Thursday, May 17, 2007

Suns Burned

Somewhere in the middle of the chippy third quarter Wednesday night in Phoenix, it was clear how badly the Suns missed their two best big men. It was visible on the offensive side of the court for the Suns when playmaker extraordinaire Steve Nash would work the pick-and-roll. He'd go around a pick, get into the lane and when the defense closed in, he'd pass it off to .... Kurt Thomas?

Thomas was game but he's no Amare Stoudemire and that reality, more than anything else last night is what burned the Suns, putting them in a 3-2 hole in their best-of-seven playoff series.

You won't likely see as gutty a performance (on both ends of the court) from an aging defensive specialist like Thomas in a bigger game. He gave it all he had. But while Thomas is known for his ability to play tough under the basket, it's in bursts of minutes here and there, a total of 20 or so a game. Last night, he played nearly 40 minutes and by halftime he was sucking wind so bad he could barely answer Craig Sager's halftime interview questions. Or maybe it was Sager's lime green coat.

Considering their handicap, it was amazing to watch the Suns nearly run the Spurs off the court in the first half. They held them to season lows in points for a quarter (13 in the first) and a half (33 at intermission) but they couldn't score at their usual blistering pace and their short rotation all but gave out by the end of the game.

You could blast the league (as S.O.L. did yesterday here) for suspending the Suns best big man Amare Stoudemire and his backup Boris Diaw, and in my oh so humble opinion, you'd be right. But those two knuckleheads knew the rule and left the bench anyway, so some of the blame ought to be on their very broad shoulders.

The dirty, black-hatted Spurs -- a team I liked before this series -- now has the series lead, ahead 3-2. But as tough a loss this must have been for the Suns to handle (they held the lead for all but perhaps five minutes of the game), they have to feel good about the way they played and how easily they could have won this game despite being without two of their most important players (Did I mention that Stoudemire is leading his team this series in scoring and rebounding).

You could even that the Suns are missing another player too, even though he's on the floor for everyone to see. I'm talking about Leandro Barbosa. This is the cat who shredded the Lakers during the first round. There is just no way the Brazilian Blur should not be torching the Spurs up and down the damn court. The Spurs really don't have anyone who can hang with him. The problem is that his success really hinges on his shot and right now that shot is just not falling. Last night he was 3-for-12 for a measly eight points, only two more than the number of fouls he picked up (6).

S.O.L. predicted a Suns win last night and was feeling pretty damn good after the first quarter -- though I admit to being nervous at the relatively close score. A new day dawns for the Suns come Friday night in San Antonio?

Remember the Alamo, indeed.

Suns fans. Keep your tickets for Sunday. Game 7 will happen.

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