Spurs Sink Suns Stung By Hornets

During the season, the Spurs/Suns rivalry was one of the more interesting, and with Phoenix adding Shaquille O’Neil just before the trade deadline, basketball fans were salivating over the matchup between the Southwest Conference rivals with many pundits seeing the series going seven games.  The Spurs, however, had different opinions.

The Spurs pulled out a hard-fought, 117-115 victory in Game 1 which saw Tim Duncan blow up for 40 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists.  The game was a classic between the two teams, going into double overtime, and Duncan hit a rare three pointer with three seconds left in the first overtime to extend the game.  In addition to Duncan’s effort, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili added 26 and 24 points, respectively.  The game set the tone for the series, as the Spurs went on to win 4-1.

Game 5 was the Duncan/Parker show, as they were the only Spurs to score in double digits (29 and 31), but the team’s defense was the difference down the stretch.  Although the Suns were better offensively most of the night, the Spurs defense caused several costly turnovers late in the game.  That, combined with solid free throw shooting by Ginobili as time ran out, allowed the Spurs to advance to face the New Orleans Hornets, and sent the Suns back to the desert to ponder their future.

This season, the Spurs have been a bit schizophrenic, putting together runs where they look like the defending champs that they are, and other times where they have looked like a team struggling to make the playoffs.  Against the Suns, the good San Antonio Spurs showed up, and took the series fairly easily.  Against the Hornets, it seems that the bad Spurs have appeared, and after two games, San Antonio finds itself down 0-2 having been beaten soundly by the younger Hornets.  In Game 1, New Orleans’ interior defense held Tim Duncan to a career playoff low of 5 points and only 3 rebounds.  San Antonio’s star center was double teamed all night long, and although the Spurs hit 12 three pointers but shot 31 for the game, and New Orleans won a comfortable 101-82 victory.

Unfortunately for the Spurs, the New Orleans formula worked again for Game 2, as their double teams rattled the defending champs, forcing them to shoot from long range, where San Antonio made 8-27 from behind the arc.  Tim Duncan recovered from his miserable Game 1, scoring 18 points and grabbing 8 rebounds, but it wasn’t nearly enough.  Tony Parker scored 11, and Brent Barry added 14.  Unfortunately, the Spurs defense was not up to par, as New Orleans shot almost 60% from behind the three point line, and nearly 50 from the field.

The series has been lopsided so far, but digging out of a two game hole is still something that the veteran Spurs can do against the young Hornets, but it won’t be easy.  The Spurs have to ratchet up the defense that allowed them to be the feared playoff team that can shut down any team in the league.   To be able to move on to the next round in the playoffs, San Antonio will have to come up with some answer for Chris Paul.  So far the young guard has outplayed Tony Parker, while Tyson Chandler has been holding his own against Tim Duncan.