Meanwhile in the desert ...
The top-seeded San Antonio Spurs finally took care of business Thursday against the eighth-seeded Phoenix Suns, taking Game 6 from them, 87-85, at America West Arena and advancing to play the Lakers in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.
“Nobody wants the Lakers,” San Antonio forward Malik Rose said with a shrug while standing in a rather subdued winning dressing room, “but we’ll take them. Wishing for them is like wishing for Muhammad Ali in a boxing match. But to be the best you’ve got to beat the best. Deep down I’m just glad we won this series [Thursday night].”
The Lakers have taken out the Spurs like yesterday’s garbage in the last two postseasons, winning eight of nine games en route to bigger and better things. The Spurs did go 4-0 in the regular season against the Lakers and will play host to Games 1 and 2 on Monday and Wednesday.
San Antonio won Thursday despite only 15 points from Tim Duncan, last season’s most valuable player, who faced suffocating double-teaming from rookie-of-the-year Amare Stoudemire and his nearest available teammates.
Duncan made only four of 12 shots but had 20 rebounds and 10 assists in 45 minutes for his fourth career triple-double and second in the playoffs.
Like the Lakers, the Spurs had their moments of uncertainty in the first round of these playoffs. San Antonio shouldered its way past the Suns despite a lackluster shooting performance in the clinching game, aided only by the fact that Phoenix misfired more often.
Given its track record against the Lakers, which includes a 2-6 all-time playoff series record against them, San Antonio certainly cannot count on having better days and nights in the next round.
No question, Thursday’s game film will not be one the Spurs will be especially proud of showing to anyone but friends and relatives. One look won’t exactly have the Lakers quaking in their high tops. The Spurs survived 29-for-76 shooting (38.2%) plus 19 turnovers.
But San Antonio pulled away late, in part, because guards Stephen Jackson and Emanuel Ginobili each swished two three-pointers apiece on four consecutive possessions to build an 81-74 lead with 3:48 remaining.
Dealing with, and losing to, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Lakers hasn’t been the Spurs’ favorite spring pastime the last two years. But Duncan said the Suns helped to prepare them for the sort of pressure they might face against the Lakers in the next round.
“We’ll be waiting for them,” he said of the Lakers. “We’ll be ready to go. We’ve proven in this series that we’re a good road team. We didn’t want to go to a seventh game.”