Does it really take that many armsto restrain Steve Nash? Seriously?!
I can't believe Phoenix pulled off that win last night.
The Spurs did almost everything right. They set the tempo. They clogged the lane. They ran out at the three-point shooters. They worked the ball around and continously got high-percentage shots. They dominated almost the entire game and held double-digit leads for long stretches of the third and fourth quarters. The Suns made a run -- as everybody knew they would -- but when the Spurs pushed their lead back to 97-92 with a couple minutes to go, I figured it was over.
Guess I was wrong.
How'd the Suns do it? Well, first off, they got a little road cookin' in that all the critical calls went their way in the 4th quarter. There were some iffy charges and at least one ticky-tac "and 1" in which Leandro Barbosa clearly initiated the contact with Tony Parker. But even more telling is the fact that Tim Duncan got called for travelling twice
. Now mind you, both calls were absolutely correct. He shuffled his feet. But Duncan always
shuffles his feet...it just doesn't get called, certainly not in the 4th quarter of a home playoff game. But they got him last night.
Of course, even though the Suns got a lot of favorable whistles night, I'd like to point one thing out. You know those handchecking rules that David Stern enacted to free up perimeter players and fast breaking teams? Apparently those rules apply to everybody but
the Spurs. They handcheck on every possession
. In fact, I think Steve Nash should stencil some hand outlines on his jersey so it's easier for Bruce Bowen to remember where to grab on.
Anyway, it's funny how a few calls here and there will get a team going. Because to tell you the truth, the only Suns player who looked like he really believed they could win during the second half was Steve Nash. The rest of the team looked scared and tentative. Guys were even passing up shots. It was kind of embarrassing, and I think Nash looked a little pissed off about it. But once the whistling winds of change started blowing their way, the Suns got that "We Believe" look in their eyes.
Then it was just a plain, old-fashioned gut check, symbolized by not one, but two
behind-the-back passes from Steve Nash to Amare Stoudemire for layups (and not easy ones), the second of which gave the Suns their first lead since it was 38-37 in the first half.
But even when the game was basically decided, the Spurs chose not to go down quietly. That's when Robert Horry -- who for the last few years has been playing the role of the "lovable grandpa" everybody can count on -- channeled his inner Bill Laimbeer and blasted Nash out of bounds. It was a sucker punch worthy of Ric Flair, but I'll give Horry some credit. He didn't pull a Bruce Bowen, which is when you cheapshot somebody, then adopt a look of purest innocence and pretend it was unintentional. No, Horry pistol-whipped Nash and gave him a look like, "That's right, I did that to you."
It's hard to say what Horry's intention was. It sured seemed like he was trying to bait somebody into a fight, which almost happened when Raja Bell charged onto the scene. And of course Nash's teammates on the bench, primarly Stoudemire and Boris Diaw, jumped to their feet and onto the court. Now we have to wait and see if those players get suspended. Yeah, they violated the letter of the law (no leaving the bench during altercations), but not the spirit of the law (which is to prevent brawls). Personally, I think it would be unfair of Stern to suspend anybody on the Suns, particularly after the brutality of Horry's hit and all of Bowen's dirty little tricks. We'll see.
Great win for Phoenix, though. They regained home court advantage and now they [CLICHE ALERT!!] once again control their own destiny.
Labels: Bruce Bowen, NBA playoffs, Phoenix Suns, Raja Bell, Robert Horry, San Antonio Spurs, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan