I’ve been disappointed in the past week by the lack of attention the national media have given the Suns. I was watching “Outside the Lines” on ESPN on Tuesday and they asked which team was more impressive in its second-round sweep, the Lakers or the Magic?
It’s a good question, but why no mention of the Suns?
The Magic was very impressive against the Hawks — a 53-win team in the regular season — winning the four games by an average of 25.5 points and have reeled off eight consecutive wins to begin the playoffs. The Lakers were also impressive against a more difficult opponent (Jerry Sloan and the Jazz’s maddening offense gives Utah — 53 wins in the regular season — the edge over the Hawks). The series against the Jazz was more competitive than the Magic’s series against the Hawks, with the Lakers’ average margin of victory only 4.75 points. Even so, you almost are forced to give the edge to the Lakers here only for the feat of going 2-0 in Salt Lake City to close out the sweep. You don’t win two in a row in Salt Lake during the playoffs. It just doesn’t happen. But the Lakers did it and they deserve the kudos.
What about the Suns? Their opening-round victory against the Trail Blazers wasn’t anything to write home about. Portland was beat up (big surprise) and without its best player (Brandon Roy). Suns in six? Sounds about right. But I fully expected the second-round series against the Spurs to be a classic seven-game series, complete with conspiracies, close finishes and at least one instance where Steve Nash kept playing despite a gruesome injury to his face (at least that happened, in Game 4). But the Suns demolished the Spurs, their long-time nemesis, completing a sweep in which Phoenix swept the Spurs with an average score in the four games of 109.5-100.25.
The Suns’ sweep was impressive and I don’t understand why they’re not getting as much coverage as the Lakers and Magic.
The Suns might meet their end in the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers. But I wouldn’t rule Phoenix out, either. The Suns have turned their high-octane offense into a slower-paced attack with the same level of efficiency — they are the highest-scoring team remaining in the playoffs at 105.3 points per game — and are playing the best defense I’ve seen from Phoenix in many years — they’re allowing 95.9 points per game. The scouting report on the Suns prior to the start of the playoffs was if you could control the tempo against Phoenix and slow it down, the Suns would fall apart. But the Suns have shown the ability in the first two rounds to win slow or fast. The difference is they’re playing better defense while continuing to shoot the ball with stunning accuracy(47.6 FG, 41.7 3P, .773 FT as a team in the playoffs).
The games between L.A. and Phoenix don’t start until Monday. I can’t wait.