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.
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
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.