Quantcast 2010 Phoenix Suns: Suns vs Spurs


NBA Playoff Recap - Western Conference Semifinals, Game 1

(3) Phoenix 111, (7) San Antonio 102 - Suns lead series, 1-0

When the San Antonio Spurs unleashed a 12-0 third-quarter run to turn a nine-point deficit into a three-point lead, it felt as though the inevitable was going to happen inside Phoenix's U.S. Airways Center. When the very same Spurs uncorked a 13-0 fourth-quarter run to trim a 14-point deficit to one, something not quite inevitable began to re-emerge as a likely outcome.

Both times, the Phoenix Suns stood up to their history and insisted on writing a different narrative.

Following Monday night's first game in this Western Conference semifinal series, basketball fans are wondering if they're about to witness a true shift in one of the NBA's more entertaining postseason rivalries. In 2005, 2007 and 2008, San Antonio has knocked Phoenix out of the playoffs, so when the seventh seed made a pair of furious runs at the third seed in the Valley of the Sun, it was logical to think that the old boys in black - with four championships in the past dozen seasons - would find a way to come out on top. Phoenix fans have been tormented by the Spurs ever since the 2005 playoffs, and they experienced a very familiar sense of dread whenever Manu Ginobili and the rest of coach Gregg Popovich's lineup made their move in the desert.

Yet, unlike their three recent failures against the Spurs, the Suns found the fortitude and focus needed to get to the finish line first... at least for one night.


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After San Antonio reeled off 12 straight points in the third quarter to take a 67-64 lead, Phoenix wing Jason Richardson - the key to this team's success in the postseason - nailed a 3-pointer to settle down his team and reignite a crowd desperate for postseason prosperity against a bitter rival. Richardson - who finished with 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting - lent stability to the Suns' offense, which exploded in the latter half of the third quarter and re-established a 10-point lead (85-75) heading into the fourth and final stanza. Once again, Phoenix would amass a solid lead, and once again, the Spurs would come roaring back.


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With Tim Duncan playing the best basketball of a largely forgettable night (4 of 9 from the foul line and just 20 points against Channing Frye, a manifestly inferior defensive presence in the low post), San Antonio produced 13 straight points to turn a 94-80 Phoenix runaway into a 94-93 game at the 4:26 mark. The Suns didn't panic, however. They got to the foul line and used four free throws to stretch their lead to 98-93. With San Antonio misfiring from three-point range (4 of 19 for the evening), the Spurs were unable to hit the daggers they normally stick against the Suns... and which they also regularly converted in their first-round series win over the Dallas Mavericks. With George Hill and Richard Jefferson combining for just 14 points on 3-of-12 shooting, San Antonio lacked the balance and production it will need in each and every playoff series. If Hill - who torched Dallas in round one - can hit open jumpers, Phoenix will have an impossible defensive challenge against the Spurs, but since Hill (2 of 9 on the night) couldn't hit the side of a barn, the Suns were able to flourish behind Steve Nash's 33-point, 10-assist outing.

It's only one game, but Phoenix did strike first blood in a series where the Spurs are the widely-acknowledged favorite. If the Suns win Game 2 on Wednesday, opinions on this series will begin to change. So will the outlook for these proud Western Conference foes.



By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Senior Staff Writer

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