Release Us All

I'm not around to make picks, so I'm not going to bemoan my "Suns are lost souls" proclamation. Up to that point, they were, and until late in the fourth, I saw nothing definite growing from out their foreheards. The Recluse told me to "have faith," but it was difficult. Even when the Suns pulled up close to the Spurs, and tried to whisper menace at them, San Antonio turned away. Hell, I didn't believe Phoenix would win until that Horry debacle happened. Then I knew the Spurs had thrown in the proverbial towel.

Some interesting Kerr talk last night from Kerr, on how Pop tells the team to "not be in a hurry to win games." You know, how the Spurs "just hang around" and "wear the opponent down gradually." Seems fairly consistent with what I wrote yesterday, no? I also find it particularly telling that the Suns, by contrast, excel at the "blitz" Pop discourages (somewhere, there is a Plaza. . . ). Face it, the signature Suns wins involve either jumping forth at the outset and never looking back, or doing so in the last few seconds as if the next game has already started. This all begs the question of whether that win was the Suns winning at the Spurs game, or the Phoenix at its finest. This might be hair-splitting, but think about this: beating the Spurs at the Spurs doesn't make them better than the Spurs at the Spurs' game, while overthrowing that dogma would be a milestone.

I know that Phoenix made their run sooner than usual, and it took a lot longer than we're conditioned to expect. But like I said, I didn't believe until those last two Amare baskets pushed them ahead. They missed free throws, which is uncharacteristic and very Spurs-like. And don't underestimate what it meant that they played defense down the stretch, allowing for a less-than-miraculous run and dropping those wonted Spurs daggers out of mid-air. I'd say San Antonio basketball is built on the theme of late-game excellence: emerge suddenly with a fourth quarter lead and hold off opponents' frazzled desperation, or creep up over their shoulder just before it's too late, but once the enemy has already gotten complacent.

But how did they get those crucial buckets? Fearlessly and creatively. Nash pushing the ball, feeding it exotically to Amare in movement, Stoudemire going right at Duncan the second time. It may not have been the Suns' entire run exhibiting a certain style, or following a certain narrative script. The most of their comeback baskets were hard-earned, not so pretty, and, in the thick of the fog of Spurs, seemed to barely stave off the inevitable. Up until those four points, they were stuck being rebellious slaves in SBC country. But after them, they seized that shit. The Suns decided to risk being the Suns, even if common sense and "playoff basketball" dictated otherwise. And they won the game. As with last night, I won't believe the Suns can win the series until it's over. I do firmly believe, however, that they'll view playing the Spurs in a different light from this point on.

Oh, and the foul? Roman empire burning itself.


At 5/15/2007 11:24 AM, Blogger Martin said...

something about the sun's victory over the spurs yesterday left me feeling uneasy. I felt the Spurs uncharacteristically lost their identity along the lines of FD's ongoing debate about teams and their need to maintain their individualism. The Spurs degenerated into hip-checking barbarians. It almost cheapened the Suns victory as I would have greatly preferred to see the Spurs vanquished in all their "right way" indignation. Now we can always chalk up the loss as evidence that if you lose your head and stop playing the "right way" you will lose.

The Spurs faltering aside- I think it was an awesome show of execution by the Suns. Nash-to-Stoudemire is the real deal. They really put on a show with behind the back passes and dishes in traffic, despite the Spurs playing crunch time lock down defense.

At 5/15/2007 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Difference in the game. It's no coincidence that Javie (who's notorious for punishing the home fans and is one of the Philly refs who came up under Joey Crawford) and longtime Duncan enemy Jack Nies were assigned this game.

I'd be shocked if Amare gets suspended too, precedent be damned.

At 5/15/2007 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Steve Javie entered the league 18 years ago, Crawford saw something familiar in the fiery rookie with the NFL officiating father.

"I was his crew chief his first year," remembers Crawford. "It was still two-man and we were in Utah, one of those games where you went in there as the gunslingers. And he was banging away. We got in the locker room at halftime and I looked at him and I said, ‘I was nuts, but you’re really nuts.’"

Crawford and Javie developed a close friendship, with Joe offering the benefit of his experience. "Joe was and is my mentor," says Javie.


At 5/15/2007 2:30 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

You guys who are trying to blame last night on Javie and the refs are really cheapening what Phoenix accomplished and you're missing what was probably a major moment in recent basketball history. Regardless of how the game was officiated up until the closing minutes, the fact remains that with a few minutes to go the Spurs held a couple-possession lead that they were not able to keep. Phoenix flat outplayed them down the stretch, and that has nothing to do with the refs. In any playoff game you'll take the lead in the closing minutes every time, cause then you just have to execute and the game is yours. It wasn't shoddy refereeing that lost the Spurs that game, it was Phoenix's play on both ends of the floor that led to the San Antonio collapse.

