The Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs look to battle once again starting tonight in a best of 7 playoff series. The Spurs have gotten the best of Phoenix over the past decade, but we're hopeful that this is our year to exact our revenge.
Vulnerable in several areas and certainly aging quickly, the Spurs are not the same team from 2, 3 or 4 years ago. Tim Duncan is still playing solid, but his overall contributions have declined (or slowed). Tony Parker is coming off the bench, but not for any really good reason - he's still a Suns killer w/ the ball in his hands. Manu Ginobili is arguably the biggest threat to Phoenix advancing to the Western Conference Finals; how Manu goes, so do the Spurs. San Antonio has several role players who contribute in their own unique way, but overall they are weaker than previous teams. George Hill and Dajuan Blair represent the n00bs for SA, but the Suns should be wary of veterans Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess - both know how to play in the postseason.
For the Suns, they will need to control the tempo of the game and not bend to San Antonio's slow and deliberate style of play. They must also avoid getting their heads in the wrong places, as that could have a negative impact on the outcome. Yesterday is the past and they need to move forward as a new unit, one that has not faced the Spurs in the playoffs yet. Only a handful of players remain from the teams that battled (& cheated) in games' past so a lot of the series will depend on the performance of the newcomers.
Jason Richardson has been critical to the Suns 2nd half surge, as has Amare Stoudemire. Not to be overlooked, are Grant Hill, Jared Dudley and a slew of bench players who have been making a name for themselves and maintaining the uptempo style dictated by coach Gentry. The Suns are deeper than San Antonio and the bench will be counted on heavily to live up to their expectations.
Look for the games to be won by the team that controls the boards, gets offensive rebounds and gets to the line most frequently. If the Spurs are aggressive in getting to the free throw line, the Suns will need to counter and match them foul for foul. Stoudemire and Collins (or Frye) will need to rebound consistently in order to get 2nd chance points and points in the paint. Overall field goal shooting will likely also play a role, but the aforementioned requirements for winning will be most critical IMHO.
Prediction: Suns in 6 games