Sunday, April 27, 2008
4:00 pm
Dan Hilton

The game has ended, the fans are gone and the interviews with the players are done. It was a good game. A good win. It feels good to have at least one win under our belts. The team travels to San Antonio on Monday for Tuesday’s game. Whatever they did today, they need to do the same thing on Tuesday – only with more intensity. The Spurs are going to be upset, the San Antonio fans are going to be loud and the Suns have always had a hard time winning at the AT&T Center. But the Suns have won twice there in the regular season. But as so many fans have pointed out in the comments over the past four games, the regular season is NOT the playoffs. But the Suns showed that they can not only get a lead on the Suns but they can also keep the lead and win the game.

Game 5, here we come!


Sunday, April 27, 2008
3:05 pm
Dan Hilton

With Game 4 nearly complete, let’s begin looking at Game 5. There are many positives about Game 4 but I think one of the best things is that Grant Hill was able to rest his groin an entire game. So he’ll have had Saturday, Sunday, Monday and most of the day on Tuesday to be worked on, continue to rest and to heal. If he’s healthy enough to play on Tuesday, the Suns would have another long body that can defend and get in the way of the Spurs passes.

Coach D’Antoni just got ejected for sticking up for his players. I think he just wanted to get back to his office to tidy up a bit before they head to San Antonio on Monday.


Sunday, April 27, 2008
3:05 pm
Dan Hilton

DJ Strawberry has made his first appearance in this game and it’s good to see him out there! Hopefully he can get some good work in during the last 8 minutes of the game and will be ready to play again at the end of a Suns rout on Tuesday! But again, let’s get through this game first and then we can talk about Tuesday.


Sunday, April 27, 2008
3:00 pm
Jeramie McPeek

I had to do a double-take when Dan Hilton just mentioned we were up by 30. I knew we were rolling, but didn’t realize we were up that big.

This looks like a complete reversal of Game 3. The Spurs are playing poorly, shooting only 38%, while the Suns are getting big-time production from a number of players. Raja has 24 points, 5 boards and 5 assists; Shaq has 14 points and 12 boards; Nash has 15 points and Barbosa 14.

Perhaps most impressive or valuable, though, has been Diaw’s play in the absence of G-Hill. Living up to his “3D” nickname, Diaw has 20 points, 10 ‘bounds and 8 assists, not to mention a couple of blocks.

Actually, Bell just drained another three-pointer, his 5th of the day. So maybe he is the star of the game. How great is it to see the three-balls falling again?

Ah, what the heck. Let’s give them all a game ball today!


Sunday, April 27, 2008
2:55 pm
Dan Hilton

For those of you watching the game at home, you probably didn’t see the Suns event staff come out and fix the net on the Suns’ side of the court. They’ve been making so many shots they made the net go off kilter! There are 9 minutes to go and the Suns have just passed the 100 point mark. The Spurs have yet to pass the 75 point mark. It appears that both teams have pulled most of their starters and they’ll play this game out in preparation for a Game 5 in San Antonio on Tuesday. I don’t want to count anything before it’s over since we’ve seen what the Spurs can do, but things are looking good so far! Especially with the Spurs pulling their “big three.”


Sunday, April 27, 2008
2:41 pm
Daniel Banks

So far this has been a very strange game. The Suns have completely turned the series trends around and they’re leading big near the end of the third quarter… the second half has traditionally been trouble for the Suns but so far tonight they’re owning the Spurs.

Also, Amare is struggling to find his shots and is hitting just 28% of his attempts. But the team is there to cover his misses. Besides the phenomenal performance by Raja Bell, Boris Diaw is also scorching San Antonio with 18 points and seven rebounds. The Suns role players are refusing to lay down and have a great chance to send this thing to San Antonio for a Game Five.


Sunday, April 27, 2008
2:40 pm
Stefan Swiat

Consider Game 4 in the books for the Suns. Will the Spurs come back? Who cares? Mark it down. It’s over.

The Suns are undefeated for the season when Raja Bell scores over 20 points in a game. Well, Bell poured in 21 in the first half. He shot 6-of-7 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from downtown.

Also, Boris Diaw had 10 points and Leandro Barbosa added eight in the first half. If two out the three players (Diaw, Bell, LB) score 15 or more points, the Suns are 17-2. So with the combination of Bell scoring over 20 and Diaw having scored over 15, the Suns have a double-whammy.

But please, stay on-line and tuned in to watch the rest.


