All across the Valley, Phoenix Suns fans shared the same experience this morning. We woke up, rubbed our eyes and smiled. Yes, it’s true, the Phoenix Suns did vanquish the hated San Antonio Spurs to sweep into the Western Conference Finals. This was a storybook series. It was real world poetry with elements of foreshadowing, revenge, and at last… redemption.
“Our fans have gone through a lot of heartbreak and the Spurs have been the reason,” said Alvin Gentry before Game 1. This playoff series had shades of those earlier failures and that is what makes this sweep so sweet.
When we built “Anatomy of a Rivalry” it brought to mind some of those painful Suns exits.
I was standing just yards from the court in San Antonio in 2008 when Tim Duncan hit a rare three point shot that proved to be a fatal wound.
I was also in the AT&T Center on that day in May of 2007 when Steve Nash was sent into the scorer’s table and the Suns were sent home with a grudge that stayed with the team until Sunday night.
I was there in 2005 to watch the desperate Suns avoid a sweep with a Game 4 win which served as a “bright spot” in a dark history.
But this year was different. This team is different. They are playing with a kind of chemistry that is rare, it’s addictive, and it’s simply fun to watch.
In Game 2, the Spurs were staring at a 0-2 hole. As the fourth quarter drew to a close, Tim Duncan stood behind the three-point line and sank a long jumper. But this year was different. It was too little, too late.
In Game 3, the series shifted to San Antonio. The Spurs were expected to defend their home court and would likely even the series with some dominant defense. They’d shut down Steve Nash’s offense and, as Coach Popovich is fond of saying, “cut off the head of the snake.” And the Suns role players wouldn’t be able to react.
But this year was different. This year nobody told the bench they were supposed to roll over. Goran Dragic’s heroic fourth quarter, along with the energy from Jared Dudley and the rest of the non-Nash Suns put new fear into the hearts of the Spurs that should have been there all along.
And finally we have Game 4. Nash falls to the court and comes up bleeding after an elbow from Tim Duncan. It was almost eerie, it was gut wrenching, it was so similar to the worst playoff defeat in the Suns’ history.
But this year was different. This year not even six stitches could keep Nash off the court. He’d return to play the entire fourth quarter. He wasn’t going to miss a chance to send off his old nemesis.
You cannot tell the story of the 2010 Phoenix Suns without talking about the painful past, the struggles, the times hope was dashed. We know that for 42 years this franchise has fallen short of an NBA title but then again… this year is different.