Suns Breakdown Late, Fail to Close (Twice) in 2OT Loss
Game 1: Suns 115, Spurs 117 (2OT)
The Suns made some huge mental mistakes down the stretch in both regulation and OT, including a 24-second violation and a charging call (both while leading). They failed to seal the win and as a result, head back to Phoenix (for rest) until Tuesday's Game 2 in San Antonio, down 1-0 in the best of 7 playoffs.
Give credit to the Spurs for playing tough & not giving up on the game. They also did a good job of forcing Amare Stoudemire into a few mistakes, including his 6th foul - a charging call vs. former Suns player Kurt Thomas.
Tim Duncan was incredible - 40 pts, 15 rbs, 3 blks & 5 asts. He hit a super clutch 3-pointer right before the end of the 1st overtime - his first 3 of the year. The Suns couldn't stop him down the stretch due to Amare & Shaquille O'neal's foul troubles. With the foul trouble, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili also abused the Suns at will w/ quick drives to the basket.
Phoenix played a great game, but just didn't have it when it counted. Even when it looked like they had it going (ie: Nash's late 3-pointer to tie the game), they broke down and let Ginobili score an easy basket w/ 1.8 seconds left. Then, instead of throwing the ball down the court for a last second shot, they passed it in to Nash who was double-covered and was barely able to get a shot off (not close).
I pointed out the keys to the game last night, so let's see how that played out:
Rebounding - I said the Suns need to be within 5 rebounds of San Antonio to compete. SA - 43, PHX - 42. The game was competitive, so I was pretty close on this one.
Easy Baskets - The Suns committed 17 turnovers and missed 8 free throws. On the other end, Shaq & Amare's foul troubles allowed Parker & Ginobili to score at will in the paint.
Contain the Big 3 - They got burned here w/ a combined 90 pts... Duncan w/ 40 pts, Parker w/ 26 pts & Ginobili w/ 24. The Suns will need to do a better job defensively if they want to win the series.
Defense - Again, the foul trouble limited what Phoenix was able to do. The Spurs scored 117 points, so do the math - defense was questionable at best. There were signs of brilliance, but not when it counted.
Mind Games - There were no shenanigans in this game, but the Spurs' win could be big enough to affect the rest of the series. The Spurs knew they could win the game; the Suns didn't seem to have that same attitude and it showed as they blew the lead each time when it counted.
I also suggested that Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw would need to play well for the Suns to win. Both finished w/ 12 pts, while Barbosa pulled down 8 boards (leading the team - what?). While these stats don't look that impressive, both played very well.
I forgot to even mention Grant Hill's name - I guess that's because I assumed he was a pro & would step up on his own. Apparently, he still needs a wake up call. Hill was a virtual no-show enroute to 5 pts and 7 rbs; I expect better performances from Grant as the series progresses.
The loss is devastating, especially considering how many opportunities the Suns had, but they did some great things in the loss. They proved they can still compete without Amare (fouled out) and Shaq (foul trouble & hack-a-Shaq).
Suns are down in the series 0-1, but have plenty of time to catch-up. The road team isn't expected to win Game 1 anyway, so a loss is not the end of the world. Game 2 is Tuesday - why so far away? (damn NBA schedulers)