I hope they don't suspend anyone for Game 5.

At 5/15/2007 2:36 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

I'd been wondering for about six quarters what happened to the Nash-Amare pick and roll. Then it reappeared and won the game. Did I just imagine it being the defining and totally unstoppable play of the 2005 playoffs? I take last night as some solid anecdotal evidence in support of the thesis that winning teams have to be themselves to win.

At 5/15/2007 2:47 PM, Anonymous Mavis Beacon said...

Kurt Thomas' defense has been outstanding, especially so during crunch time. Duncan still gets his points off defensive lapses and mismatches, but he can't really take Thomas one on one (yes, I know he does sometimes, but those shots are all very, very difficult and low percentage).

Since Duncan can't draw a double team or get a good shot and Manu isn't able to break down the defense particularly effectively (a big part of this is just that his shot isn't falling), the Spurs have no real offensive game plan in the waning minutes. Unless one of those two areas gives, Phoenix is going to be able to continue to win close games.

At 5/15/2007 2:50 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Mr. Six: That behind-the-back pass by Nash to Stoudemire near the end of the game was a great, great moment. That symbolizes everything PHX is about.

In regards to what Wild Yams said: I wonder if what happened last night will end up being similiar to Game 3 of last year's Finals. The Mavericks were very much in control in the fourth quarter of that game, and then they gave it away and never recovered.

At 5/15/2007 3:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more about the Nash/Stoudemire pick and roll.

At 5/15/2007 3:22 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

I gotta disagree with Mavis about the Spurs not having an offensive game plan in the waning minutes if Duncan can't draw a double team. I think last night was partially an aberration because Duncan had 5 fouls and had to sit, then when he came back he had to be careful not to foul out. If Duncan's not in foul trouble, him going one-on-one with Kurt Thomas is a pretty good game plan down the stretch for San Antonio. Thomas is definitely making Duncan work for those points, but Duncan's still scoring a ton in this series (29 ppg on 59% shooting). Duncan has definitely proven year after year that he's a very reliable guy to go to down the stretch and he can hit clutch shots, so it's definitely a mistake if Phoenix thinks they can just leave KT on him in crunch time and expect him to miss. Ginobili's just inconsistent and you never know what you're gonna get with him. If he's on, he's very hard to stop, but if he's off he can shoot and drive the Spurs right out of the game.

I think Game 5 comes down to two things (assuming no suspensions which is a big assumption). First, can the Spurs withstand the intensity the Suns are gonna bring to that game and keep themselves in the contest so that they will have a shot at the end? I think there is a good chance if Phoenix has all its players that they could come in and blow the Spurs out in the next game. Phoenix has the potential to do that in any game anyway, but after the emotional lift they must have received from winning last night, coupled with how insane that crowd is probably going to be in calling for the heads of the Spurs, it's not hard to imagine Phoenix coming in and raining 3's from all over the court. Second, if the Spurs can withstand that intensity and dictate the game (and they're a veteran, championship team so it's just as likely that they won't be rattled at all), can they stay out of foul trouble? Duncan has to be able to be in the game and be able to play aggressively in the 4th quarter for San Antonio to have a chance. That wasn't the case last night and the Spurs lost, and that was at home so you can imagine how bad it could be for them on the road.

At 5/15/2007 3:34 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Wild Yams: Steve Kerr said in his column today that Duncan and Bowen both left the bench and stepped on the court during an "altercation" between James Jones and Francisco Elson last night. If the Suns lost Stoudamire and Diaw, and the Spurs lost Duncan, Bowen, and Horry, I'd have to say that the Suns would be the favorites to win Game 5. IMO, Nash, Marion, Barbosa, and Bell would be able to handle Parker, Ginobli, and Finley pretty easily.

At 5/15/2007 3:41 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

By the way, there's something else which needs to be discussed and which I haven't seen anything about here yet: did anyone else think that Shaq was absolutely miserable on TNT last night? He's too much of a politician when he knows that people are watching him on a national stage or something. He couldn't even make a prediction at halftime of who he thought would win the game. He looked like he was spending too much time trying to make sure he didn't say anything offensive or something. Where was the Big Loquacious last night?

Sean: I saw that too, and once again I really hope the league doesn't suspend anyone (even Robert Horry). I hate suspensions deciding playoff games unless maybe there was a real fight with punches thrown and connected. Save the suspensions for the regular season or something. I mean, isn't anyone else tired of Knicks fans trying to claim that the Knicks would have beaten the Bulls in 1996 after Chicago won 72 regular season games in Jordan's first full season back from baseball? It's ludicrous nonsense, but they start talking about PJ Brown and it all goes downhill from there. Let's not have a repeat of that silliness.

