While the Phoenix Suns avoided a sweep on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs, it only delayed the Suns’ bleak future for the series and for the franchise.
Sure, it was a nice win, with a near triple-double from Boris Diaw, who seems to have one good game in every five. Shaquille O’Neal played well scoring 14 and grabbing 12 rebounds. Raja Bell maybe played his best playoff game exploding in the first half for 21 on his way to a game-high 27.
The usual leaders, Nash only managed four assists and Amare Stoudemire only scored seven which seems crazy when you realize the Suns won by 19, and led from the opening tip to the closing horn.
Phoenix head coach Mike D'Antoni's defensive switch that had Diaw guarding Tony Parker worked out very well as Parker was held to just 14 after coming off 41 in Game three. O’Neal held Duncan to 6-18 shooting while Raja allowed Manu Ginobili to just 10 points.
Recognizing the loss, Spurs coach, Gregg Popovich took his three stars, Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan out for basically the entire fourth quarter. As the Spurs B-team played on the Big Three were on the bench laughing it up.
Does anybody really believe, besides irrational Suns fans, think that the Spurs have any shot at blowing this series with two games left to play in San Antonio? Add that to the fact that the Suns would have to win four in a row.
The Suns defensive effort was great, but had Diaw ever played well for two games straight? For the Suns to have a chance he would have to play like he did in Game four for four straight games.
This simply will not happen.
Popovich will make the necessary adjustments that he always seems to make in order to win just like he did in Games one, two, three, and in leading the Spurs to four Championships in seven years.
So what happens to the Suns after they lose the series? Where do they go from there?
When Steve Kerr made the trade to bring in Shaq, Kerr was widely criticized but it was a move that had to be made. Shawn Marion had become a major distraction to the team and simply did not want to be there.
Also, the Suns were a great high scoring regular season team whose game simply did not translate into playoff dominance.
Was the Shaq trade a complete failure? Did this trade sink the Suns ship? I do not think so.
So what is the cause? I believe a few things did the Suns in.
The first simply is Father Time, besides Stoudemire, who is 25, the starting lineup is just old. Nash is 34, often injured Grant Hill is 35, Shaq is 36, and Raja Bell is 31.
Except for Stoudemire, the rest seem to already have had their best days behind them.
Couple the above with D'Antoni's seven man rotation, his unwillingness to use his bench, and it is clear to see the Suns have no players that they developed to step in for their starters.
Lastly is how Phoenix drafted the last couple of years. Can anyone remember a successful first round pick or any draft pick for that matter they actually did not trade due to cost cutting moves after 2002, the year they drafted Stoudemire?
Since drafting Stoudemirethe Suns drafts have went like this:
2003 Drafted Zarko Cabarkapa
2004 Drafted Luol Deng then traded his rights to Chicago
2005 Traded Quentin Richardson in a deal to the Knicks and acquired second round pick Dijon Thompson
2006 Had two first round picks. With the 21st pick they selected Rajon Rondo then quickly traded his rights to Boston. With the 27th pick, they selected Sergio Rodriguez, then shipped his rights to Portland for cash.
2007 Picked Rudy Fernandez at 24 then sent his rights to Portland. Selected Alando Tucker at 29, and D.J. Strawberry in the second round, both have since not gotten off the bench.
To make their situation even worse the Suns gave up their 2008 and 2010 first round picks to the Sonics to get rid of Kurt Thomas large salary.
The Suns future just does not look good; it might be time for a new coach and to blow the team up. Now, if Phoenix somehow comes back to beat the Spurs, they will not get through the Lakers.
But was mortgaging the future worth it?