Friday, December 26, 2008

Composure is Coached

Reading through yesterday's post game quotes, two items caught my attention.

Amare Stoudemire said, “I think we played well enough to win. We played solid defensively, we rebounded the ball well, we played upside defense and did everything we could and had to, to win. Unfortunately, (Roger Mason) hit a three in the corner. It happens sometimes.” In a vacuum, this is correct. But the problem here is not a "sometimes" issue; this is an "all the time" issue. The game doesn't exist in a vacuum, and the Suns squandering opportunities to beat the Spurs is something of a running joke--the "that's what she said" of professional basketball. I'm obviously a Spurs guy, so I get a perverse joy from listening to the record skip. If I were a Phoenix fan, however, I'd be angry, but not at the Spurs. That's too easy. At some point, Phoenix fans just have to call their team out for not having the gall/guile/moxie/dial-a-cliche--balls?--to put the Spurs down. Let's move beyond the tired whiz-bang machinery of excuse-making. It's time. Bruce Bowen has left the building.

This leads to the second quote. Speaking of a moment late in the game, Tim Duncan reports, "That was a specific line that he (Popovich) used, ‘it will probably come down to one play in this game’ and it did come down to that." If one wonders how the Spurs manage to devastate the Suns with such frequency, this is undoubtedly part of the equation. Pop coaches composure into his squad; he allows them to prepare for the big moment minutes before it arrives. Popovich may not be a Zen Master, but he is a masterclass coach. This is a classic example of that psychological aspect of elite coaching which separates the gold from the dross. Or, if you will, this is the thing that separates the Spurs from the Suns.

2 comments:

Kenny said...

Are you serious? "It's an all the time thing"??? Is this your first year watching basketball? And by all the time do you mean the last 4.8 seconds of the game? Honestly.

Timothy Varner said...

Kenny,

When was the last time the Suns beat the Spurs when it counted? Have they won a single playoff series against the Spurs during the Nash-Stoudemire era?

Let me help you: the '05 Suns team finished the season with a 62-20 record, but lost to the Spurs 4-1 in the WCF. In the 2007 playoffs they lost to the Spurs 4-2, despite home court advantage. In 2008 they blew up their SSOL core and brought in Shaquille O'Neal, largely in effort to overcome San Antonio. They still lost 4-1 to the Spurs.

Each series has a notable subplot, namely the Suns choking. So, for example, the '05 Suns were the league's best team, but pissed it all away in their series against San Antonio. The '07 team came unglued and stormed the court, a contributing cause to their eventual failure. The '08 Suns had Game 1 in the bag but still managed to lose due to late game heroics by Tim Duncan, fueled in no small part by lousy defensive rotations---that game not only sucked the life out of the series, it also closed the door on the D'Antoni era in Phoenix. In yesterday's game they were up big early, but let the Spurs creep back in and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It was simply a replay in miniature of their recent history.

So, yes, this is an all the time thing. You weren't aware of that history, I assume?