Round 1 of what is expected to be a competitive second-round series between Phoenix and San Antonio went to the home team, with the hot-shooting Suns knocking down 51.9 percent of their jump shots en route to a 111-102 victory.
1. The Suns' Big Two matched the Spurs Big Three. The pick-and-roll was working for the Suns all night with Amar'e Stoudemire (23 points, 13 rebounds) opening up wide gaps for Steve Nash (33 points, 10 assists) on most of the half-court possessions. The Spurs did their best to play Nash with just one defender -- a strategy they have employed in the past -- but Nash was getting too many free passes into the lane and when he got there, he converted: Phoenix scored a whopping 56 points in the paint.
That's not to say San Antonio's stars played poorly. Tim Duncan (20 points, 11 rebound), Manu Ginobili (27 points) and Tony Parker (26 points) had strong games, as well. But Parker missed some key shots in the fourth quarter and Duncan bricked five free throws that might have made the difference for the Spurs.
2. The X-Factors, however, were all Phoenix. What is it with George Hill and Richard Jefferson in Game 1s? With their Game 1 dud against Dallas still fresh in everyone's memory, Jefferson and Hill combined for 14 points (on 3-of-12 shooting) and a staggering minus-33 overall. The Suns' wild card -- Jason Richardson -- knocked down 10-of-16 shots and finished with 27 points, including a crucial three with 1:37 to go that pushed the lead to eight.
With the Suns desire to play small ball, the Spurs need much better performances from Hill and Jefferson, who both figure to be on the floor in San Antonio's three-guard, one-wing player and Duncan lineup in the fourth quarter. Hill, especially, will be counted on, as part of his duties will be to put pressure on Nash offensively and force him to expend energy on the defensive end.
3. Paging, Robin Lopez The Suns have to be a little wary about the lack of production they got from the center position. Starter Jarron Collins (zero points, one rebound) played nine ineffective minutes and while Channing Frye stretched the floor early, he finished with a quiet six points in 29 minutes. Phoenix got away without a true pivot in Game 1 by forcing the Spurs to play small ball, but with San Antonio's desire to play Antonio McDyess (19 minutes) and DeJuan Blair (11 minutes) more, the Suns may not be so lucky in Game 2. That makes the possible return of Lopez -- who has been out since March 26 with a bulging disc -- that much more critical.
Which bench will step up? Remove Parker from the equation and the Spurs subs totaled nine points with Roger Mason (zero points) and Matt Bonner (two points) among the culprits. The Suns reserves weren't that much better with the aforementioned Frye, Jared Dudley (three points) and Leandro Barbosa (five points) all failing to crack double figures. Neither team was plagued by too much early foul trouble, but it's bound to happen at some point this series. It will be interesting to see which bench unit steps up.