The Suns need to maintain a poised aggression throughout the playoff series with the Spurs.
(NBAE Photos)

Anyone can beat anyone. There will be no upsets, because I’m not sure who should be favored in any of these series. Under normal circumstances, winning 55 games would have gotten us a top 3 seed and a favorable matchup in the first round. This year – it’s the world champion Spurs right out of the gates.

I guess the way to look at this series is this: we knew we’d have to get through San Antonio at some point, so we might as well try to do it right away. We’re playing well, we’re healthy, and the memory of our recent win in San Antonio is fresh in our minds. We know we have to win at least one game in San Antonio to win the series, so our 2-0 record there in the regular season is a confidence booster.

Of course, the playoffs are not the regular season – particularly when you’re playing against the champs. The Spurs are well coached, extremely tough defensively and balanced offensively. They have seen everything there is to see in the world of NBA basketball. And most of all, they have a ton of pride. This is a team that will fight til the last second.

These are some of the keys, as I see them:

  1. Contain the penetration of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. In our win on April 9th in San Antonio, Parker went nuts in the first half, but we cut off his drives to the basket in the second half, which allowed us to take control of the game. Ginobili suffered through a poor shooting night, which we won’t be able to count on – he’ll make a lot of shots in this series. But by denying the easy baskets to those two, we can make it tough for the Spurs to score. Keeping them out of the lane is priority number one, in my mind.
  2. Make Tim Duncan work for his points. We’re much better equipped to do so now that we have Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq can cover Tim one on one, which means we don’t have to send double team help. If Shaq can force Duncan into some low percentage jump shots, we can live with the fact that he’ll probably score 20 points per game. We just can’t allow Duncan to have those 10-15 shooting nights. When the Spurs shoot a high percentage, they have time to get back and set up their half court defense, which is their strength.Of course, Shaq won’t always be on Duncan. Amare will cover Tim some too, which leads me to my next key….
  3. Keep Amare out of foul trouble. Amare has to be smart, especially once he picks up a foul or two. Mike D’Antoni will rotate Amare and Shaq onto Duncan, and if Amare can stay on the floor and out of foul difficulty, we’ll be in pretty good shape. As with every team we play, Amare is a matchup nightmare, so the more he’s on the floor the better.
  4. Bench play. In last year’s playoff series with the Spurs, Boris and Leandro were not very productive. The Spurs did a good job of controlling both of them. I think it’s important for them – and for Gordon Giricek – to play aggressively and give our team a boost. Boris’ aggressiveness in recent weeks has been fantastic. He can play a huge role for us in this series.
  5. Stay poised. The Spurs are tough. Bruce Bowen will harass Steve Nash the entire series and try to frustrate everyone. We have to fight and compete, but without losing control of our emotions. It’s imperative to play through any adversity, remain confident and maintain a poised aggression throughout.

We feel like we’re ready to go. Our guys are confident, and they’re as prepared for San Antonio as they’ll ever be. This feels like a conference finals matchup, but as I said, we knew we’d have to play the Spurs eventually. We’ve suffered a couple of heartbreaking losses to these guys in two of the past three post seasons. Hopefully this is our year – we’re due!

Thanks, as always, for supporting our team.

Go Suns!

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