Sunday, April 27, 2008
2:28 pm
Dan Hilton

The Suns have won two quarters so far this game and are leading the Spurs 10-4 in the third quarter. It seems so much more manageable when you try to win each quarter instead of thinking that you win 4 games.

The Suns have definitely picked up their intensity in this game. If they were acting like Game 3 didn’t matter at all, they have been acting like Game 4 means everything. And it does. They know as well as any of us do that if they don’t win this game, they will have a long off-season. Sure, they still have 3.5 games to win if they want to move on…but so far in this game, they’ve shown that they actually deserve to be here.


Sunday, April 27, 2008
2:00 pm
Jeramie McPeek

The halftime ice cream tasted a whole lot better today than Friday night.

Making my way down the stairs through Section 203, down the escalator to level one, and down another flight of stairs to the basement, I passed Chuck Rathacker, my favorite security guard in the building, who had the quote of the day:

“We just need seven more halves of basketball like that.”

No kidding. Tossing out Game 3 completely, the Suns have actually put together three great first halves in this series so far. It’s been the third quarter that’s been their undoing.

But we’ve tipped off today’s third in good fashion with a quick Shaq bucket pushing our lead to 24 points.


Sunday, April 27, 2008
1:39 pm
Stefan Swiat

I think what opposing fans find infuriating about Manu Ginobili, besides his flopping, is his unorthodox type of play. In fact, I don’t think officials know how to call him. Every time I watch a game, you’ll see whoever is guarding him get called for a ticky-tack call at some point of the game, and he’ll make his case to the referee like Sam Waterson on Law & Order.

The referees often react to Ginobili’s flails, or flops, and reward him with foul calls. There is a certain genius to his game, which lies in his ability to initiate contact. On offense, Ginobili goes on the attack, using his off arm better than probably any player in the league.

He slaps away the defender with one arm, and because of his unorthodox style and long arms, he is able to get entangled with his defender and receive whistles. His style seems to mirror the soccer culture he was raised in.

In his native Argentina, soccer players often flop to get calls or exaggerate personal fouls so players can receive yellow or red cards. It is a part of the game over there. When a player is knocked down in Argentina, he rolls around on the ground looking for a call, whereas in America, kids are taught to bounce back up and show that you weren’t fazed by the infraction. It’s a difference in philosophy.

When I played overseas in Italy, I encountered this problem a lot with officials. The guys I guarded played the officials as well as the game. It is a different type of mentality and it puts pressure on the officials to make calls because on some level, they feel guilty for not whistling when they see a guy flailing and hitting the floor all of the time.

Besides being more aggressive with his off hand than any player in the league, he also comes around the high screen-and-rolls and pretends to get snagged up by his man on every possession. He always pitches his shoulder backwards as if the trail defender is holding him back.

So as you watch Ginobili for the rest of the series, look for his tendencies, and hopefully the officials will figure out them out as well…


Sunday, April 27, 2008
1:38 pm
Daniel Banks

The Suns knew the Spurs would respond to their dominating first quarter performance, and so far in this second quarter the Spurs have kept their poise and gone to their reliable scorers for production. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker have 25 of the Spurs 35 points and Tony is having success finding a path to the basket.

The Suns aren’t looking over their shoulder though, they’re still trying to run past them on offense and run even faster on defense to keep the Spurs from getting easy buckets.


Sunday, April 27, 2008
1:29 pm
Brad G. Faye

Just made my way up to the box in time for some good old-fashioned entertainment. The crowd is really into it this afternoon which is awesome. This is the kind of contest where you need a crowd’s A-game. If Suns fans don’t want their team mailing it in, they’ve got to send a message and come out with the same fight.

I’m obviously not the first to say Phoenix has to take it one game at a time, but as someone who watched each and every game of that 2004 Yankees-Red Sox series (where Boston won after trailing 3-0), I know how a series can turn. I can’t make any promises on how this series will turn out, but I can predict the Suns will get better with each game played from here on out.

I know it wasn’t the same deficit, but we all saw that in 2006 when they came back in that opening round Lakers series. You win a game tonight and yes, there’s more pressure on us still, but there is some pressure on San Antonio to close out at home. Then all of a sudden you could be back in the desert for Game 6.

Let me stop myself though, it appears I’m already thinking too far ahead.


Sunday, April 27, 2008
1:14 pm
Daniel Banks

The Spurs were down, momentum was missing, and so Coach Popovich reached into his bag of tricks and decided to intentionally foul The Big Cactus to slow down the Suns.

But Shaq said, “No.”