At 5/15/2007 3:53 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Wild Yam: I agree. I don't think anyone should be suspended either.

(I disagree on Horry though. I think someone needs to pay for the altercation, and who better than the man who started it?)

At 5/15/2007 4:34 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

So then you do, in fact, think someone (Horry) should be suspended, right?

I meant to also respond to something you said yesterday's thread, Sean, about how the Suns should move Stoudemire before Nash or Marion because Amare's not as valuable to the Suns as the other two are. I think you're definitely wrong about that. While Amare may not be the incredible specimen he was pre-surgery, the guy still did recover from microfracture surgery well enough to be 1st Team All NBA this year, and he is only 24 years old. I think that makes him more valuable to the team than Marion is right now. Nash is definitely more valuable to the Suns right now than anyone else, but at his age it's just a reality that is going to change at some point in the next 2-3 years. Nash's trade value will never be higher than it's going to be this summer and even though it may seem ludicrous, trading him now would really shore up the Suns future. While you scoffed at the thought that Toronto or Orlando would trade their young talented big men for a 33 year old Nash, you must realize you're actually suggesting that this is what Phoenix should do in trading Amare to keep Nash.

Nash for Bosh might not be so outlandish either, considering Bryan Colangelo is running Toronto and Nash is Canadian. The Suns could offer Nash, Kurt Thomas, James Jones and Eric Piatkowski in exchange for Bosh, TJ Ford and Rasho Nesterovic. Phoenix could even throw in a draft pick or two if need be, or could substitute Boris Diaw for Thomas & Jones in that deal (Diaw wouldn't offer the same cap relief though). That would probably make the Raptors as competitive as they were this year (maybe moreso) and would offer huge cap relief to Toronto. In the East with Canada's biggest hoops star ever running that type of ball you could guarantee the Raptors would be a huge draw for all their home games, and you'd have to give Toronto a better than average shot of winning their division and having one of the better records in the East.

And for the Suns, even if they have to give up Diaw as well as Nash, imagine how good a team of Amare, Bosh, Marion, Bell, Ford/Barbosa + Atlanta's pick would be. Phoenix would have to change the way they play, but they'd be a beast, and with Nesterovic & Thomas off the bench the Suns would be able to go big all game long. A bench unit of Rasho, KT, James Jones/Jalen Rose/Markus Banks/Atlanta's pick and Barbosa would be a pretty solid second squad. Anyway, that's just off the top of my head, I'm sure there's other potential trade possibilities out there.

At 5/15/2007 5:23 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Wild Yams: "So then you do, in fact, think someone (Horry) should be suspended, right?"

Yeah, that was worded poorly. Sorry.

" Nash's trade value will never be higher than it's going to be this summer and even though it may seem ludicrous, trading him now would really shore up the Suns future. While you scoffed at the thought that Toronto or Orlando would trade their young talented big men for a 33 year old Nash, you must realize you're actually suggesting that this is what Phoenix should do in trading Amare to keep Nash."

I just think Nash's old age isn't as much a factor as some may think it is. I can see him developing into a John Stockton-type player who could be a solid contributor until he is 40 years old.

As for the trade ideas, I just think Nash is THE guy for the Suns, while Howard and Bosh are THE guys for their respective teams. IMO, it wouldn't make sense for any of these teams to trade their cornerstone players for some other team's cornerstone player. Like I said yesterday; it'd be like trading LeBron for Kobe. What purpose would that trade serve for either Clevland or L.A.?

Anyway, I think we should all just wait and see what happens in the playoffs. What if(and it's a big if) Phoenix wins this year? Would they really need to trade anybody, unless for luxury tax reasons?

At 5/15/2007 5:35 PM, Anonymous Goon said...

Wild Yams,

I am not against the thought of dealing Nash, but I think your idea of Nash for Bosh is not smart. Bosh and Stoudamire on the same team is not a good combo especially without a starter-caliber PG to run the show.

At 5/15/2007 6:38 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

If Phoenix wins it all this year, they're not gonna trade anyone. Championship teams almost always try to give that team a shot to defend its title. The trade rumors have supposedly mainly been in response to the payroll combined with the lack of titles/Finals appearances, and Suns ownership's obvious displeasure with that. I will say I believe this whole conversation is moot since I don't think there's any chance in hell of Phoenix trading Nash, but I'm just floating it out there for the fun of it.

