Spurs vs. Suns 1st Round Series Preview

You couldn’t ask for a better first round series than Spurs vs. Suns, especially after the way last year’s Western conference semifinals ended, with the Spurs showing the Suns the door…again.
After a full year of hearing NBA media and bloggers call their championship a fluke and claiming that David Stern handed it to the Spurs, you can bet the Spurs will be going into this first round series ready to prove a point.
But it won’t be easy. These aren’t the same Suns they beat in 6 games last season.  In the offseason, the Suns did not retain the services of Kurt Thomas, who was their best defender against Tim Duncan. Thomas now wears the silver and black and his looking for his first championship ring. Instead the Suns signed Grant Hill and made a well-scrutinized trade that netted the Suns Shaquille O’Neal in exchange for a package that included franchise cornerstone Shawn Marion.
Many people, including myself, said it was a bad move for Phoenix, thinking an aging and injured center like Shaq would not work in D’Antoni’s system.
But then the Suns started to win and beat good teams, including the Spurs, and the critics stopped questioning Steve Kerr’s competence as a general manager. They saw a motivated O’Neal that could provide a real defensive presence in the post. With Shaq in the game, the Suns can adapt to the Spurs style and play half court offense, and without him they can go to the run and gun and even play small ball.
The Spurs should expect to see a lot of looks from the Suns and coach Mike D’Antoni when they tip it off at 2 p.m..
If you’re expecting an easy or short series against the Suns in the first round, you are sorely mistaken. The Suns are sick of being perennial NBA bridesmaids and are ready to take their stroll down the aisle, eager to collect their rings.
The Suns have arguably the best point guard in the league in Steve Nash, a defensive stopper and outside shooting specialist in Raja Bell, a savvy vet in Grant Hill who can stills score in bunches and they have the type of frontcourt, made up of Amare Stoudamire and Shaq, that GM’s dream of. Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw, two players that could start for most teams, come off the bench.
In order for the Spurs to win this series, the big three of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker have to be in attack mode and I expect Manu Ginobili to have a great series, and he’ll likely be the scoring leader. The Suns have a great perimeter defender in Bell,  but in the words of Sean Elliott, Ginobili’s got too much junk in his game for Bell to be much of a factor. And the loss of another good defender in Marion won’t help.  Playoff basketball is what Manu was built for, and he’s the ultimate competitor. Expect him to be on his game on both ends of the court.
Again, if the Spurs big three all play well, if Bowen, Finley, Barry and others can hit open outside shots and if someone other than Manu can provide the Spurs an extra punch off the bench, I don’t think the Spurs can lose.
My prediction is that the Spurs will win in 7 games, and Tim Donaghy will be nowhere in sight for Suns fans to complain about afterwards.
Nash Shaq, Amare and company better go get fitted for their dresses…bridesmaids dresses that is.

About Michael A. De Leon

Michael founded Project Spurs in 2004. He started The Spurscast, the first Spurs podcast on the Internet, in 2005. Michael has been interviewed by the BBC, SportTalk, the Sports Reporters Radio Show, MemphisSportLive, OKC Sports Wrap and ESPN radio among others. He is a credentialed member of the media for the San Antonio Spurs and Austin Toros. He is also the founder of Project Spurs' sister sites, Toros Nation and Stars Hoops.

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