The hack-a-Shaq strategy simply isn’t working for the Spurs in this first quarter. Shaq is hitting his shots (5 of 8 ) and the Suns are scoring points nearly every trip down the court.

The Suns are running, gunning, and breathing life into their playoff hopes.


Sunday, April 27, 2008
1:00 pm
Daniel Banks

And just like that – the spirit in this building has gone from apprehensive to intense. The Suns opened up a 10-point lead on the defending champs and look like the team that went 3-1 against them during the regular season. Approaching the midway point of the first quarter, the Spurs are shooting 0% and have all of their three points from the free throw line.


Sunday, April 27, 2008
12:50 pm
Daniel Banks

Raja Bell has opened this game like a guy who doesn’t want to take a summer vacation. He opened up scoring for the Suns with a three-pointer and so far in this game he has scored all of Phoenix’s seven points. He’s hustling after rebounds, hounding Tony Parker everytime the Spurs’ guard touches the ball, and he’s three-for-three… Can’t ask for a better start from one of the Suns gritty veterans.


Sunday, April 27, 2008
12:45 pm
Stefan Swiat

The Suns need to get off to a good start. Having been dealt such a disappointing defeat Friday, it is imperative that they get some positive feeling generated amongst them and throughout the arena. Phoenix sometimes has the tendency to start afternoon game a bit slowly, so hopefully they’ll be aware of that and

It is only natural that the Spurs take their foot a little off of the gas pedal in this game, leaving them vulnerable to the Suns’ attack. We’ll see if Steve Nash can get everyone going early, that way, if the Suns go down today, they’ll go down fighting tooth and nail.

It’s still amazing to me that the Suns find themselves in this position after the season that they’ve had and the promise that they’ve shown. I pondered the thought that if Game 1 and Game 2 had flipped in chronological order, perhaps the Suns would have felt better about themselves when they returned to Phoenix for Game 3.

Everyone expected the Suns to lose Game 1. It’s one of those games where the pressure is always on the home team to win. So if they lost Game 1 like they lost Game 2, then they would have come back to Phoenix having just lost on the Manu Ginobili drive in double-OT. The mentality would have been, ok, we’re gaining on them and we just lost by one play, and they did what they had to do on their home court.

But I think that loss in Game 1 made the Suns feel like they squandered their best opportunity to win the series, and they haven’t recovered emotionally. The mood in the locker room was a little somber, but after a riveting intro and a pumped-up home crowd, the Suns have to be feeling a little better.

Let’s see if they can pull of the back-door sweep…


Sunday, April 27, 2008
12:30 pm
Jeramie McPeek

I’ve got goosebumps.

Game 4 is about to tip-off and they just showed a video on the big screens that gave me chills. Picture orange tinted highlights of Nash pumping his fists, D’Antoni screaming, Bell clenching his hands and yelling, and Shaq warning “Don’t Wake Me Up!”

The screen then showed these messages, one at a time:

6 COACHES

14 PLAYERS

19,000 SCREAMING FANS

TOGETHER WE ARE ONE

LET’S MAKE HISTORY


Sunday, April 27, 2008
9:42 pm
Daniel Banks

The Suns game operations squad is at the top of their game tonight. They’ve always been the best at entertaining the fans with videos, skits, and cool music but before today they’re getting us into exactly the right mood.

For example, they just played a clip of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team defeating Team USSR and asked the crowd: “Do you believe in miracles?”


Sunday, April 27, 2008
9:42 pm
Stefan Swiat

Although Grant Hill is dressing for this afternoon’s contest, it is doubtful that he will make an appearance. His groin has been really aggravating him, so Suns Head Coach Mike D’Antoni has elected to start Boris Diaw in his place.

In Game 3, D’Antoni wanted to start Leandro Barbosa so he could get back into his offensive rhythm. But due to Tony Parker’s offensive explosion against Phoenix in that game, D’Antoni has decided to counter that by starting Diaw.

Diaw, more familiar with Parker’s tendencies than anyone in the league, can provide the length to get out and bother Parker on the high screen-and-roll. Besides growing up with Parker and being his best man at his wedding last summer, Coach D’Antoni believes that Diaw performed more efficiently than anyone else.


Sunday, April 27, 2008
12:00 pm
Daniel Banks

It’s tough to find a bright side in the darkness before the dawn but believe it or not, there is something I like about games like this. I can tell you’re shocked and a little skeptical, but let me explain…

Everyone knows the probability of our future, everyone knows the history of teams in our situation, and everyone knows the odds are against a miraculous comebacks. Any sane person would go into today’s game with some measure of doubt, or at least guarded optimism.

