|Suns know playoff road gets a lot tougher now|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 03 May 2007 14:27|
Next up is a Western Conference semifinal matchup with the San Antonio Spurs - big, experienced and one of the game's best defensive teams.
Game 1 is Sunday in Phoenix, and it's a big test for a Suns team that thrives on speed and scoring.
It will take more than that to beat the Spurs, according to Steve Nash.
``For us, I think this series is going to come down to how solid we are at getting back on defense, doing the dirty work and fighting for every possession,'' Nash said. ``The offense will take care of itself, but we have to match them with our energy and defense and toughness.''
After Phoenix wrapped up its series against the Lakers with a 119-110 victory on Wednesday night, coach Mike D'Antoni gave the Suns off Thursday. They will be back at practice on Friday.
The Spurs won two of three against the Suns during the regular season. Both wins came in San Antonio - 111-106 in overtime on Nov. 11 and 92-85 on April 5. Phoenix's victory came at home, 103-87 on Feb. 1.
In that win, the Suns got 25 points from Leandro Barbosa and 23 rebounds from Amare Stoudemire. Both figure to be key players in this series.
``They are a tough team,'' said Barbosa, whose speed and outside shooting make him a tough matchup for anyone. ``Everybody knows they have a lot of experience and a lot of good players, but we have good players, too. What we want to do is just play the way we like to play.''
The Spurs excel at guarding the Suns' perimeter players, and that makes Stoudemire even more important than he normally is. Two seasons ago, when the Spurs beat the Suns in five games in the Western Conference finals, Stoudemire averaged 37 points.
What followed was a lost season for the Phoenix big man. He played in only three regular-season games in 2005-06 and sat out all of last year's playoffs while recovering from two knee surgeries.
Stoudemire has returned as, in his words, ``a more polished basketball player,'' and a counter to the inside prowess of the Spurs' Tim Duncan.
``I am definitely looking forward to it,'' said Stoudemire, who averaged team highs of 24.2 points and 13.6 rebounds in the Lakers' series. ``It's been two years since I've played against those guys in postseason. As a team, I'm pretty sure we're desperate to get a win.''
The Spurs played arguably the best basketball in the league after the All-Star break, and nearly caught Phoenix for the No. 2 record in the NBA.
Nash believes that his team must win some low-scoring games against San Antonio to win the series and advance to the conference finals for the third year in a row.
``They are very disciplined. They do a great job,'' Nash said. ``We know it will be difficult to get our easy baskets, our fast-break points, our 3-pointers. We'll have to find a way to grind it out and win some games that may not be in the hundreds.
``They expect to have a couple of games in this series be in the 80s, and for us to win the series, we will have to win some of those.''