Suns Own the First Half, Spurs Own the Second

 Lacking the flair that the first game offered in the closing moments, game 2 still delivered some highlights for us.  Physical play down low, spectacular fast breaks, and beautiful passing to find the open man were the high points of this game.
1Q  Game 2 opened up much the same way as the first match up, with the Suns running up a quick lead before San Antonio got some points on the board.  Shaq and Amare didn’t pick up enough fouls to visit the sideline either.  As the Suns maintained the lead throughout the opening quarter, Popovich made the move to small ball, and San Antonio started to chip away at the lead.  Duncan took another attempt at running the fast break, this time dishing it off to Parker for an easy 2.
2Q  As the game progressed into the second quarter, it became quickly apparent that Shaq and Amare were too much for Thomas and Oberto tonight.  Duncan continued to toss in an occasional basket, while Manu and Tony danced around countless Suns defenders on their way to many, many points in the paint.  Ginobili seems to also have found his perimeter shot again, as he tossed in a couple of 3s to keep the defense honest.  San Antonio had a bit of a scare when Parker, going full blast toward the hoop, slipped past the Canadian and ran into the Big Cactus.  But after being helped up, he brushed it off, and calmly sank two from the charity stripe.   The Spurs continued to struggle against Stoudemire though, as he consistently had his way on offense, marching to 11 of 14 from the field, plus 3 free throws in a strong first half.
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 3Q  With the Suns up 61-54 at the half, the Spurs cinched up their belts, and showed why their defense is known throughout the league.  Nash made a basket to move the dial to 63, but only after 7 minutes had ticked off the clock.  By this time, Finley made some shots, Udoka started to warm up, and Shaq was starting to check off the remaining fouls he had.  Soon after Nash’s basket, the Spurs switched back to small ball, and not long after that, implemented the ‘Hack-A-Shaq.’  Unfortunately for San Antonio, Shaq has always said he makes them [free throws] when they count, and he was hitting them in the third.
4Q  Embarking into the final period, the Spurs led 81-72.  Still holding strong on defense they held their lead, but eventually, as the quarter slowly came to a close, they began to unravel, and although Phoenix wasn’t taking advantage of this unraveling, the lead gradually diminished.  During the course of this, Kurt Thomas, who had nothing go his way tonight, fouled out.  Thomas was instrumental in the second half, helping to set the defensive tone.  With 3 1/2 minutes to play in the 4th, Amare, who came up dry during half time, earned his first basket of the half.  Nash, who couldn’t get an assist to save his life in this half, still managed to put points on the board, and Amare hit his own shot from behind the arc with 14 seconds to play.  But it would prove to be too little too late, as the Spurs held on to win it, 102-96.
Review  The Spurs definitely put more emphasis on the fast break tonight, as ‘The French Flash’ ran past the defense all night.  Both teams fought hard tonight, but the Spurs came out in the second half, determined not to let Phoenix score again.  It was also once again the big three leading the charge, as the bench didn’t do much of anything until the second half.  It’s a little disturbing to see them lose their grip on the lead down the stretch, but San Antonio held on to it anyways, with the aid of Diaw not being able to take advantage of his position against a smaller man in the post.
Moving to Phoenix  San Antonio will need to continue to push the ball up the court, as they once again proved they play small ball better than Phoenix does.  Shaq started out strong and finished weak tonight, the opposite of game one, but once he’s at home, he’ll play an entire game strong.  Amare also performed a disappearing act in the second half.  This was also to the Spurs advantage, as they struggled to contain him in the first half.  Even though the Phoenix offense disappeared after the first half, they still shot 46% for the game, and this is a problem.  They’ll need to be locked down for the whole game in Phoenix,   Thomas and Udoka will also need to hit their shots.  Each of them has had open shots in the first 2 games, and they didn’t fall.  You NEED to hit your open looks.  As for Horry, I don’t care if he needs to visit the high school playgrounds of San Antonio, he needs to get the rust off, he’ll be needed in the next two games.
Highlights
Duncan: 18 pts, 17 boards   Parker: 32 pts, 7 assists, 3 steals   Ginobili: 29 pts, 3-5 3pts, 8-9 FTs
Stoudemire:  33 pts, 7 boards   Nash: 23 pts, 10 assists   Shaq: 19 pts, 14 boards, 4 blocks
Elsewhere
Dwight Howard opened up the playoffs with back to back 20-20 games, Chris Paul is an absolute stud, and the Mavericks don’t look like much after the Hornets put on a clinic to the tune of 24 points.

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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