Notice I said any sane person. It’s in these kinds of games where we find the difference between a follower and a fanatic. Look for the fans who come decked out in their brightest orange for a chance to cheer for this team. Look for the loudest cheers from the top corners of the US Airways Center… first or fourth quarter, advancing or eliminated – the fanatics who cheer for the Phoenix Suns unconditionally. Those are the people I want to be around today.


Sunday, April 27, 2008
11:45 am
Brad G. Faye

Just some quick pregame notes from the other side of the tracks (AKA San Antonio’s evil lair):

As much as I’d like to make him out to be meaner in the situation than he actually was, Robert Horry scared a reporter right out of the lockerroom during media access. The team was again playing game film on their big screen which an unaware reporter stood directly in front of… for a very long time. Horry- seated at his locker – was the only one actually watching and rather than say anything, just stared at the oblivious reporter blankly. A bunch of us were up against the wall watching and wondering when the guy was going to catch on that he was in Horry’s way. The reporter finally made eye contact with Horry whose eyes grew in size to make his frustration apparent. The reporter looked back, saw he was standing in front of the large screen, heard the laughs of other reporters against the wall and walked right out.

Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich had some really interesting things to say in his pregame huddle. He must’ve been satisfied with our selection of questions as he gave a lot more insight than usual:

(On Suns coming out ready to play): “Just because we’re up 3-0 doesn’t mean we’re not playing a very good basketball and a team with a lot of people who want to win badly. They’ve got a lot of character so this will be a very big challenge for us… We happen to be ahead in this series but the series isn’t over.”

(On whether or not Phoenix’s style can win a title): “Nobody knows what can win a title. It works in the sense you can win doing what Phoenix has done. The fact that they haven’t won doesn’t necessarily mean that the system isn’t good enough, it could mean the other team was better or more talented or playing better at the time. But because there has to be a story, it must be the system, or the coach, or the players not bringing it. There has to be a reason and oftentimes that reason is misplaced.”

(On Grant Hill): “Grant obviously has some bumps and bruises that are keeping him from being 100% which is unfortunate for both him and his team. He was the comeback story and everybody really enjoyed having him in the league. Whether he’s on your team or not, you’ve got to love a guy who comes back after all he’s been through and plays. I’m sure he played in pain in Game 3, he’s just not the type of guy who’s going to complain about it, he’s just going to do the best he can.”

In my last game blog, I compared the Spurs to the NFL’s New England Patriots. Fitting that this morning one of the reporters would hint at that to Popovich who wouldn’t bite. She asked if there were certain coaches in professional sports he looks to for tidbits from a mental standpoint.

“Sure,” the Head Coach responded. “I enjoy seeing what other people do as far as strategically what kind of chances they might take or might not take and what their approach is in different situations. You can always learn something in that regards.”

When the reporter asked him if he would mention anybody specifically, Popovich stated, “Nobody that I would name.”

Before the reporter could even finish the name Bill Belichick, Popovich grinned and interrupted, “I wouldn’t name anybody. That’s a bucket of worms.”


Sunday, April 27, 2008
11:45 pm
Daniel Banks

Twice in my life I’ve experienced playoff elimination from inside an NBA organization. In 2004, the Lakers kicked the Spurs out in six games and then in 2006, the Mavericks used all seven games to send the Spurs to an early summer. It hurts, it haunts, it, frankly, stinks. I don’t want to experience it again and neither do the Suns. They have a chance to avoid a sweep today and they can certainly have an “us vs. the world” complex about today’s game.

First, you have the fact that no NBA team has managed a comeback when down 3-0. Second, you have the Spurs who have done the dirty work against this team before. And finally, today’s game is a Sunday ABC game. The Suns have had trouble with those games this season and will have to find a way to win while the sun is up. And find a way to win against the Spurs. And find a way to stay alive when facing an an early exit. It’s a tall order, but today it is their only hope.


Sunday, April 27, 2008
11:15 pm
Dan Hilton

This is it.

Are the Suns going to show some pride and get at least one game out of this series? The thought of needing to win four to keep going in the season is pretty daunting. Even one win at this point seems daunting. So maybe the Suns need to just play quarter by quarter. If they win the four quarters, they’ll win the game. If they win this game then they can think about the first quarter of Game 5.

I know it’s easier to doubt than it is to believe at this point but I can’t find it in me to give up quite yet.

Go Suns!