Spurs Watch Former Draft Pick Goran Dragic Help Suns to 3-0 Series LeadMay 8, 2010
I mentioned before how nobody expected the Suns to win Game 3, but that nobody had also expected the Suns to be up 2-0 in the first place.
It's a 100-percent what-the-expletive fact that no one expected Slovenian Goran Dragic to torch the Spurs for 23 fourth-quarter points to give the Suns a 110-96 win and a 3-0 series lead.
Spurs fans have to be groaning right now, knowing they gave Dragic away in a draft-day trade in 2008, only to be exorcised by the very same 45th overall pick. That's the kind of stuff that happens to...Phoenix.
In the summer of 2007, Phoenix traded away Kurt Thomas and two number-one picks to Seattle for a "conditional second-round pick" and cash considerations. Seattle released Thomas, who promptly signed with the Spurs.
The following spring, it was Thomas taking an overtime charge on Amare Stoudemire in Game 1 of the first round, a foul that would disqualify Stoudemire and help give the Suns another devastating defeat at the hands of San Antonio.
That was a year after Suns' draftee and stud Michael Finley had a decision to make following the 2005-06 campaign -- Phoenix or San Antonio. He chose the Spurs and helped them beat Phoenix in the second round of the 2007 playoffs.
In other words, it had to feel really good for the Suns brass and fans, and really nauseating to their San Antonio counterparts, every time Dragic executed a mini Dream Shake, a Nash-like step-back three, and a heat-check four-point play.
What was also unbelievable was Spurs' coach Greg Popovich's lack of involvement. He basically watched helplessly as Dragic, whose jump shot Popovich once ridiculed, shredded the vaunted Spurs defense again and again.
By the time Pop finally called a timeout, the damage had been done. The Suns held an 11-point lead, the momentum, and the game in their hands.
It can't be overstated how unusual that is. Usually Popovich calls micro-managing, momentum-stopping timeouts after four or six-point Suns runs. Instead, no timeouts, no solutions, not for the Suns in general or Dragic in particular.
Barbosa (another former Spurs pick) also got in on the fourth-quarter fun, getting a couple diving layups and probably the momentum-swinging three-pointer that put the Suns up four. After the shot, Barbosa was, by all visual proof, visibly angry and competitive for the first time in his life.
Of course, it's only him, Nash and Stoudemire who really carry the brunt of the burden the Spurs have put on them this decade. It had to feel good for him to stick it in crunch-time, especially after being thoroughly flummoxed by the Spurs' defense in playoffs past.
Now, it's the Spurs who are flummoxed. Game 3 couldn't have started any more perfectly for San Antonio. The Suns had 19 points at the end of the first quarter. Stoudemire was ineffective. Ginobili was on fire.
And still, Phoenix crawled back from an 18-point deficit . That's unheard of in the history between these two teams.
Then again, that history never featured a capable Nash backup who, for one night, played well enough to keep Nash on the bench.