Must Win For Suns?
Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni had some advice for despondent Suns fans ready to jump off buildings.
``Go ahead and jump,'' he said. ``We've got six million people here. We're fine. It's a little overcrowded anyway.''
Obviously he was joking, but D'Antoni is seriously confident despite his team being down 0-2 in the first-round series to their longtime nemesis, the San Antonio Spurs.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Phoenix -6.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 193.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on San Antonio +6.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages). Bet this game.
``I'm on the ledge with them,'' he said, ``but I'm not going (to jump). I'm going to crawl back in, and we're going to play Friday, and we're going to bust them up Friday. That is our mind set. We still don't have any doubt that we can win the series.''
And there will be no major alterations in Phoenix's strategy.
``To be honest with you, we don't want to make a whole lot of changes,'' he said after the Suns' brief practice Thursday. ``We feel good about the way things are going.''
D'Antoni went on to say he might be crazy for thinking that, but he and his players believe they were their own worst enemy at critical times in the first two games of the series. Game 3 is Friday night in Phoenix.
``We had a lot to feel good about in Game 1, and we had a great first half in Game 2,'' the Suns' Steve Nash said. ``I think we've just got to tweak it a little bit, be a little bit smarter, a little bit tougher.''
The Suns had big leads in the first two games, only to succumb to the defensive pressure and offensive intelligence of the defending NBA champions.
Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich understands the Suns' confidence.
``We didn't beat anybody to death,'' Popovich said before the Spurs left for Phoenix on Thursday. ``We had to work out butts off, we had to have some good fortune, we had to play well down the stretch to win both games at home. They're going home, they're going to feel good about themselves, so we've got to be ready for that.''
Barring some great overnight improvement, Grant Hill probably will sit out Game 3 because of a sore right groin. He gave it a try in the first two games but sometimes was more of a hindrance than help.
``If he's not 100 percent, he won't play,'' D'Antoni said.
Hill said he has to realize when he's not well enough to play.
``I can't let the emotion of the moment make that decision for me,'' he said. ``I've got to be honest about it and do a better job of doing that than I did the first two games.''
Hill's absence will leave the team without one of its better defenders and ball handlers.
``We'll miss him for sure, but it's better to know that he shouldn't play him than to get him out there going half-speed,'' Nash said.
Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili sat out the Spurs' practice with bumps and bruises, but both should be ready to go Friday night.
``We can't be satisfied,'' Parker said. ``Since I've been here, we've been in all kinds of situations. In 2004, we were up 2-0 against the Lakers and they came back. So we just have to realize 2-0 doesn't mean nothing. We just did our job. We just won our two games at home.''
D'Antoni said the team's defense has been all right, but the offense hasn't. Phoenix went from a 65-point first half in Game 2 on Tuesday to scoring just 11 in the third quarter. The Suns didn't panic, D'Antoni and Nash said, but they weren't their free-flowing selves, either.
At least some of that was because of the Spurs' ``in our face'' defense, but D'Antoni said his team didn't respond as it should have.
``We need to up the production,'' D'Antoni said. ``We need to hoist 'em up, we need to run more, we need to move the ball a little bit better, and we need to play more carefree. We're a little tight right now.''
Nash had a similar assessment.
``I think we lost our rhythm, and instead of taking a step back to find it, we all put our heads down and tried to find it, and that just exacerbated the problem,'' he said.
Suns general manager Steve Kerr had a different take than his coach.
``It's just defense,'' Kerr said. ``It's just making stops when we need to. When they went on that little run and they were stopping us, if we could have buckled down a little bit and made stops, we could have withstood that little dry spell.''
This was supposed to be a classic first-round matchup of two teams with legitimate title aspirations. The Suns acquired Shaquille O'Neal mainly to provide a better matchup with a San Antonio team that has blocked Phoenix's playoff path two of the last three seasons.
But now Phoenix must win four of five against San Antonio. A win Friday night is imperative if that sunny confidence is to mean anything.
``I don't think these guys will be complacent,'' Popovich said. ``One worries about it, it's always there. There's always a natural tendency to feel good about anything that you've accomplished. But I think our team is experienced enough to know that they haven't accomplished anything yet, that the goal is way down the road.''