The reason why trading Nash for someone like Bosh (or Jermaine O'Neal or KG or Dwight Howard or whoever) is unlike trading Kobe for LeBron is that Nash and those centers bring hugely different things to the table, while Kobe and LeBron really don't. LeBron on the Lakers and Kobe on the Cavs wouldn't really be very different in the short term. But swapping Bosh/Ford for Nash/Diaw would drastically change the way both Phoenix and Toronto would play. It should also be noted for Goon that in that scenario the Suns would still have two "starter-caliber PGs" in Barbosa and Ford to help run the show; it's just that Phoenix would play a much slower-paced game than they do now.

Phoenix would still have great outside shooting in Marion, Barbosa, Bell and Jones (and Ford, to a lesser extent), but now they would have an absolutely punishing inside game to open things up around the perimeter (as opposed to relying on Nash's penetration to do that). Bosh and Amare can both post down low and both have solid mid-range jumpers, so either one could go in the low block without having to worry about the other being in there clogging the lane. They'd also have solid guys off the bench to allow them to continue to play inside-out ball with Rasho and KT. In addition Phoenix would probably become one of the better defensive teams in the league with Amare and Bosh's back line of defense and shotblocking (and rebounding) to go with Marion and Bell's perimeter D. The Suns would have an entirely new face next year and wouldn't really resemble the current Suns at all, but at the same time they'd be constructed in a way that more closely resembles most championship teams of the last few decades.

In regards to the Nash vs Stockton comparison, I don't think that's a good one. Stockton was a player who's effectiveness was built on his ability to execute and run that pick and roll and his toughness and defense. Nash's, on the other hand, is built on his finesse and speed. Nash is a smart player and his BBall IQ and good outside shooting will allow him to be a very effective player for probably 5-6 more years, but when his speed starts to go he's going to have to alter his game a bit, and he alone is not going to be able to dictate the pace of a game the way he can now. He'll be a good player out there, but he's not going to be "the guy that makes his team go" anymore. If they do keep Nash and decide to trade Amare, who are they gonna trade Amare for? Does KG at 31 years of age bring a whole lot that Amare can't? KG can shoot the 3 better, but Phoenix isn't exactly lacking in that department; and KG isn't a guy who's offense tends to flow mainly from the low block.

I would think if the Suns were gonna trade Amare they'd have to try to get someone who was a more effective post scorer, unless Phoenix really wants to do what Golden State is trying to do, in which case they could pursue a shooting guard/small forward type. But I think if Phoenix loses, especially if they lose to the Spurs, they're not going to want to give up size like that. This is the quandary with building around Nash: do you sacrifice size and go for more speed to suit his style, or do you try to pick up someone bigger and beefier than Amare at the risk of slowing down Nash's high-octane game? To wit, if Phoenix traded Amare for Yao Ming, for instance, would Nash still be able to control the pace of the game the way he does now? Would Phoenix be able to run like they currently do? I think this current Phoenix team is a team that's built perfectly to fit Nash's skills, so if they don't win this year they're probably never going to. That's why I say if they're gonna shake up the Suns, they should start by trading Nash and take the team in a whole new (and more proven) direction.

At 5/15/2007 7:13 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Wild Yams: I understand what you're saying; however, I just bring myself to agree with you.

By the way, it's been leaked that Stoudamire and Diaw are going to suspended for Game 5 and Horry is going to be suspended for two games. Damn.

At 5/15/2007 7:14 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Sorry: It's supposed to say "I just can't bring myself to agree with you".

At 5/15/2007 9:00 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

I'm pretty out there, I know. After all, I thought the Lakers should have traded Shaq back in 2002 after they'd just won their third straight title for the same sort of reasons (trade the best guy while his value is sky-high before he gets too old and no one wants him with that salary).

If that's true about Amare & Diaw (and Horry) being suspended then that really blows. I've long thought that the league has a lot of rules that need to be looked at and changed and this is one of them. They could keep this rule for the regular season if they want, to try to prevent major brawls like they had at that Detroit-Indiana game a few years back, but honestly major brawls in playoff games just don't ever happen because teams don't want to blow their whole season like that. Suspensions in the playoffs should be reserved for only the most egregious missteps (I don't even think what Horry did qualifies). It's just stupid to punish a team and its fans and potentially have their entire season and shot at a championship blown because of one brief impulse which didn't result in real violence or lasting injury. I say if Amare or anyone else had gotten in there and thrown a punch that connected, then OK go ahead and suspend him. But the league most likely just killed the Suns whole season because Amare stood up and was restrained without ever actually getting involved. I'll tell you what: that nonsense takes away fan enjoyment much more than any big brawl ever would.

At 5/15/2007 9:51 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Wild Yams: Exactly.

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