Sunday, January 08, 2006

SUNS BEAT SPURS (and The League was there!!!)

Last night The League abandoned League HQ to travel to the recently renamed "US Airways Center". The contest: Your Phoenix Suns v. The Mighty San Antonio Spurs.

Tickets were provided courtesy Judy and Dick McBride via Santa.

Look, I love the Spurs. I started watching them in earnest around 1996 or so after abandoing the post-Championship Houston Rockets. I used to enjoy pretty much everybody but Vinnie Del Negro. I was a fan of David Robinson and Avery Johnson, and with the rest of the rotating cast they were a fun team to watch. And then, all of a sudden, they started winning Championship games.

Jamie and I moved out here to the Valley of the Sun, and initially I wouldn't watch The Suns. I was always scrambling up and down the dial for Spurs and Rockets games, but despite the popularity of the Spurs, they just didn't show many Spurs games out here. I watched a few Suns games, but wasn't too engaged. However, I'd really gotten to miss watching basketball in the evening as had become my habit in Austin once they launched Fox Sports Southwest.

I wasn't a Mavs fan. I can't stand Dirk Nowitzki (whiny prima donna) but I liked Nash, so once The Suns got Nash, I tuned in. Now that's a committment as every single game played is shown on one channel or another out here. SOme games, like the game on Friday night, was shown on two channels.

This season has been weird as only Nash and the highly underrated Shawn Marion are left in this season's line-up (Stoudemire is returning from surgery in February). But Mike D'Antoni is a heck of a coach, and he took a bunch of second and third stringers from other teams this year and has made them #1 in the Pacific Division.

Anyway, when you have tickets to see the Suns v. Spurs, it's hard to go wrong.

We stopped off at Majerle's before the game, then headed over to US Airways Center a little early. I wanted to go see the Paseo where they do the local pre, mid and post-game broadacasts, as well as the new "Jungle", which is sort of a mini Chuck E. Cheese's for kids up on the second level.

I'm not sure if it's because they're the current reigning champs, or some sort of Southwestern solidarity, but there were a heck of a lot of Spurs fans in attendance. Including the couple sitting next to us. Who weren't very friendly and didn't take kindly to a snip I took at Fabricio Oberto (who shares a name with a delicious brand of beef jerky).

Anyhoo, it was good and bad. We had to be on our best behavior with so many in Spurs fans in attendance, and as I'm a Spurs fan, too, I wasn't as inclined to spend the game on my feet screaming obscenities at the opposing team. Early on, Spurs looked like they were coming out strong against the Suns, but the Suns quickly caught up, and the Spurs never took the lead again despite a 4th quarter surge.

Manu Ginobili is a great player, but he's very frustrating to watch play live. I don't think the Suns have really forgiven him for falling over on Leandro Barbosa and effectively taking him out for the season with a knee injury. Everytime he hit the court, he was boo'd by Suns fans. Not that it really seemed to distract him. Once you decide a guy is a shady player, you start to notice a lot of little things he does that are kind of, goofy. Apparently the refs noticed it too, and by the 4th quarter the refs quit calling fouls on anyone around Manu. Which, of course, drove him insane. Anyway, Pop took him out and it wasn't an issue.

It wasn't a great game for either team. Both teams were playing beyond what I would describe as "competitively", and seemed kind of like they were out to beat each other up a little as much as score points. Except for Duncan. Duncan was just being Duncan.

We had a great time, and I walked out with an official Phoenix Suns Gorilla (that's our mascot. A gorilla. I have no idea why.) Jamie got a nice cap.

Will the Suns make the play-offs? Absolutely. Once Grant, Barbosa and Stoudemire come back, we're going to be better than #1 in our division. We're going to be fighting for a top slot in our conference.

But the Spurs are going to be the team to beat as long as they retain their current line-up.

Oh, and the half-time entertainment was hip-hop violist Miri Ben-Ari. That was really odd, but still a lot of fun. Much more so than the "Showstoppers Live!" Casino Entertainment we saw last year.

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