April 19, 2008
Fast Breaks: Spurs-Suns
By Marty Burns
Game 1   Leaders
Spurs lead series 1-0   Points Rebounds Assists
117 115
• "Here we go again." For the Suns, that has to be the prevailing feeling after Saturday's Game 1 loss in San Antonio. Once again, Phoenix let victory slip through its fingers against the Spurs.The Suns can blame it on bad luck if they want. Shaquille O'Neal was in foul trouble much of the game. They missed Amare Stoudemire (fouled out) dearly in the second OT. And Tim Duncan's three-pointer at the end of the first OT was a cruel blow from the basketball gods.But the Suns had many chances to put the Spurs away early and did not finish the job. Then late in the game they blew some easy scoring chances, with Stoudemire plowing over Kurt Thomas, Boris Diaw botching an easy runner in the lane and even Nash missing a key free throw late. You can't give a championship team like the Spurs any help if you want to take them down.

• How even was Saturday's game? The final stats tell the tale. Field goal percentage (Spurs 50.5, Suns 50.0). Rebounds (Spurs 43, Suns 42). Turnovers (Spurs 17, Suns 17). Three-pointers (Spurs 6-of-17, Suns 5-of-16). It doesn't get much closer than that.

• Despite the foul trouble, Shaq (11 points, five rebounds in 30 minutes) made an impact. He had four blocks, including a huge one on Manu Ginobili late in regulation. The 7-foot giant also showed he still had some nimbleness, poking the ball away from Duncan in the post and then hitting the floor in an effort to retrieve it.

• Give Spurs coach Gregg Popovich the early lead in the chess match with counterpart Mike D'Antoni. His use of the Hack-a-Shaq (and the Hack-a-Skinner) both worked. He called that play for Michael Finley at the end of regulation when the veteran guard nailed the three-pointer to tie the game. He also went small at the end of the second OT, forcing D'Antoni to pull Shaq off the floor. With no big man in the game (Stoudemire had fouled out), Phoenix had no inside presence to stop Ginobili on his game-winning drive and layup.

• The Suns' psyche now becomes a key factor. After last year's heartbreaking series loss to the Spurs, they must be wondering what it will take to beat San Antonio. It's too early to say Game 2 is a must-win for Phoenix, but it might need it just from a confidence standpoint.

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