(Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

Some things are harder to explain than others. For instance, the Suns hang their hats on out-shooting, out-running, and out-assisting the opposition, but they were outdone in all three categories this night.

You could, as they say, look it up. It’s right there in the stat sheet. The shooting percentages were 51 and 42 percent, the fast break tally 13-8, and the assist count was 28-19— all in San Antonio’s favor. So how in the world explain the 110-102 victory that put the Suns up two-nil in the series?

Easily, once Coach Alvin explained who these Suns REALLY are in his postgame remarks, namely and to wit, “A finesse team that plays hard.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, although goodness knows I’ve spent the last three months and three hundred thousand words trying.

That’s EXACTLY who these Suns are.

And while everybody has known about the finesse part for the last five years, the notion they play, especially on defense and the boards, is only beginning to seep into the minds of the national cognoscenti. A few more games like this and they’ll start thinking of thee Suns as a blue collar bunch that can shoot a little.

Coach Alvin didn’t stop with the team’s identity either. The man was on such a roll that he was able to sum up the millions of words being written and spoken about this triumph in just one— grit. This was as gritty a win as we’ve ever had,’ he said.


And the numbers back him up. The Suns actually won this game with a kamikaze charge on the offensive boards led by Jared Dudley, and some tremendous defense, keyed again by some by Grant Hill’s tenacious work of on Manu Ginobili. The key stats here were Phoenix’s 11-point edge in second chance points and Ginobili’s 11 points on 2 for 8 shooting

In fact, San Antonio coach Greg Popovich went so far as to credit Dudley with turning the game around with his second period rebounding, and the numbers back him up. The Suns had come out of the first period down eight, and were actually being outplayed by a bigger margin than that. Worse yet, their shooting, which usually keeps them close in such circumstances, was off by nearly 20 per cent.

But enter Dudley-do-right to the rescue.

“I thought he changed the whole game,” said Pop. “He came in and was a monster. He was committed to the boards, and it was infectious.”

Just so! And don’t let the total numbers fool you. Dudley’s line shows “only” six rebounds and a modest 11 points. But that doesn’t begin to measure how the true measure his contribution. His real value is HOW and when he compiled those numbers. And it wasn’t just rebounds. The Suns also outhustled the Spurs for loose balls (which is like outswimming Shamu) in that pivotal stretch.

Dudley wasn’t the only significant contributor off the most effective bench in the West. Channing Fry dropped five treys on the Spurs, and all told the Suns bought enough time so that Gentry was able to afford the luxury of resting Steve Nash the first six minutes of the fourth period.

And it didn’t hurt that the Suns eventually rediscovered the finesse part of their persona, nailing 8 of their last12 threes and shooting 56 per cent in the fourth period, or that Stoudemire delivered a gusty 23 points and 11 rebounds, or that the other two members on “The Big Three”, Nash and Jason Richardson chipped in19 points apiece.

The bottom line: There was a time, most of the time the last few years in fact, when the Suns couldn’t win games like this, especially in the playoffs. But that was when they were just a finesse team.


    Thank you Sir Joe for nailing who these Suns are right on the head. Sorry Spurs, this ain’t them “old” Suns, this is the “new” version. It comes with heart, grit, offense from all angles and players who are not afraid to get rough in the trenches. The “WILD BUNCH” coming off the bench reminds me of the old Detroit Pistons. When you add the new defensive effort this team is a handful for anyone. Look, at one time San Antonio was capable of turning this around but not against this Suns team. Styles change and so have the Suns. I almost didn’t recognize them tonight. Saw the same look on the Spurs bench at the end that I saw against Portland. Kind of like what the heck just happened and who are these guys. There the 2-0 Suns.

  • http://rolandtango rollan tango

    my favorate taem. is phoenix suns go suns…


    Woke up this morning and it wasn’t a dream!!! Our Suns are the talk of the NBA. Suddenly were a changed team, play defense, have firepower galore and can you believe it were rough and tough now. Can it get any better than this? Actually, do I dare say it, yes it can. Imagine if we really got hot shooting the ball, Lopez comes back and we don’t play sloppy first halfs. Don’t you spell that CHAMPIONS?

  • Armand Soriano

    I had been a solid Suns basketball fan ever since I made the choice of making Steve Nash my idol(2005). The Suns really did well on Game 2. Series outcome usually ends up on Game 2. Suns did a great job in fastbreak opportunities, incredible offense as well as solid defense on the other end. BUt they should not get overconfident. Their opponent had been the ONLY reason why the Suns did not prosper over the past few years. We never know how the SPURS can bounce back after a back to back loses in phoenix. Its always possible as we witnessed it on Dallas. The only thing we can do(FANS), is pray and hope that this maybe the SUNS year.

    We’ll be cheering for you SUNS!!

  • Antoinette

    SWEET!!! 3-0!!! Player of the Game =)


    Joe, 18 years as a Suns fan has brought ups and downs thrills and heartbreak. With the exception of the Bulls most of the “heart break hotel” moments have been handed out by the San Antonio Spurs. WOW!!! Payback is really sweet, especially when you come from way behind on the road in game 3. I bet that salt in the wound, otherwise described as Goran Djuric former Spur really smarts huh. Coach Gentry you might not have the trophy but you are hands down Coach Of The Year. Steve Kerr, I applaud you Sir, when we fans panicked you picked up the pieces of an O’Neil disaster and formed this masterpiece. Lets finish it, get Lopez back and prepare for Kobe and Co..

  • http://sborch@gmail.com colin

    THe Best coach/s in League. Focus 1 game at time. Work on your free throws!! They determine outcomes/wins. Stay mentally and phy strong. This is totally within reach-possible, Goran is most underated player on team others need to play to thier level!


    Just watched LA win what I call the 3rd “mediocre” game over a Jazz team whose talent stops at Williams and Boozer. Even Sloan has been oddly subdued in the series. Lakers did their best to try and give Utah a win but the Jazz couldn’t even handle a gift. If our Suns are fortunate enough to get to the West finals, (sorry I’m to old to believe in “never”) my opinion is we have the team to give LA fits. Ya, I know they have the bigs but Bynum is hurt worse than their letting on. Kobe hasn’t been pushed at all by the Jazz and LA’s bench couldn’t carry the Suns you no what. Artest is a head case supreme and he’s liable to go off at any moment. You put a fresh Lopez in our lineup and this is an upset series waiting to happen. Here it is, Suns, if we get there win game one, three, four and six and play Orlando for all the marbels.


    Joe, most of it was as ugly as Steve’s eye but just like he sucked it up so did our Suns, not only do we beat the Spurs, we SWEEP baby!!! Funny though, now Kenny Smith and Barkley say were to small to beat the Lakers. Suns have to go back to helter skelter to have a chance. Excuse me boys but all the talk before this series was that San Antonio was supposed to be in the West finals and give LA a run for it. We just swept them?? Lets see how much and how long Bynum can really run. Hill is 2 for 2 limiting a teams main threat and you would be foolish to think anybody can shut Kobe down but we can keep him to sensible numbers. As far as Gasol, I think we’ll be ready to unleash Lopez by then which frees Amare to have a series where he can cut loose. Look, the Lakers are tough but their very beatable. I stand by my prediction, Suns in a shocking 6 games.

  • yung mykol

    Jrizzy… Tell me why Jared Dudley reminds me of Drake for some reason?