Now, the sweep is complete. The brooms (used only once before on a Memphis team that has yet to EVER win a playoff game) made their appearance in another gutsy, come from behind victory by the Suns.
In a related story, the team is now short a monkey (note that it is not short a gorilla, although this monkey is at least as large as THE Gorilla). Reportedly, it grew tired of hanging behind players. Team sources state that the team will not be seeking a replacement at this time, nor any time in the future.
What made this series so great? Here is what I saw that I loved:
1. It was the Spurs. Beating them would have been a treat enough, but a sweep? It was like going to your favorite restaurant and ordering your favorite dish, but then you find out that you don't have to pay. You would have been happy with the meal itself. Getting it for free is a very pleasant bonus. Beating the Spurs was a necessary cleansing event for all of us fans. It in no way erases the bad memories of past playoff nightmares, but at least we are not poisoned this year.
2. In the final three victories, it was almost as though Phoenix was toying with the Spurs. It was as if they said, "Hey, guys, let's spot them 10 points or so and then just rip out their souls by coming back and beating them, even when they think they have control."
I don't believe that any of the D'Antoni teams would have been able to remain as calm in the face of adversity. Especially against the Spurs, if they found themselves with an early deficit, they would pack up and call it a game, saying, "we'll try again next game."
3. My kids are becoming fans. They watch intently and intensely each possession. Every score and miss is cheered enthusiastically.
The goal is now to teach them tempered fandom, especially in a game that has so much scoring. Cheer exuberantly with great plays, but don't get too down with the disappointing results, so not to ruin the other parts of life. (I know, you may wonder what those other parts are. Trust me, they are out there.)
They are learning who the players are and what they do well. Fortunately (and unfortunately) for now, they have not experienced any heartbreak that is part of being a fan. I hope that this is delayed as long as possible.
4. Steve Nash is one tough dude. He gets clipped with a Tim Duncan elblow (not a typo: I believe that this should be the official term for a blow from an elbow), and doesn't shout, fall down, or anything.
When TNT showed the replay of the bloody nose game, I forgot how his nose got the full force of Tony Parker's head and Nash doesn't even flinch, but Parker looked like he had been shot. Makes me realize (and I'm going to get killed for this one) that, as dirty and bush league as the Horry hip check was, Nash overplayed it with the flailing of the arms. There was some acting going on for the Canadian tough guy.
5. Goran Dragic. Outside of San Antonio, is there anyone who doesn't smile at the performance he had, knowing his short career story so far? He obviously still has some growing and improving to do, but that performance was magical. It even prompted someone to tweet, "If you don't like Goran Dragic, you probably hate puppies. And ice cream. And the elderly." I would have to agree.
6. The Suns won without Robin Lopez. Lopez was seen as the key and the catalyst for the late season success that Phoenix had. A healthy Lopez certainly would have been good to have, but no one thought that the Suns could make such short work of San Antonio without him.
7. The Suns won WHILE STARTING JARON COLLINS. My buddy asked me why I thought that the team kept coming out slow against the Spurs. It didn't hit me until tonight. Phoenix is basically playing four-on-five. Collins is useless offensively and defensively.
While I agree with Gentry in keeping Channing Frye playing with the second unit because it kept more continuity with what had been successful, I do not know why (other than out of sheer respect for him as a veteran player) someone like Dwayne Jones is not playing those minutes.
Yes, Jones is inexperienced, but he has one very strong skill set (rebounding) that would complement Amare Stoudemire in the starting unit, much like Lopez did when he was healthy. Jones couldn't be any worse offensively or defensively than Collins, especially considering he also gives length at 6-11.
8. The bench contributions. Since opening night against the Clippers, the Suns second unit has been a strong point. These players don't just hold the fort, they contribute, build leads, and cut into leads, creating team momentum.
It is well documented how Mike D'Antoni's teams had no quality bench play outside of Leandro Barbosa. Whether it was more lack of talent (after all, name one former Suns bench player that went on to make any sort of contribution to any other team after leaving Phoenix...waiting...I told you, you can't), lack of trust by D'Antoni, or just his stubbornness in playing his best players, this year Alvin Gentry has developed perhaps the best second unit in the league.
All five (yes, a complete second unit) players have made meaningful contributions all year long and all have had signature games.
Unfortunately for all of us fans, it will be at least another week until the Suns play again. It likely will be the Lakers (did I ever mention how much I hate all sports from Los Angeles?) and it will be a very challenging series. If Lopez is not ready to go, the Lakers' size in the frontcourt will be difficult to overcome.
So far, it is the year that Phoenix finally gets past the Spurs. Is it THE YEAR? I don't know. But what I do know is that this year of watching the Suns has been more satisfying than any other year previously. So bring on Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, and Jack Nicholson. It's going to be a great series.
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