Balanced Attack Leads Los Suns Over Spurs

Stoudemire was 11-of-13 from the line in the Game 2 win Wednesday.
(Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)
By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: May 5, 2010

The time-honored belief is that two heads are better than one. So what about six?

After a Game 1 victory that saw the bulk of the scoring load carried by Steve Nash, Jason Richardson and Amar’e Stoudemire, the Suns went a different route in Game 2 of their Western Conference Semifinal matchup.

The Suns put six players in double figures, led by Stoudemire’s 23 points, to propel the Suns to a 110-102 home victory over the visiting Spurs. The Suns now lead the series 2-0.

“I think it was about as gritty a win as we’ve had since I’ve been around here,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “I thought our guys played exceptionally well, but we never could get a rhythm going. I just thought that at some stage of the game we would try to make the run and we would be able to open the floor and we would be able to score a little bit, but it would have to come on misses and not makes.”

Steve Nash tallied 19 points and six assists, while Richardson continued his stellar postseason run, adding 19 points on 3-of-6 shooting from behind the arc.

But as fantastic as the trio from Game 1 performed, the boost provided by Grant Hill’s 18 points, as well as the 15 points from Channing Frye and 11 from Jared Dudley were what clinched Wednesday’s win for Phoenix.

That and the Suns’ timely defense.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well, but we kept getting stops on the defensive end,” Richardson said. “Even though we had a cold shooting night, our defense won the game tonight.”

Limiting San Antonio to one shot on offense, the Suns outrebounded the Spurs 18-to-7 on the offensive glass. That advantage earned the Suns 11 more second-chance points.

Phoenix came out of the gate cold, only shooting 35 percent in the first half. But the Suns remained close to San Antonio behind Dudley’s uplifting efforts off the bench.

“We were cold, we didn’t have any energy, he came into the game and gave us energy,” Richardson noted. “He got some offensive rebounds and really got the crowd into it with those and-ones. His energy fueled us to go on the run and tie the game at the half.”

The 6-7 swingman was able to get the hoop and the harm on three different occasions in the first half, giving his team a huge emotional jolt. Of his six rebounds, four of Dudley's were on the offensive glass.

“In the fourth quarter, we know that the way we’re playing on the defensive end that if we get a couple of stops, we’re going to score the ball,” Richardson said.

In the second half, the team’s shooting picked up, as well as the offensive production of Hill. The NBA Sportsmanship Award winner scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half.

“People tend to forget that (Grant) was a superstar,” Richardson said. “He still has moves, he still gets to the basket and he can still defend. It’s amazing that he can still do all those things.”

Frye also stepped up in crunch time, scoring nine of his 15 points in the second half. He was particularly lethal from deep, drilling 5-of-6 from downtown, despite missing his first two shots.

“I’ve been 1-for-11 before so I just shoot when I’m open,” Frye said. “I have to be a threat out there, I can’t let them sag off me. It’s my job to create space for Amar’e, J-Rich, Grant, Steve and everybody else who wants to drive to the hole.”

With the game knotted at 80, the team went on a 23-12 run to blow the contest wide open.

“I thought even when our shots weren’t going in we still did a good job of being active on the offensive boards,” Gentry said. “We’re somewhat arrogant when it comes to offense because at some stage, we’re going to make some baskets. We were playing hard, but in order to beat that team, you have to take it to another level.”

Up-Hill Battle

How do you slow a player on offense? According to the Suns, you make him work on the defensive end.

In Game 1 on Monday, Steve Nash torched the Spurs, and especially George Hill, for 33 points and 10 assists. In the first quarter, Nash was more aggressive than he had been all season, racking up 17 of those 33 points to start the contest.

“I was surprised by the ease in which Nash got to the basket,” Popovich said about Hill’s usually stingy defense.

Hill, a second year player out of IUPUI, came into this series against Phoenix on fire. In the last four games of the Spurs’ first-round series against Dallas, Hill averaged 19.8 points on 30-of-55 shooting from the floor.

But in Game 1, the active 6-2 guard shot a dismal 2-for-9 from the field to total just nine points. He also racked up four fouls as he attempted to stay in front of Nash.

Meanwhile, the two-time MVP was able to get to the basket at will, shooting 13-of-19 on repeated forays to the hoop. Hill was troubled by fouls once again Wednesday, earning three whistles in the first half before being forced to the bench.

In the first half, he scored only two points on just 1-of-4 shooting. As the Suns shifted their focus elsewhere, Hill started to heat up in the second half, hitting 4-of-7 from the floor in the second half to finish with 14 points.

“You know that Duncan, Ginobili and Parker are going to get theirs,” Gentry said. “We don’t want guys like Hill to get going too. He was one of the hottest guards in the league coming into this series.”

Suns Give All-Defensive Team Votes

Despite the strides the Suns have made on the defensive end this season, none of Phoenix’s players made the NBA’s First or Second All-Defensive Teams. However, two of their players did receive votes.

Grant Hill received four votes, including two for First Team All-Defense, while Jared Dudley garnered one vote overall. As perimeter players, Hill and Dudley were asked about what defensive players on the wing most impress them.

Dudley said it would probably be Cleveland’s LeBron James because “he’s so long and gets into passing lanes.”

Hill said that he wouldn’t name a current player because he still may have to face them in the postseason, but that the toughest defender he had to face in his career was Bulls legend Scottie Pippen.

“Defensively he would always get into your space and he was always attacking defensively and always being aggressive so you could never get that distance to go at him,” he said.

Not able to vote for his own players, Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said that he wouldn't argue with any of the players that were selected for First Team All-Defense. As for the player he’s facing in this series, San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, Gentry said, “Tim is going to be on there until he leaves the league and you can’t argue with that.”

Both Richardson and Frye would have voted for the Lakers’ Ron Artest for Defensive Player of the Year. Both of them said that he’s the last guy you want to be matched up with for 48 minutes.

“If you look at him, he makes every possession ridiculously tough,” Frye said. “It doesn’t matter who you are and it doesn’t matter if you make two or three in a row, he’s still coming at you all game. Ron has done a great job and they wouldn’t have won that series if he didn’t make it tough for Durant.”

Obama Comments on Los Suns

President Obama gave a shout-out to the Suns at the Cinco de Mayo celebration in the Rose Garden of the White House on Wednesday. While addressing the crowd, the President said, “I know that a lot of you would rather be watching tonight's game -- the Spurs against 'Los Suns' from Phoenix."

The line, which was in reference to the Suns wearing “Los Suns” jerseys for the holiday, was applauded by those on-hand in Washington. The gesture drew nationwide media attention leading up to Wednesday's game, but once the contest tipped off, it was back to business.

“We talked about it as a team yesterday and we agreed that we’d say what we had to say but once today came, we were going to focus on the game,” Grant Hill said. “I had to guard Ginobili today. We did a good job of not letting it become a distraction and just focus on the mighty San Antonio Spurs.”

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