The Phoenix Suns sucker-punched me. I must have been paying attention to the king when a queen came up and smacked me from behind. My expectations were tempered, I was braced for the worst. I was tentative about even watching the game. Then, BLAM. TNT cuts to the game already in progress and there’s that magic number: 1. The Suns are holding the Spurs to 1 point while scoring willy-nilly.
Now the 1 point defensive stand did not last very long, 2 minutes to be exact. But as that number hung there on the screen next to the word “Spurs” and the number next to “Suns” crept slowly higher, I got blindsided. I turned to my friend and said, “Goddammit, unbridled optimism wasn’t supposed to make an appearance this early in the game.” Yet, there I was and the world was Raja Bell’s gimlet-eyed oyster. And then, then, 3-D made what felt like his first appearance in about 2 years. What on earth was happening?
It was no good. Or, too good to be true, rather. Iron pyrite. Fool’s gold. The wheels had to come off at some point. But they didn’t. The calls went our way (and make no mistake, the calls did go our way, particularly the non-calls). The defense filled up the lane in astonishing un-Maginot like fashion. Raja’s 3s, Shaq’s free throws, and Diaw's drives kept falling. And then, after the bench put the fear of God in me by promptly surrendering 9 points as soon as they took the floor (and let’s give D’Antoni credit where credit is due: DJ Strawberry belongs on the bench for the time being), there it was: a Suns win.
Sonsabitches. I was ready to quit on the season. Though I had vowed not to start writing anything, I’d started making post-mortem notes. There was nothing to live for, nothing to look forward to, other than a vivisection of the Sarver-D’Antoni-Nash Era. And now, now dammit, I’m interested again. I’m looking forward to Game 5 because it’s one more chance to see them play again. And they’ll either play that beautiful game again or they won’t (that’s the kind of insight that gets me the big bucks here at the BSotS LA bureau).
Did you see the Spurs though? Not a rattled cage among them. Laughing on the bench at the end of a blowout. They know that while they play with house money, the Suns just maxed out their French Visa card to come back to the table. They saw Amare go 3-11 and Leandro 5-15. They know Steve had just 4 assists. They held the Suns to a mere 43% shooting. With the exception of a 15-8 turnover differential (the ball finally found the Suns’ defensive energy apparently), they played the Suns to a statistical dead heat. They’re playing tortoise; the Suns are playing hare. They’ll take it. It’s the system, stupid. The Spurs have the Suns and their fans right where they want them to make it hurt: confident, and caring again.