The Suns had practice today just about 12 hours after beating the tar out of the Portland Trail Blazers for the third time this series. Needless to say, everyone is well aware of the team's potential to close out the series in Game 6 on Thursday and are also aware the twice now, the Suns haven't played hard for the full 48.
Questions focused on how the team can be mentally prepared to face a desperate team in a hostile environment. As you might expect, the answers weren't exactly forth-coming. How do you answer a question like that anyway?
Steve Nash talked about making the most out of close out opportunities. Have a great attitude, be prepared and resilient and, "play our best."
Doesn't exactly answer the question though, does it? How do you avoid the possibility of another let down after doing so twice in this series?
Nash mentioned how hard it is to beat a team three times in a row in the playoffs, which, of course, is more of an excuse for Game 4 and not an answer for Game 6.
Coach Gentry gave it his best shot.
"It's just a battle of wills, really, and for us, we've got to understand that we go up there with the intent of winning the game. I told our guys I would be very, very, very disappointed if we come back to the locker room and talk about them playing harder than we are. That's not even an option that we can have. We can play hard and if we don't play well, we don't play well. Sometimes that happens. But we can't ever come back in the locker room and say that team played harder than we are."
It all sounds good, doesn't it? But the reality is that what's said between now and Thursday night doesn't matter for squat. What matters is how the two teams play facing a true win or go home scenario. Well, for the Suns, anyway, it's more of a play hard or go home either way type deal.
And it is that little difference in mental edge that will determine the outcome. If there's a Game 7 in Phoenix on Saturday, I am almost certain that will be the reason why. The Suns are clearly the better team in this series and they need to prove that in Game 6 and not wait for Game 7.
The difference could be huge come Round 2 which would likely start on Monday with only one day's preparation if this one goes the distance. If the Suns can take care of business, they should get two full days rest and maybe three if Dallas can push it to 7 games against the Spurs.
And folks, at the risk of looking ahead before the chickens have hatched their eggs in the roost, you have to root for the Mavs to win another game and force that one to go the distance.
Robin Health Update
Robin was on the floor again today going one on one with Dwayne Jones. Robin both tried some post moves on Jones and defended him as well. He looked like a guy who's not played basketball in several weeks. There wasn't much contact in the drills. Just a bit of bodying up and working on foot work and timing.
Coach Gentry gets asked about Robin often and his answer remains the same, "Don't expect Robin Lopez to come walking through that door."
At least not publicly, Gentry isn't even thinking about Lopez right now and the guy I saw today -- at least to me -- didn't look near ready to get back on the floor for the Suns.
Nash Health Update
If Steve is feeling any pain or having any issues, he's hiding it well. He was juggling the ball with LB and Goran (with their feet and heads) with quite a bit of skill and no apparent difficulty moving his body around and making quick actions with either foot, knee or his head. If you are not a soccer player, trust me -- you can't just stand in one place and keep the ball off the ground between three people without moving a bit.
Nash said he felt fine and didn't need the extra day off between Games 5 and 6, but of course will take it.
Nash and Gentry paraphrased notes
- We are getting a lot of open looks and got separation in games we won. In games we lost, we haven't made them
- Our defense has been solid and making shots has been the difference
- Don't see Roy starting being a big difference on what Suns do depending on how he feels and plays
- A lot times it's not going to be making the pass for the basket or getting the hoop because of the way they are trapping me
- Got to the line a bit to counteract what they were doing to me
- Amare not leading team in scoring. They are loading up on Amare and flooding the paint. We have to make them pay for playing that way
- It's important for Amare to not be carried away that his point totals and opportunities won't be the same. They want other guys to make the plays
- In last 3 months, Amare has evolved in how he reads the defense and when to go and when to pass and it's allowed us to rely on him in post up situation
- We are different team when our bench plays well
- We had great balance and got to the line. We were aggressive. We had a nice rhythm, as well
- I feel fine. I don't feel like I need it (extra days off) but I'll take it
- Compared to years past, we're deeper and can play more in motion sets and can go to Amare in the block and have a second unit that it seems every other game can take over
- "I think we are more equipped in different areas than we have in the past"
- We haven't seen LB at his best (due to injury) but I think he is right there and we have a lot of confidence that at any moment he can explode
- Roller coaster series. Our goal is to play as well as we did last night and win the game
- The energy level is what it is and we did it defensively
- We didn't think they could sustain making those shots and our guys were real calm about it in the first time out
- To be honest, I pulled our bench too early in previous games. They are a unit that takes a bit of time to get going. I decided before last night that these guys have done such a good job for us they deserve a chance
- I've got to stay confident in them even in a playoff situation. They've been big for us all year
- I was looking to cut down Steve's and Grant's minutes. When Steve can go in with 5 minutes instead of 10 minutes, he can be more effective in closing out games
- In Game 6, each team will try and control tempo
- LaMarcus only had 3 baskets close in and the rest were jump shots. You can't block his jump shot so you live with those. We want to challenge those without leaving our feet and take away his dribbling in and hitting that jump hook in the lane
- We've done a good job on Andre Miller. He hit two threes and we have to challenge him on those but we want him to try and beat us like that
- With Roy starting, we will just match up how we would when he came on the floor. We just got to play. I know that sounds simplistic, but that's really what it is
- If Roy's on the court, we're going to try and attack him. I've got a ton of respect for the guy that he's even out there. Most guys wouldn't be. When he's out there, we feel like we got to get him moving laterally and post him in some situations
- At 50%, he's still a pretty dog-gone good player, but I don't think his lateral movement is where it would be if he's healthy
- He's given them an emotional lift
- I would like Frye to keep the level he's at. It didn't hurt for him to get those early inside buckets
- We talked to Goran and now he feels a little more comfortable with the playoffs and understands that it's the same basketball as the regular season. He was confident and did well. I've got to stay with them longer and give them an opportunity to succeed
- They are trying to take him (Amare) away from being the number one guy in the series. The thing I like is that Amare's been great with it. He's stepped up and made the plays for others
- Have you considered starting Channing? Nah. We're fine the way we are. I like our rotation. Channing's going to play 30 minutes or so
- Goran's done a good job attacking and drawing fouls. I like LB off the ball where he's catching and shooting, but I like him on the ball, too. I tell you both those guys they have the ability to handle the ball. They both are good shooters and both can handle the ball
- JRich has played extremely hard. He wants to get to another playoff series