These two teams have played each other more than a couple times in the playoffs and the Spurs physical style usually beats out the finesse style of the Suns. But this is a new year and the Suns were the better team during the regular season…..but the Mavericks were also better than the Spurs during the regular season and they are at home now. Here is a close look at the matchups in this series:
POINT GUARD: George Hill is a emerging player for the Spurs. He is not a traditional point guard as Hill is more of a shoot first player. He will likely be all over Steve Nash in this series. Hill played in 6 games (all starts) against the Mavs in which he averaged 34.8 minutes, 14.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Don’t forget that Tony Parker will be coming off the bench in this series to also harrass Nash.
Steve Nash is one of the best players in the NBA as he makes his teammates all better with his passing. But his back has been barking late this season and the Spurs will no doubt be physical with him. Nash played in 6 games (all starts) against the Blazers in which he averaged 33.0 minutes, 15.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 9.8 assists per game. Nash also shot 47.2% from 3-point range against the Blazers so his shot is intact.
SHOOTING GUARD: Manu Ginobili is the “straw that stirs the drink” for the San Antonio Spurs. The teams goes how he goes as he brings a ton of energy to the basketball court. He played in 6 games (all starts) against the Mavs in which he averaged 33.2 minutes, 19.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
To win this series the Suns are going to need Jason Richardson to have another great series. He played in 6 games (all starts) against the Blazers and he averaged 32.3 minutes, 23.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.0 assist and 1.2 steals per game. He shot well from everywhere in the court in the opening series of the playoffs hitting 52.7% from the floor, 51.2% from three point range and 80.8% from the free throw line. Richardson will have to use his size advantage against Ginobili in this series.
EDGE: SLIGHT FOR SPURS
SMALL FORWARD: Richard Jefferson has not stepped up during the playoffs after sleepwalking during the regular season. But, he has the talent to step up at any time. Jefferson played in 6 games (all starts) against the Mavs in which he averaged 32.7 minutes, 9.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.
Grant Hill of the Suns is a warrior. A few years ago the doctors told him to quit due to injuries but he kept plugging away. He, unlike Jefferson, has a huge heart. He played in 6 games (all starts) against the Blazers in which he averaged 27.0 minutes, 8.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game on 50% shooting from the floor.
POWER FORWARD: This will be by far the best matchup to watch in this series. Tim Duncan’s power against Amare Stoudemire’s athletic ability. Tim Duncan is one of the most under appreciated stars in the whole NBA because he’s not flashy or selfish. Duncan played in 6 games (all starts) against the Mavs in which he averaged 37.2 minutes, 18.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.0 blocked shots per game.
Amare Stoudmire is going to have to step up against the Spurs as he seemed to be coasting in the first round of the playoffs. He will need to use his speed to get to the rim or the Suns could be in trouble in this series. Stoudemire played in 6 games (all starts) against the Blazers and he averaged 34.7 minutes, 20.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.7 blocked shots per game.
CENTER: Antonio McDyess has been playing decent basketball in the playoffs but most of his game is inside the paint. He played in 6 games (all starts) against the Mavs in which he averaged 26.3 minutes, 6.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. McDyess might see his minutes drop a tad in this series as the Suns will employ a outside shooter in Channing Frye quite a bit at center.
Jarron Collins is well rested as he didn’t play too much during the regular season. He started all 6 games against the Blazers in which he averaged 13.7 minutes, 1.7 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. Don’t look for Collins to play much more than he did against the Blazers as Channing Frye will get a lot of P.T. at center in this series.
BENCH: The Spurs will use Tony Parker off the bench in this series. He will bring instant offense off the bench and he will be all over Steve Nash in this series making him work at both ends of the court. Parker played in 6 games (0 starts) against the Mavs and he averaged 31.5 minutes, 15.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.0 steal per game. Matt Bonner could be a huge player in this series for the Spurs because he’s athletic enough to chase Channing Frye around. DeJuan Blair will likely get most of his P.T. behind Tim Duncan based on the style the Suns play. Roger Mason and Keith Bogans have plenty of experience and they could help out the Spurs if called upon.
The Suns are using their bench a lot more than usual and it has been a good thing lately. Channing Frye is coming off the bench at center but he’s playing starters’ minutes. Frye played in 6 games (0 starts) against the Blazers and he averaged 28.5 minutes, 8.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.0 assist and 1.0 steal per game. Leandro Barbosa (8.0 points), Jared Dudley (7.3 points) and Goran Dragic (6.8 points) all will help out offensively when they get on the court for the Suns. Forward Louis Amundson could also get some P.T. and his game is rebounding and defense.
COACH: Gregg Popovich is a master at coaching up his team in the playoffs. He berated his team after game one and then they played the rest of the series like a team on a mission. The Spurs have a 106-65 (62%) under head coach Gregg Popovich in the post season and they have won 4 championships of the NBA under him.
Alvin Gentry is pretty new to this post season thing. He did well to beat the Blazers in the first round of the playoffs but matching X’s and O’s with Gregg Popovich is a brand new animal to deal with. The Suns are 4-2 (66.7%) under Gentry in the post season.
PREDICTION: The Spurs have the playoff experience, the know how and the defensive ability to beat the Suns. The Suns however are a much more athletic team. Those contrasts make this a very interesting series that I see the Spurs winning in 7 hard fought games.