The clichéd phrase “must-win game” is usually best saved for, say, a Game 4 situation when you’re down 2-1 and must avoid falling behind 3-1. Or a Game 6, where you’re up 3-2 but Game 7 is in their building. Very rarely are we, the media (the professional couriers of cliché), inclined to bust out the “must-win” mantra before the series even starts.
But when you’re playing the San Antonio Spurs, the team that ended your playoff run in four of your last five playoffs, the team that literally owns you in the playoffs and has the paperwork to prove it, you must bring the heavy artillery early. No bringing-a-knife-to-a-gunfight here.
Tonight is a must-win Game 1 for your Phoenix Suns.
If things are truly different this time around (as the Suns suggest), if the past is just that – the past, if you don’t believe in curses and the notion that the Spurs are in your collective head, then the very last thing you can do is lose tonight. If you lose, the notion that things aren’t different, that the past does matter, that the Spurs are in the Suns head, etc, etc; it all gains instant traction. The collective groan (“oh not AGAIN”) from this fan base will be heard all the way down there in South Texas. Remember a couple of years ago? Suns were up 16 against the Spurs on the road in Game 1 only to lose on Tim Duncan’s once-in-a-lifetime three-pointer. The Suns caved to their past that day, offered some resistance in Game 2, but lost the series 4-1.
They’ll be doomed to repeat their history with a Game 1 loss tonight.