Phoenix lost a heartbreaker to the Spurs in the first game of their seven-game series, 117-115.
The Suns executed their game plan to perfection early and controlled the game well into the fourth quarter, but couldn’t put the Spurs away.
Their strategy to let Tim Duncan go one-on-one in the post and shut down everyone else backfired as Duncan put up 40 points and 15 rebounds. In the second half, Phoenix played horribly against the pick and roll, and Tony Parker continually exploited them to the tune of 26 points.
Amare Stoudemire dominated the Spurs inside and outside, but fouled out in the first overtime. That was key because San Antonio had no answer for him defensively. His 33 points and seven rebounds in the end were not enough.
Shaquille O’Neal was in foul trouble through the whole game. He was not able to effectively defend the post or the paint as the Spurs continually drove to the basket in the second half.
San Antonio won this game because of their toughness and strategy on offense. They made up their minds to attack the basket at every opportunity by using the pick and roll, fast breaks, and by exploiting matchups. They were relentless.
Even with that, Phoenix had a three-point lead with 15 seconds left and needed one more stop to get the win.
Mike D’Antoni’s defensive strategy was questionable at best as he had Barbosa guarding Michael Finley, who is much bigger. The Suns also had a foul to give that they didn’t use.
Finley hit the three-pointer that sent the game into overtime. The Suns were in the same position in the first overtime. One stop gives them the win, but they didn’t foul again, and they left Tim Duncan wide open for an unlikely three-pointer, his first on the year.
Steve Nash also played valiantly for Phoenix after Stoudemire fouled out in the first overtime.
His three-pointer tied the game in the second overtime and set the stage for Manu Ginobili’s heroics as he hit the game winner on a signature drive to the basket with less than two seconds left.
The big question is whether Phoenix can recover mentally after such a devastating loss in which they controlled and led most of the game. Down the stretch San Antonio’s stars stepped up, and the Suns could not match their intensity.
Grant Hill was not a factor in this game and finished with five points. Manu Ginobili missed all six of his three-point shots, but finished with 24 points. Kurt Thomas was a key for the Spurs as he played good defense and had 10 rebounds.
Both teams had problems defending the pick and roll. Expect a lot of defensive adjustments by both teams for game two.