(Otto Greule Jr/NBAE/Getty Images)

Losing Game 1 on your own home floor can often mean very bad things. Unless, of course, you win two on the other guy’s floor.

That’s exactly the type of obstacle the Suns had to face in their first-round playoff series against Portland. It’s also exactly the type of resolve they displayed in winning Games 3 and 6 on the road.

And it’s something they will likely need to accomplish in their upcoming series against the San Antonio Spurs.
Make that the dreaded Spurs, who have won four titles, at least one of which was a piece of cake after they got past the Suns in the West.

But back to the first round.

Back to knocking off the Trail Blazers, who placed all of their focus on Suns stars Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire, and understandably so.

But that gave players like Jason Richardson every opportunity to play a major role, and it is safe to say Richardson delivered — and then some.

He scored 29 points in Game 2, followed by a career playoff-high 42 in Game 3, then followed that a few nights later with 28 in Game 6. The Spurs may have had the Suns’ number in the past, but with numbers like those, Richardson and the Suns could very well keep moving on.

The good news is, Richardson knows it.

“Everybody knows what Steve can do, and everybody knows what Amare can do,” Richardson said. “I’m just trying to be that wild card, that third scorer, and help us get wins and go deep into the playoffs.”

It’s something Nash and Stoudemire appreciate, too. If the Suns are hopeful of continuing this surprising run, they will need a third option.

“J-Rich definitely shot the ball extremely well from the outside and he created for us,” Stoudemire said. “He’s been a great addition to this team, a great help in the playoffs, and hopefully we can see that great play continue in the next series.”

Then there was the defense. Yes, the defense. In the past, it wasn’t a term often associated with Phoenix basketball. Heck, it still may not be. Truth is, the Suns are so free-flowing and fun on offense, that people just assume they don’t care about the other end.

But they do, and it showed against the Blazers. In fact, it’s the biggest reason why they were able to capture two games in Portland. After all, when the shots aren’t dropping (as they often don‘t away from home), the best way to win on the road is to bend your knees, shuffle your feet and get after the man whom you are guarding.

“At the end of the night, (Portland) shot 38 percent,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said after Game 6. “That’s a credit to our defense. Nobody talks about it, but we really like it. In the locker room, we pat each other on the back.”

These are the types of things that will beat the Spurs, who are the No. 7 seed but eliminated second-seeded Dallas. The Spurs are getting older, fading a little, and trying to hang on to the glory years. Time is running out on them, and let there be no doubt, they are approaching the second round with a sense of desperation.

The Suns, on the other hand, have been the biggest surprise in the Western Conference all season. No one outside the organization expected them to do well, so they are playing with nothing to lose.

It’s a good place to be. The Suns are underrated, overachieving, completely loose and playing together. It’s what got them through the first round despite losing the first game at home.

And it’s what can carry them into the conference finals despite facing a team that has bounced them from the playoffs FOUR times since 2002-03.

But that was those Suns. They’re a whole lot different than these Suns.

That is why these Suns are looking at the second round as if it’s merely another fresh start.

“I told our guys we really don’t look at past history,” Gentry said. “This team has never played San Antonio in the playoffs. That’s the way we look at it.”

After watching the Suns all season long, you really have no choice but to believe the man.

Sam Amico is a reporter for NBA.com and a frequent contributor to Suns.com. He can be reached at amico@probasketballnews.com.


    I believe Gentry, he’s made all the right adjustments so far. With our Suns what concerns me most are the mental lapses and energy factor. I firmly believe the Suns are a better all around team than San Antonio this year. With that said, it doesn’t mean you automatically win just because it say’s so on paper. That’s why they bother to play the games. To get to the west finals our Suns will have to do something they haven’t been able to forever, play tireless, inspired, rough, focased, injury free ball for more than one or two games of a series. The Spurs are not the better team in this playoff round, it’s up to the Suns to believe it.

  • Joepssych

    Are you seriously comparing Portland’s defense to the Spurs’. My guys can cover more than two guys.As for the desperate Spurs, the only desperation I see is in Phoenix. That is why the suns have been trying so hard to mold themselves after the Spurs. It should be a fun series though not for Sunset Phoenix. GO SPURS GO!

  • GordonB

    Good job. Enjoyed it. There is only one thing…We have to be fast…cannot lazily make Steve or Goran dibble down to the shot clock.

    Gotta be quick. Therefore alert, and good decision makers.

  • Adam P

    Well with the new regulations that the players can’t complain to the refs without penalty. That means players like DUMB Duncan who complains after every call and gets in the refs face can’t do that anymore. Besides we all really know that the only reason the Stinking Spurs beat the Suns is because of the calls, which always seem to go to the whinny, crying, complaining babies aka the Spurs. Even if the Suns don’t win the championship I just want them to crush the Spurs’ and all their fans’dreams of winning again.

  • Rakeback

    Whew, pulled this one out. I didn’t like the flow of the game though…Letting the oldtimers back into the game after 12+ point leads is bad omen. What I did like though was the way the Suns managed to close out the game.

  • panda

    go suns go! burn the spurs this time!

  • dRock

    Joepssych makes a good point in that I think the Suns have to some degree modeled themselves after the Spurs. And I think the success they have had with winning games on the defensive end, both in the regular season and post-season, speaks for itself.


    Oh! we have a series and no the Spurs have never seen a Suns team play any form of defense. San Antonio saw it in game one and I think POP had a few choice words for the lads in the locker room. Fellow fans we deserve to enjoy this one, but lets not be blinded by our fortune. Facts to consider: How often is Nash going to score 20 in the first half? NOT ENOUGH!! How many times did Parker go to the basket uncontested, TO MANY!! How many focas lapses by our Suns, TWO BIG ONES, easily could have changed the outcome. We have a better team than the Spurs, but that advantage didn’t make us winners in the past although it applied to at least the year of the “walk off suspensions”. The Spurs win because they can usually play consistent games. Suns came close with Portland but even then our focas wavered badly in two games we lost. We can’t beat San Antonio if we lose our concentration. Why? Because we already have some gapping holes that can be patched but not filled. To finally beat the Spurs it has to be an all out effort. I think our Suns have the blueprint, can they read and carry it out?