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 firstname.lastname@example.org.