eerie silence patrolling my turf. I woke up this morning feeling good. I decided to take a leave from work just to watch the silver-and-black troop in action. I was excited for this game; I firmly believed we can steal this one…
But we didn’t. The Spurs lost to the Suns buy 8 points. I was sad and frustrated, and at the same time completely concerned with how our team played. The Spurs lacked the intensity of a winner and seemed to play devoid of the focus that helped them get rid of the Mavericks.
Dudley and Frye killed us with their blue collar performance and razor-sharp three-point shooting, respectively. Bonner was supposed to be the equivalent of Frye but he continues to be a disappointment. He’s supposed to provide the spacing needed to efficiently implement the isolation plays on Duncan and/or the pick-and-roll strategy with one of our guards. With his three-point brick shooting ability, it will surely be hard for us to confuse the Suns’ defense. Since the playoffs started, I’ve noticed that whenever we have Duncan and Bonner as our big men, our lead eventually gets cut down or if we are trailing, a deeper hole is dug. Against Dallas, he was assigned to guard Dirk Nowitzki. It was a hard task for him but he was able to respond decently. Against Phoenix, he is matched up with Frye. I think everybody will agree that this would be an easier job for him. Unfortunately, I think Bonner knows this as well and tends to relax on guarding Frye. In one instance, Bonner went deeper down the basket to provide help defense against a driving ghost leaving a wide-open Frye for an uncontested, confidence-boosting-for-the-Suns-and-God-knows-who-else three-point shot. To win this series, I believe we would need him to drain a couple of shots from beyond the arc and start to be aggressive on defense.
Tony Parker is really doing well in this series. One thing I noticed, however, is that he has been taking a lot more jumpshots these days. Luckily, a lot of them have been falling. Heck, he even made both his three-point shots. I think he’s also doing better in defense compared to how he fared against Dallas.
Manu, on the other, hand, seemed to be bothered by something. He’s forcing shots and was quite hesitant in driving through the lane. His playmaking abilities are still there though. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t agree with a lot of people claiming that Grant Hill’s defense on Manu has been superb. I think it was okay, but I believe that the Suns’ team defense is a factor on why Manu’s having a hard time. But I believe Manu will find a way and bounce back big time in Game 3. Speaking of which, I think Pop should explore bringing back Manu off the bench and put Parker back into the starting lineup. Manu has the ability to make the people around him better and might help raise Bonner and Blair into their A-games. (Mason also has the ability to make the players around him better, the other team’s players, that is.)
Tim Duncan was brilliant in the first half but was visibly exhausted during crunchtime. He can barely make it to the other side of the court during the last two minutes of the game. I think we still need to monitor his minutes. Perhaps letting him seat the last minute of the 3rd quarter and putting him back after 3 minutes have gone by the 4th would help him play effectively in the closing minutes.
The Phoenix Suns are very competitive and they showed a lot of heart in the first two games of the series. They are in this series to win. They have had a counter for every run we managed to create. The Suns have killed us in a myriad of ways: the Amare-Nash pick-and-roll, the Richardson and Frye shooting-the-lights-out tandem, the hustle plays of Dudley and Amundson and the steadiness of Grant Hill at both sides of the court. I am really hoping Pop comes out with great adjustments for this series. The Spurs have always been good at that and we almost always find ways to win. I still have faith in this team, always have, always will.
After the game, I went to work. No signs of a fan mourning a loss. My day started badly, but I've been in this situation before, and I know that brighter days are ahead.