Here’s the counterintuitive trick to beating the Phoenix Suns — you want Steve Nash to score. Seriously. The theory is that when Steve Nash is forced to shoot he is less dangerous than when he is feeding Amare Stoudemire and Grant Hill dunks. Phil Jackson has used this defense with a lot of success.
The problem — Steve Nash can score. The man is a very good shooter; you still have to make it hard on him.
George Hill and the Spurs did not — Nash had 17 first quarter points, seemingly all on layups, and that fueled a confident Suns squad that held on for a 111-102 win in game one.
Hill, a very nice up and coming player who looked so good against Dallas, got benched to start the second half after Nash just abused him. That really says more about Nash than Hill — three days off to rest his sore hip (and back and countless other nagging injuries) made Nash look like a new man. He finished with 33 points on 13 of 19 shooting.
Nash still got his assists (10) and late got the help he needed — the Suns ended the game on a mini-run capped by a Jason Richardson three that was the dagger.
Defensively — and the Suns do play some defense now — the Suns plan in the crunch was pretty clear: Don’t let Manu Ginobili beat us. They doubled him on the perimeter, took the ball out of his hands, and dared some other Spur to beat them with the three ball. It worked because the Spurs shot 21 percent from three (4 of 19) on the night.
Still, Ginobili had 27, Tony Parker had 26 off the bench, and Tim Duncan had 20 and 11. The big three for the Spurs shot a respectable 50 percent from the floor. All the other Spurs shot just 37 percent.
Still the Spurs had some answers, they actually led early in the fourth quarter. Well, I don’t know that giving Keith Bogans minutes is an answer as much as a band aid on the problem, but it worked — he was out there for the Spurs 13-0 run that made it a game at the end.
The game was close because the Spurs made a couple of nice runs, but the Suns dominated he majority of it. Those Spurs runs were enough to put fear in the hearts of Suns fans, people with plenty of San Antonio inflicted scars. But for most of the game, it was the Suns that dictated the tempo, the style of play. That’s why they got the win. If they can do that three more times, they can exorcise some demons.