Does 2-0 equal Uh-Oh?
Let’s get two things out of the way right off the bat:
#1 There will be no politics discussed in this article. I like basketball, I don’t like politics. I leave the controversial news issues to News Talk 92.3 which is right down the hall.
#2 When I am wrong I will always admit I am wrong. In this case I am happy to be incorrect with my San Antonio in six prediction. Even though I am not a Suns fan I am surrounded by them every day around our office and it is going to be fun to see them enjoy this moment.
I never thought the Suns were going to be able to dominate the Spurs on the boards like this without Robin Lopez. Through two games Phoenix has outrebounded the Spurs 93 to 75 with Amar’e Stoudemire leading the way with two double digit rebounding games after not having one in six games against the Portland Trail Blazers.
When it comes to my school work I have a terrible habit of procrastinating. After finishing up a paper I needed to complete for Thursday at 3:00 a.m. I caught a segment of Mike and Mike in the Morning on Sports 620 KTAR on my drive home from the library. Golic and Greeny were being facetious that the Spurs had the Suns right where they wanted them. The last two times the Suns were up 2-0 in the Conference Semifinals they dropped both series in seven to the Houston Rockets during the 1994 and 1995 playoffs. It was just two years ago the San Antonio Spurs came back from a 2-0 deficit to take down the upstart New Orleans Hornets in the same round.
I know there is a pocket of Suns fans, even if it is a small group, that still thinks San Antonio has a chance.
I am here to tell you not to worry. This isn’t the same Suns teams from the past and it isn’t the same Spurs team, either.
In the Suns-Rockets series in ’94 and ’95 the Rockets held claim to the best player on both teams in Hakeem Olajuwon. In the NBA whenever you have the best player on the court you always have a chance. I tried like crazy to find box scores of those two series to take a look at the Hakeem-Barkley comparison, but I failed miserably. I was able to find this:
– Hakeem 28.9 PPG, 11 RPG, and 4.3 AST
– Barkley 27.6 PPG, 13 RPG, and 4.8 AST
… It can’t be left out that in 10 games Barkley attempted 40 threes – making only 14 of them and good for 35%. In context overall Barkley shot 50% from the field. Level of efficiency dropped dramatically on his three-point shots.
– Hakeem 33 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 4.5 AST
– Barkley 25.3 PPG, 13.4 RPG, 3.2 AST
… It can’t be left out that in 10 games Barkley attempted 35 threes and only made nine – good for a whopping .257%
Not a perfect way to prove my point, but the best I could do. Plus, anyone who has watched Hakeem and Barkley play who isn’t being a homer knows ‘The Dream’ was the better player.
In years past San Antonio would have been able to make that same claim with Tim Duncan, but it is no longer true. The Suns have the best big man in Amar’e Stoudemire. With Jason Richardson playing at an absurdly high level (the best two guard in the playoffs and battling it out with Rajon Rondo for the best guard period) and Steve Nash finding the fountain of youth these last two games they are a level above Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Onto the Spurs-Hornets Western Conference Semifinals series in 2008 which San Antonio fell behind 0-2 and eventually won in seven games. In the first two games the Spurs couldn’t stop Peja Stojackovich (23.5 PPG) and Chris Paul was having a field day with Bruce Bowen. A light bulb went off in Coach Popovich’s head that Chris Paul was going to get his no matter who was guarding him, but Peja could be shut down. In a classic Popovich adjustment he switched Bowen to Peja and Parker to Paul. Paul still got his, but Peja was a non factor the rest of the series averaging only 8.6 PPG across the last five games.
There is no adjustment Popovich can make which could cause the drastic change that his defensive adjustment in the Hornets series made. He can throw Parker into the starting line-up, but that really isn’t a big deal since he is playing starter minutes coming off the bench. The Suns small line up is better than the Spurs small line up. His hands are tied and he knows it. This is the reason we got an even saltier Coach Popovich postgame presser after Game 2 than we normally do (it was pure a comedy, a must listen).
Suns fans enjoy your moment because there is another rival waiting for you in about a week.
You can follow me on twitter at Bgibbs10.