Suns Let a Close One Slip Away in Double OT
1Q Coming out of the gate was ugly for San Antonio. They languished on offense while the Suns quickly mounted a lead they would not relinquish until the 4th quarter. However, the 'Wily Texas Three' seamlessly worked together to first get Shaq into foul trouble, who played only 5 minutes of the first half, and later on bother Amare. Despite the Sun's struggles in the post, their perimeter kicked it up a notch, putting points on the board and quickly pestering the Spurs into 8 turnovers.
2Q Coming into the second quarter, with Shaq warming a chair on the sideline, Diaw came in for Phoenix, and did his absolute best to dispel the notion that Parker is the best Frenchman on the floor. Diaw did everything you could ask for, snaring boards, getting buckets, dishing assists, and disrupting the Spurs offense. However, Duncan would place his team upon his back, and lead them to merely 8 points down at the half.
3Q Rolling out of halftime, both teams shook off the rust they exhibited in the first 24 minutes and kept you on the edge of your seat. The Suns immediately came out and forced a few turnovers, and started to hold Duncan back a bit. As the quarter moved on, the Spurs committed back to back turnovers on fast break opportunities that should have narrowed the deficit. However, this was the turning point for them, as they gathered themselves, started playing as a team, and worked together. Parker used the rest of the 3rd to remind us why he's the reigning Finals MVP.
4Q Parker continued to roll through the 4th, and the Suns found themselves with several players in foul trouble. However, their newfound defensive abilities kept them in it. As the game continued to tighten up, both teams adjusted throughout, as the Spurs suddenly had their first lead of the game. Phoenix would quickly recapture that lead, but the Spurs would prevail, with Finley burying a 3 as the 4th quarter closed, sending it to overtime.
OT The first overtime was a battle both ways, with the Suns again jumping out to a quick lead, but the Spurs have been there before, and battled back into position as the clock ticked by. With San Antonio down 3, Popovich whipped out a play. With all of the known shooters covered, the ball found its way to a wide open Duncan, from the same area Finley used just moments earlier. Duncan nailed his first 3 pointer of the post season, and we were off to double overtime.
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2OT By now Shaq was anchoring the middle, as Amare had fouled out. Parker was also residing on the bench with his own 6 fouls, and as Bowen ran around annoying the Canadian, Ginobili took it directly at Shaq, repeatedly, knowing he doesn't want to foul out. This plan works, as Ginobili racked up several baskets to keep the momentum going. However, heroics are not over with yet, as Nash buried a 3 from the left corner to tie it all at 115. As time quickly runs out, Ginobili goes hard to the hole one last time, burying yet another lefty layup to give the Spurs 117. With 1.8 seconds on the clock, Phoenix heaved it up but missed, leaving the Spurs up 1-0, with the next game to come Tuesday.
Review With all of the activity this season, first being the Shaq trade and later being a Spurs team that was constantly beat up, this was the first time these two teams have really played each other. They each started out roughly, but pulled it together to make for some captivating basketball down the stretch. However, San Antonio can't play like that again and expect to win, especially when the series moves to Arizona.
Going Forward Posting 17 turnovers to go with merely 15 assists isn't going to cut it on a team that relies on efficiency and teamwork. The one extra 3 San Antonio hit compared to Phoenix was helpful, but they also made 5 less free throws on 7 less attempts. With the battle that will continue down on the blocks, San Antonio needs to continue drawing fouls down low, while committing fewer themselves. Parker and Duncan also tallied 51 minutes apiece, topped only by Raja Bell's 54. With all of the rest Shaq had in this game, and Nash only accruing 45 minutes, San Antonio will need to close the game out sooner next time. They are an aging group, and the playoffs will wear on them. They need to win these games in regulation, and need to do it in as few games as possible. The teams they'll face after the Suns aren't going to get any older, and they know the Spurs will be tired if a series stretches to 7 games. Parker and Ginobili will also be needing to push it out on the break more frequently, gathering some easy buckets while allowing a couple of their big men a few extra seconds of rest every now and then.
All in all, this was a great first game, and while people will continue to say the Spurs are boring, they should all take note that the Spurs are the most successful team in all of professional sports over the last decade, and Phoenix plays more like San Antonio than they every have before. Stay tuned, the rest of this series is going to be a wild ride!
Duncan: 40 pts, 15 boards, 5 assists Parker: 26 pts, 5 assists Ginobili: 24 pts, 5 assists, 3 steals Popovich: Brilliant strategy down the stretch.
Nash: 25 pts, 13 assists Stoudemire: 33 pts, 7 boards Shaq: 11 pts, 5 boards, 4 blocks D'Antoni: Priceless expression after Duncan's 3
Tonight was a spectacular opening game for what could likely be the highlight series of the playoffs. The Spurs and Suns have a history with each other, and nobody wants to go home yet. With buzzer beating shots, tough defensive plays, and hard fouls on both sides, this game came down to the wire.