The Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs square off for the fourth time since the Steve Nash Era has begun. The previous three ended with Planet Orange crying after they lost – or whining about officials – most of the time doing both (I am a Knicks fan, I know how it feels…I went through everything all Suns fans have gone through since 2000 in the 1990s-early 2000s).
I don’t see the fortunes of the Suns changing this year; I am picking the Spurs in six.
Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry discussed in his postgame press conference after the Suns wrapped up Game 6 in Portland how the Suns are not the same team that lost those three previous series.
Coach Gentry is right the Suns are not.
They are deeper, improved defensively, and have a dynamic two guard in Jason Richardson who does a little bit of everything.
This is a really good Phoenix basketball team and I think this series could turn out a little different if two things occur. Robin Lopez needs to be able to give a solid 25-28 minutes and Steve Nash needs to play like he did the first couple months of the season.
Our intrepid sports reporter Craig Grialou reported Lopez will be able to resume full basketball activity on Saturday (full participation in practice) and was playing two on two at the end of practice on Wednesday. So the Suns have been slowly working him back.
Game 1 is on Monday!!!!!!!!!! There is no way Lopez is in regular season game shape and the Suns need him to be in Conference Semifinals game shape.
The Suns must have Lopez to guard Tim Duncan and protect the basket against the Spurs penetrating guards/forwards (Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, George Hill, and Richard Jefferson).
Look at that list of freaking guards I just typed WOW! Gentry talked about the Suns not being the same, the Spurs aren’t the same team either.
Spurs Head Coach Greg Popovich is still there. He just finished chewing up and spitting out Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle and was described by Alvin Gentry as the best coach in the NBA (A great prop bet would be who gets fired quicker in the off-season Carlisle or Hawks coach Mike Woodson).
Outside of the coach, the team is very different. Instead of the offense revolving around Duncan they now rely on their guards to be creative and make plays.
At least when the Suns played the Spurs in the past they could hide Steve Nash on Bruce Bowen and put Marion or Hill on Parker, now coach Gentry does not have the luxury.
What the heck does he do with Nash?
Nash is too small to guard Ginobili or Jefferson. He can’t stay in front of Parker and George Hill will eat him alive.
Gentry can always go zone, but with a team as well coached as the Spurs that will only work for so long before they pick it apart.
Phoenix will have to play incredible team defense and not make any mistakes on their rotations once Nash gets broken down off the dribble. This is where having Lopez’s big body to protect the basket would be huge.
If Nash continues to struggle at the offensive end (yes he made two gigantic plays down the stretch of the Game 6 against Portland, but let’s be honest if he plays well offensively they win that game by 15 points) is it hurting the team having Nash on the court instead of Goran Dragic?
Because of how bad Nash is on defense, he needs to be supremely efficient with the ball in his hands for it to be worth having him on the floor.
With Dragic you get an above average offensive player and he is a huge upgrade on the defensive end. He has the height, length, and athletic ability to at least make Parker and Hill work harder on the offensive end for their points.
Gentry has to weigh his opportunity costs, if Nash is struggling on offense is it worth hoping he can make plays down the stretch like he did in Game 6 versus having Dragic run the offense and get his improved defense?
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