Posted on May 20, 2010 at 2:42 PM
Given the sizable chip on their shoulders, it’s a wonder the Phoenix Suns have been able to get off the floor against the Spurs in the first two games of their second-round playoff series.
But the Suns have done just fine, and that’s why they’re halfway to a showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals.
Eliminated by the Spurs four times in five postseason meetings since 2003, the Suns have looked like a team driven to turn the tables on a nemesis that has galvanized Phoenix.
San Antonio shot a better field-goal percentage than the Suns and had two fewer turnovers in Game 2 Wednesday night, but it was Los Suns who walked off with a 110-102 victory to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
Phoenix won the series opener Sunday night by a nearly identical score, 111-102.
The series moves to San Antonio for Game 3 Friday night.
The Suns won Game 2 because they were tougher under the boards, outrebounding the Spurs 49-37 and finishing with a decisive 18-7 edge on the offensive glass.
San Antonio shot 50.6 percent from the field and held Phoenix to 42.4 percent, but it’s difficult to win at any level when you get your fanny kicked on the boards.
While rebounding takes skill and timing, it also requires effort and a commitment to do the dirty work. What should be disheartening to Spurs fans is that the Suns demonstrated that commitment Tuesday night, while the Spurs too often looked passive when there was a loose ball up for grabs.
Oh, what Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wouldn’t give for a prime-time rebounder.
With the duel between each team’s Big Three a virtual tie, Suns backups Channing Frye and Jared Dudley were the men of the hour for the home team.
Frye, a 6-foot-11 center who presents a big matchup problem for the Spurs because of his outside shooting touch, hit 5 of 7 3-pointers and finished with 15 points.
Dudley grabbed six rebounds, four on offense, and finished with 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
Popovich credited Frye and Dudley for changing the dynamics of the game. Unfortunately for the Spurs, they had no answer for the pair.
If the Spurs want to extend the series, they better find some answers – pronto.
Steve Nash, who had 33 points in Game 1, had “only” 19 Wednesday night. He also finished with five turnovers.
Amar’e Stoudemire led the Suns with 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Jason Richardson and Grant Hill added 19 and 18 points, respectively.
The Suns are now 4-0 while playing in their “Los Suns” uniforms, which they wore to show their support of the Latino community in the debate over Arizona’s new immigration law and in celebration of the Cinco De Mayo.
While the Silver & Black shot well from the field Wednesday night, Phoenix finished with a big edge at the free-throw line, hitting 29 of 37 attempts. The Spurs made 15 of 22 freebies.
Tim Duncan had a stellar game, hitting 12 of 20 shots and finishing with a game-high 29 points. He also had 10 rebounds.
Coming off the bench again, Tony Parker finished with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting and dished out seven assists.
There was speculation Parker would start at point guard after George Hill’s subpar performance against Steve Nash in Game 1, but Hill got the nod and finished with 11 points.
With Manu Ginobili recording only 11 points – he took only eight shots – Richard Jefferson stepped up with one of his best games of the postseason. Looking more aggressive, Jefferson canned 8 of13 shots and finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
While Ginobili didn’t score a lot – and it’s difficult to imagine the Spurs winning Game 3 without him leading the charge – he finished with a game-high 11 assists.
No doubt, Ginobili will be much more aggressive offensively Friday night. He’s a money player and he thrives in pressure games, especially at the AT&T Center. And the pressure clearly will be on the Spurs.
Maybe they’ll take a cue from the Suns and go into Game 3 with a chip on their shoulders for a change.