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Down for The Count
JACK MCCALLUM
May 05, 2008
San Antonio began its march toward a second straight title by pushing Phoenix to the brink and likely triggering the dismantling of the once-feared Suns juggernaut
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May 05, 2008

Down For The Count

San Antonio began its march toward a second straight title by pushing Phoenix to the brink and likely triggering the dismantling of the once-feared Suns juggernaut

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Phoenix coaches will tell you that they employed a variety of defenses in Games 2 and 3 in an attempt to combat the endless pick-and-rolls, even going to a hated zone. But all of the defenses were deeply flawed, even if credit is given to the metronomelike precision of the San Antonio offense. In Game 4 D'Antoni used 6'8" forward Boris Diaw on the 6'2" Parker, and that slowed Parker down. But the Suns don't specialize in situational defenses and active rotations, which require discipline and hours of practice to master.

Everyone in the Phoenix organization still gets a migraine thinking about the play late in Game 1 on which Stoudemire failed to switch off and cover guard Michael Finley on a three-point shot. With a clean look Finley sent the game into overtime, and San Antonio eventually won 117--115 in two OTs, setting the course for the series. Was Stoudemire told to make the switch? Yes. Was it his fault? Yes. But the Suns don't drill and drill and drill for those situations as the Spurs do.

Karma

Perhaps if Joe Johnson hadn't suffered an eye injury during the '05 postseason, Phoenix would've gotten by San Antonio and into the Finals. Perhaps if Stoudemire and Diaw hadn't been suspended for Game 5 of last year's conference semis, in an incident precipitated by Spurs forward Robert Horry, the Suns would've won that series and gone on to the Finals. Perhaps if Finley hadn't made that Game 1 shot and Duncan hadn't made his own three (his first of the season) to send the game into a second overtime, Phoenix would've gained control of this series.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. So much has to go right for a team to win a championship, and in the end not enough things fell in place. Keep in mind, though, that the Suns represent a clear majority. Teams—such as the Sacramento Kings, the Mavs and the Suns—rise then come apart if they don't make it to the top. Even some that do, such as the Detroit Pistons (the '04 champs) and the Miami Heat (the '06 champs), can't sustain excellence. We've seen that movie so many times before. Only the saga of the Spurs, who are gunning for their second straight title and fifth in 10 seasons, continues on a seemingly endless loop, the team alternating between really good and great.

But if D'Antoni does depart, let this be the epitaph of his run-and-gun tenure: It was great fun while it lasted.

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