San Antonio Spurs 102, Los Phoenix Suns 110: Reversing the curse by reversing roles
In Game 2 of the second round of the NBA Playoffs, Freaky Friday turned Wacky Wednesday and the star-crossed Phoenix Suns have suddenly become the soul swapping Los Phoenix Suns.
As stated in the series preview, the San Antonio Spurs and Los Phoenix Suns remain stylistically opposed but no longer occupy complete opposite ends of the spectrum.
Los Phoenix Suns’ strengths now overlap the Spurs on several key factors while still retaining their unique strengths, leaving Tim Duncan and company in an 0-2 hole following their 102-110 defeat.
During each of their championship runs the Spurs could be counted on to do several things. They were going to close out quarters, sharpen their defense in the waning moments of the game, clean the glass, and perhaps most sorely missed, their role players were going to stick big shots–usually three-pointers–in big moments.
Slowly the tides have turned, tonight it started with the bench and ended with Steve Nash. Yes, Los Phoenix Suns have a bench. It would take an advanced statistician like Wayne Winston to find a secret weapon out of an eight point, three rebound average, but Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley has been exactly that.
There was nothing especially skilled or impressive about the manner in which Dudley impacted the game, other than the production. Once a throw-in in the deal that brought Jason Richardson from the Charlotte Bobcats, Dudley brought Los Suns back through simple sheer force of will, hitting the offensive glass for his eight first half points–followed by a key three-pointer in the second half. It was the sort of Â blue collar performance normally associated with the San Antonio Spurs.
Paired with Channing Frye, the two offered the familiar combination of undersized rebounding and front court floor spacer the San Antonio Spurs once enjoyed with Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair.
Disturbingly, what had been a season long advantage for the San Antonio Spurs, the bench production sans Tony Parker has evaporated quicker than water in the desert heat.
San Antonio’s newfound flaw was perhaps best summed up by TNT’s Marv Albert.
“You talk about trusting your bench,” Albert said. “Both coaches want to, only Alvin Gentry has had a reason to.”
DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner combined for four points (all Blair) and five rebounds. Game 2 offered a textbook example of the value a player with Matt Bonner’s skill set, unfortunately for the Spurs it was Channing Frye providing the lesson (15 points, 5-6 from the three-point line).
After the Spurs series opening loss to the Dallas Mavericks, head coach Gregg Popovich’s adjustments were just a matter of regressing to the mean. Through two games, Los Suns have done little outside of their capabilities to suggest that their lead is a fluke, nor was it simply a bad night for the San Antonio Spurs. Instead the games have been the product of recent trends.
Adjustments must be made. That might mean starting Tony Parker so that Manu Ginobili can revitalize Blair, Bonner and the rest of the San Antonio Spurs’ bench. It definitely means finding a way to rebound, after getting beat on the boards, losing that battle again after it helped them lose Game 1.
Finding anyone who can hit a three-pointer and provide spacing would help also.
But mostly it’s about getting back to the San Antonio Spurs blueprint. Los Phoenix Suns may have borrowed from it Â a little while in Phoenix, and as the series changes venues to the AT&T Center it remains to be seen whether the Suns can emulate their long-time nemesis on the road.