NBA Playoff Preview: Suns v. Spurs

HOW HIGH ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS SERIES? THROUGH THE ROOF? I don’t think my expectations for any NBA playoff series in the last 12 years has been “through the roof,” unless you count the Nets and Lakers Finals, when I was pretty sure New Jersey was going to stun the world in seven.

BUT IS THIS AS EXCITED AS YOU’VE BEEN FOR A SERIES SINCE JORDAN’S RETIREMENT? As long as you except series involving the Knicks and Nets, I suppose. Although I was pretty excited for Suns-Spurs in the first round two years ago.

THAT WAS A GREAT SERIES! False. It was a great Game 1. The series was over after that.

LET’S BREAK DOWN THE SPURS. WHAT DO YOU LIKE? I was surprised how easily they handled the Mavericks. Part of this may have resulted from my missing Game 3 entirely and thinking that Game 4 was Game 3 for at least a quarter and a half.

You may have caught my footnoted allusion to George Hill in the American Point Guard Renaissance; if you didn’t, I really like George Hill. I saw the Spurs play in Philly this year (a terrible game; they lost to the lowly Sixers), and I was shocked by how often and how consistently I confused Hill and the recuperating Tony Parker. Of course, my upper-deck seats, their looking alike, and that Hill’s 3 is really close in San Antonio’s font to Parker’s 9 all contributed to this confusion, but there were at least a half-dozen times where I thought Parker had made a really nice move when it was Hill instead. I’m glad that Gregg Popovich has stuck with the IUPUI alum in the starting lineup, and I think he can really give Steve Nash trouble—perhaps more than the not-100% Parker could at this point.

WHAT DON’T YOU LIKE? Parker and Tim Duncan look awfully old at times, don’t they? I worry about their ability to play at a high level consistently in a fast-paced series with Phoenix. I don’t have the same qualms with Manu Ginobili.

AND PHOENIX? I totally forgot that Jason Richardson is SOOOO much better than Quentin Richardson. Seriously. The first-round series with Portland was just a consistent reminder that Jason can carry an offense; he’s not just a three-point shooter.

Furthermore, Amar’e Stoudemire is playing about as well as he has in his career, and the Suns seem to have more balance than they did in years past against San Antonio. This is to say, a lot of players understand and relish their roles—guys like Richardson, Grant Hill, Jared Dudley, and Channing Frye. They’re a lot deeper than they used to be, and they have so many different guys who can star offensively for them any night.

THAT TRADE WITH CHARLOTTE DOESN’T LOOK TOO BAD NOW, DOES IT? Remember when Steve Kerr was criticized for sending Raja Bell and Boris Diaw to the Bobcats for Richardson and Dudley? Looks pretty good these days, no?

WHO’S THE BETTER G. HILL IN THIS SERIES? Ooh, toughie. I’m gonna go with George, although I like both of them a lot.

CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS IS GRANT’S FIRST TRIP TO THE SECOND ROUND? Well, I can now, but I didn’t at first. Then I remembered how his Pistons teams were perennial 4-5 seeds in the East that lost to, like, Mookie Blaylock and the Hawks.

SO WHICH WAY YOU LEANING? You couldn’t tell? I can see this one going seven, and I can see it being as compelling a series as we’ve had in the West in some time. But I don’t think it is going seven or is going to be that compelling. I think the Spurs’ age is going to show and that Phoenix’s balance is going to win out over San Antonio’s version of the “Big Three.” Suns in 6.

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