No. 1 San Antonio vs. No. 8 Phoenix
April 17, 2003 Print it
Backcourt: Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson vs. Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway
. Edge: Suns.
Forwards: Bruce Bowen and Tim Duncan vs. Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire
. Edge: Spurs.
Centers: David Robinson vs. Jake Tsakilidis. Edge: Spurs.
Bench: Emanuel Ginobili, Speedy Claxton and Malik Rose vs. Joe Johnson, Bo Outlaw, Jake Voskuhl, Casey Jacobsen and Tom Gugliotta. Edge: Spurs.
San Antonio X Factor: Ginobili. He'll be used defensively to help on Marbury, and he must continue the offensive roll he was on at season's end.
Phoenix X Factor: Johnson. He also closed the regular season with a hot hand, averaging 20.7 points per game in his last six games. Teams tend to leave Johnson open when doubling Marbury, and if he can make his open shots, he could raise his profile this postseason.
Sidelight: This will be the final postseason run for Robinson, and the Spurs would like to send him out on top. Robinson's impending retirement has gone largely unheralded, but the accolades will build in the playoffs.
Outlook: This is not going to be the romp you'd expect from a 1-8 matchup. The Suns are playing good basketball coming into the postseason, and they were 3-1 against San Antonio in the regular season. The key to the series will be the star power, and the youngster who must line up against the opposing star. Duncan put up some of his best numbers against the Suns, scoring 29.8 points per game, with 14.8 rebounds and 7.0 assists. But Suns rookie Amare Stoudemire held his own against Duncan, with 14.8 points per game and 10.8 rebounds, helping to offset Duncan. On the other hand, Parker and the Spurs had no answer for Marbury, who abused San Antonio in all four matchups. He put up 32.5 points, 8.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds and shot 53.8 percent. Parker shot just 29.2 percent, and averaged 10.3 points and 3.5 turnovers. Still, the Spurs are rolling lately and have gotten very good play from Rose (15.8 points, 7.4 rebounds in April) and Ginobili, and they have a more talented bench than Phoenix. They must tighten up defensively, as a team, on Marbury. The scrappy Suns are good at home, and will make this a tough series, maybe even a seven-game affair. But the guess here is that the Spurs will take it in 6 games.