The Spurs beat the Suns. In NBA parlance, that makes the Spurs the "better" team. The beauty and tragedy of professional sports is that they are a bottom line business in which winning is all that matters, and losers are relegated to historical footnotes.
Okay, fine. I'll take my medicine and accept the fact that the Suns lost. I'll even (grudgingly) accept that the NBA "did what it had to do" by suspending Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw for Game 5.
What I will not
accept, however, is the ridiculous notion that the Spurs were simply a superior team and the suspensions didn't have a significant effect on the outcome. Are you kidding
me? Does anybody realize just how close this series really was? It was a dead heat in almost every statistical category, and it should be noted that the only truly dominating performance was put forth by the Suns in their Game 2 blowout. Let's take a closer look at the raw numbers.Scoring:
The Suns averaged 100.5 PPG (603 total points) to the Spurs 100 (600 total points). The Suns failed to reach 100 points only once -- surprise!! -- in Game 5. The Spurs failed to reach the century mark three times.Shooting:
The Suns shot 47 percent (226-for-477) for the series. The Spurs shot 45 percent (220-for-481). The Suns also shot 41 percent (37-for-89) from three-point range, while the Spurs shot 36 percent (44-for-122). The interesting part is that the Spurs attempted 33 more three-pointers than the Suns, which is the exact opposite of what I would have expected. The Suns shooting percentages for each game were as follows: 46, 52, 48, 48, 40, 48. Notice how they had their worst shooting performance in Game 5, when they were missing their leading scorer and best percentage shooter? I'm sure that was just a coincidence, though, and had nothing to do with Stoudemire's absense.Rebounding:
The Spurs averaged 41.6 RPG (250 total) and the Suns averaged 40 (240 total).Assists:
The Suns averaged 20.3 APG (122 total) and the Spurs averaged 18.5 (111 total). The Suns had their lowest assist total (18) in Game 5.Steals:
The Spurs averaged 7.8 SPG (47 total) and the Suns averaged 5.5 (33 total). The Suns worst game for steals was Game 5, when they had only three.Blocks:
The Spurs averaged 6.3 BPG (38 total) to the Suns' 6.1 (37 total). The Suns, however, outperformed the Spurs in this category in every game except
Game 5, when they were missing their best interior defender and had only three blocks.Turnovers:
The Suns averaged 14.5 turnovers (87 total) to the Spurs' 14 (84 total).
By the numbers, this series was exceedingly
close. The Suns worst performance, by far, was their critical loss in Game 5. They fell way below their series averages in every category except (surprisingly) rebounds. They led for most of that game, by the way, and only fell apart at the very end before losing by a mere three points. And there are people out there -- experts and analysts who get paid to break this stuff down -- who honestly believe that the Suns missing Stoudemire (their leading scorer, rebounder, percentage shooter, and best interior defender) and Diaw (his backup) when they already had a thin bench had no effect on the outcome
Whatever. Those people are living in the NBA equivalent of the Smurf Village. It feels like an attempt to convince the fans that everything's okay, that officiating and league adjudication have no real effect on the eventual outcome of any series. But there's something wrong in the NBA. It's been wrong for a long time, and there's no sign that it's going to get better anytime soon.
Think about it. The NBA suspended Kobe Bryant twice
this season for flailing his arms after a shot attempt and tagging his defenders in the chops. The league called Kobe's arm swipes "unnatural" moves and insisted that they endangered his opponents by striking them in the face. Then, after all that, they let Baron Davis pop Derek Fisher in the face with an intentional elbow, Al Harrington club Carlos Boozer in the face, and then allow Jason Richardson to clothesline Mehmet Okur. There wasn't a single suspension nor even a fine! Oh, did I forget to mention that Raja Bell got a one-game suspension in last year's playoffs for clotheslining Kobe Bryant? Where's the consistency? And don't even get me started on all the stuff Bruce Bowen pulls.
(Although I will say this about Bowen. Remember earlier this season when the league office called him directly and told him to lay off the "foot defense"? Well guess what? He's still doing it. Another example of how the league can't or won't police its players appropriately.)
That's what it's come to. Whether it's Dwyane Wade getting almost 20 freethrow attempts per game in the Finals or Joey Crawford suspending Tim Duncan for laughing, both casual and serious fans have reason to wonder what the hell's going on. It's also important to note that Crawford had every right to hit Duncan with a technical in that game. After all, the NBA enacted a zero tolerance policy against players complaining about calls. And everybody who knows the sport knows Duncan was doing just that. Hey, zero policy means zero policy, right? Whther it's stepping up off the bench to check on a teammate or bitching about a ticky tac foul. Crawford had the right to interpret that rule the way he did. But then the league came out and said what he did was wrong, even though they gave him the power and authority to do it.
Officiating is terrible. The league's tyrannical attitude towards certain rules and unwillingness to consistently enforce other rules is embarrassing and shameful. It's really sapping all the joy out of watching basketball for me. I might be done with the playoffs this year.
Labels: NBA playoffs, Phoenix Suns, rules, San Antonio Spurs