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Friday, May 18, 2007
Suns Fans May Hate the Way the Spurs Operate


But Suns players and coaches -- like players and coaches around the league -- do not. That team is universally admired for being not only professional, but classy.

ESPN's Marc Stein reports:

... it's instructive to note that the Suns -- after everything that's happened through five contentious games and even though they're suddenly the closest thing in the NBA to America's Team -- don't just want to force a Game 7 on Sunday.

They want to force us to call them Spurs-like.

"They do a great job of their system and staying true to form, making big plays in big moments," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters in Phoenix on Thursday. "That's what we're trying to get. Mental toughness, being lucky, I don't know what it is."

The Spurs, D'Antoni added, just seem to "believe a little bit more."

"All the time," he said.

That includes believing that Bowen's knee to Nash's groin to clear space in Game 3 and Horry's frustration foul on Nash in Game 4 were pardonable acts in the do-anything-necessary quest to win a fourth championship in nine seasons.

The whole notion that the Suns are pure and sweet is, well, sweet. They are, in their own minds, an excellent team that has long been searching for a solution to their grit defecit. The whole "that other team is playing rougher than we are" line of thinking happens in every playoff series this Suns team ever plays in. Even against the Mavericks. It's something the Suns would like to fix. 

Let's refer once again to Jack McCallum's excellent profile of last year's Phoenix team, "Seven Seconds or Less." Shortly before Game 6 of last year's Western Conference Finals, with the Suns down 3-2 (much like today), this time to Dallas, the coaches are lamenting the team's lack of toughness. Kurt Thomas is injured, which makes things even worse. The Suns have noticed on videotape that Josh Howard has been repeatedly tripping Suns:  

D'Antoni does not suggest that Avery Johnson is coaching hard fouls. But the Dallas series fits seamlessly into the pattern of the two that preceded it -- the opposition does most of the attacking, and Phoenix, except for Bell, does most of the recoiling.

"I think Raja ought to go up to Howard before the game and say 'If you trip one guy, we're coming after your a--,' suggests Dan Antoni, half-seriously.

"Well, it would be better if we could do it with three guys," says Mike, "Kurt Thomas being one of them."

Sure, this or that play may have been extraordinary, but by and large the stuff that people are using to demonize the Spurs? The way Bruce Bowen and Robert Horry play and all that? 99% of that is really stuff you don't like about the NBA. That's how this game goes this time of year. 

It may well be worth discussing whether or not that's the way we, as fans, want the NBA to be. But just because Amare Stoudemire says San Antonio has cornered the market on hard-nosed play doesn't make it so.