I don’t know about you, but I slept pretty good last night. In fact, I even had to stop my viewing of “Seven Samurai” prematurely because I was so ready to hit the hay.
Spurs forward Tim Duncan is a large, intimidating, serious presence.
A combination of Spiderman 3 midnight showings and night-after-night of watching the Mets beat the Diamondbacks played a factor, sure. But in large part, my full night of sleep had to do with how good I’m now feeling about this Western Conference Semifinals series. In fact, if anything, I’m feeling even more confident than I was before the series began.
You look at everything that went against the Phoenix Suns and you’ve got to be amazed they were even in this ballgame. Amaré Stoudemire struggles, shooting just 6-for-19 and still finds a way to finish with 20 points and 18 rebounds. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker shoot lights out and finish with 33 and 32 respectively. The Spurs as a whole seemed to come up with every loose ball and a number of critical rebounds which led to second and sometimes third-chance opportunities. And finally you’ve got Steve Nash who found himself finishing a game without a double-double for the first time this postseason – and, oh yeah, missing the most crucial moments of the ballgame with a busted nose.
Everything seemed to be working against the Suns in Game 1 and still the game was undecided with just seconds to go. You’ve got to expect Stoudemire to get better as the series improves. You’ve got to expect Mike D’Antoni to find ways to slow down Duncan and Parker. You’ve got to believe Duncan and Parker will come back to Earth and are not each going to each average 30 points per game for the entire series. And you’ve got to expect Nash to be able to keep his face in one piece. Would just one of those things happened on Sunday, the Suns would find themselves up 1-0 in this series rather than the other way around.
I had the opportunity to take in both Suns practice and Spurs practice today, definitely a cinematic-like experience. The juxtaposition between these two well-run ball clubs is just amazing. The Suns are loose, friendly with the media – even referring to some members by name. Watching the Spurs with their Head Coach Gregg Popovich patrolling the court… well let’s just say the 1980 Russian hockey team came to mind. These guys are the perfect antagonists, I mean, they even wear black. You talk about a series of good versus evil, had Spiderman 3 had half the intrigue as this match up, it probably would’ve made for a decent movie.
Popovich is the no-nonsense coach, somebody you don’t want to ask the wrong question to. D’Antoni meanwhile is accessible and easy-going, there isn’t anybody in the world who doesn’t like him.
Nash is personable, the kind of guy who would help a little old lady across the street – a Luke Skywalker or Peter Parker if you will. He’s also got a lot better sense of humor then most people know. Case in point was during his post-game press conference following Game 1. Walking away from the podium after answering questions, Suns Vice President of Basketball Communications Julie Fie informed the media that Nash had required a total of six stitches. Nash – exiting the room – shouted back towards Julie, “Tell them it was 17.” Keep in mind this was after a loss, you can only imagine the good times following a victory.
Duncan on the other hand is large and intimidating, a guy not known as a jokester. In fact, you’d have a better chance of seeing Russell Crowe doing standup than you would the former league MVP.
There are lots of good guys on this team. Michael Finley – my favorite Sun growing up – has been a standup guy whether in Phoenix, Dallas or Houston. Manu Ginobili is also a personable guy who at times is hard to dislike. But despite all that, the San Antonio Spurs are in my eyes, the Evil Empire of the NBA… Only instead of Storm Troopers and Death Stars they’ve got All-Stars and fancy iced-out rings.
The bottom line is that playoff series are about adjusting, and after watching Game 1 it doesn’t take a genius to realize these two teams aren’t that far off. With that being the case, I think we’re in for a very long series ahead of us. One in which the good guys will hopefully find themselves on the winning end of.