Suns-Spurs Preview: 11/03/2010
A playoff sweep by the Phoenix Suns in May seemed to spell the end of the San Antonio Spurs' dynasty. However, their Big Three remaining intact and the addition of a few rookies have San Antonio thinking otherwise.
Few believe the Suns can produce a similar playoff run after their offseason of change.
These rivals meet Wednesday night for the first time since their postseason series, but this time Tim Duncan won't have to deal with Amar'e Stoudemire and he could leave Phoenix as the second-leading scorer in Spurs history.
"It's gonna be a tough game," Phoenix's Jason Richardson said. "They're gonna come in here ready. We put them out of the playoffs last year. They still got a Big Three."
A subpar 2009-10 from the 34-year-old Duncan, an up-and-down season by Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker missing 26 games led to San Antonio posting its lowest win total in 11 years. The Spurs did reach the second round of the playoffs before losing four straight to Phoenix, a team it defeated in four of the previous seven postseasons.
While Duncan is 23 points shy of matching George Gervin's total of 20,708 for second in franchise history, he's had a quiet start this fall, but Parker and Ginobili have been solid. Richard Jefferson (17.3 ppg) has stepped up after a bad first season with San Antonio, but it's youngsters off the bench who may be a bigger reason the Spurs (2-1) could bounce back this season and post their best start since 2007-08 on Wednesday.
Undrafted rookie Gary Neal had 16 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of a 97-88 road win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. James Anderson, the 20th overall pick in this year's draft, is averaging 7.7 points in 19.0 minutes per game and is 5 of 10 from 3-point range.
Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter, a former MVP in Europe taken eight spots after Anderson, made his season debut Monday after being sidelined with a calf strain and the Spurs believe he can be very productive.
"After all those years with so many vets, I think it's time for us to rebuild," Parker said. "We have great young guys, and we have to throw them into the fire - like (coach Gregg Popovich) did with me and Ginobili when we first came up. We have to be patient with them."
The Suns (1-2) also know they need to show patience as their new mix of players gets acclimated to each other. With Stoudemire having left for New York via free agency, Phoenix has a big hole at forward that is being filled by newcomers Hedo Turkoglu and Hakim Warrick.
Turkoglu, averaging 9.3 points, hasn't averaged below double figures since 2003-04. Warrick had 18 points and 11 rebounds in a win at Utah on Thursday, but he's averaged 6.0 points and 3.0 boards in the other two games and Phoenix lost both.
The Suns, off to their worst start since 2006-07, have had three days off to work on their cohesiveness since losing to the team that ousted them from the Western Conference finals. Phoenix fell 114-106 to the Los Angeles Lakers, getting outrebounded for the third time in as many games.
"We're still trying to learn one another and have a feel for what guys like to do and where they like to get the ball," coach Alvin Gentry said. "I think people forget, Steve (Nash) and Amar'e played six years together. That's a long time in this league. So obviously we had a feel of where people were, those two guys were on the same page. We've got to continue to try to get everybody in that situation."
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