Suns may tweak ‘double Duncan’ strategy in Game 4

PHOENIX (AP)—Phoenix apparently will stick with its “double Duncan” strategy in the Suns’ crucial Game 4 against the San Antonio Spurs Sunday night, even though it failed miserably in Friday night’s 99-86 loss.

However, coach Frank Johnson said his team might be a little more selective in choosing when to send a second defender at the San Antonio superstar, who seemed to bait the Suns into double-teaming him in Game 3.

“He’s not even in the low post sometimes,” Johnson said. “Maybe all of a sudden there, we don’t hit him. When he’s in the low post, then bam, we hit him.”

San Antonio leads the best-of-seven first-round series 2-1. A victory Sunday would send the Spurs home needing just one win to advance to the second round.

“If they lose this one, they’re in trouble,” San Antonio’s David Robinson said before the Spurs worked out Saturday in Scottsdale.

Robinson, who sat out Game 2 with a partial cartilage tear in his left knee, said he felt fine after his 27 minutes Friday night and would be ready to go on Sunday.

Duncan, who took only six shots and scored 11 points in Friday’s victory, feels the series would be virtually over if his team wins Game 4.

“We came here to get two, and that’s the game plan,” he said. “It really is a turning point right now. We could kind of put this series away. Not discounting the fifth game, but we’d really put them in a hole.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said the only difference between the first two games of the series and San Antonio’s one-sided triumph in Game 3 was his team’s accuracy from the field.

“They just didn’t shoot well, and we shot well,” he said. “People are trying to find some magic in there—that we did something really clever or they screwed something up badly—and neither one is true.”

Phoenix could make things more difficult for San Antonio by playing better on the offensive end. The Suns are shooting 39 percent for the series, and managed only 35 percent in Game 3.

Stephon Marbury has been the Suns’ lone consistent offensive threat. In the series, Shawn Marion is shooting 35 percent, Penny Hardaway 35 percent and Joe Johnson, 1-for-11 in Game 3, 25 percent.

“If they shoot the ball halfway decent, where might we be?” Johnson said.

Spurs’ point guard Tony Parker, 3-for-20 in the first two games, scored a career playoff-high 29 points Friday night.

“He played with a great deal of confidence,” Marbury said. “Tomorrow we’re definitely going to try to shut that off, make him play defense the whole night, just attack him on the defensive end.”

Stephen Jackson added 20 points, many of them on wide-open shots. He is averaging 22 points in the series. While he didn’t score much, Duncan grabbed 23 rebounds, two short of his career playoff best.

“Honestly, I don’t know if it really matters how many shots I took,” Duncan said. “The guys shooting the ball that well, the guys getting wide-open shots and knocking them down, that just builds everybody’s confidence.”

Johnson said that, in reviewing videotape of the game, he found that the Spurs’ open looks usually weren’t the result of the double-team on Duncan. Instead, they were caused by the Suns’ inability to match up in transition defense or other defensive mistakes. He also said the team can do a much better job of pressuring Duncan when they do double-team him.

The Suns don’t believe San Antonio can produce another shooting masterpiece like the one in Game 3.

“That’s the first good game Tony Parker’s had against us all season,” Hardaway said. “It was a big game for him to have it, but you can’t think he’s going to make that many jump shots every day.”

Marbury said it’s simply a matter of effort.

“When it’s all said and done, the way I see it, we’ve just got to play hard,” he said.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 San Antonio
T. Duncan T. Duncan
3-6,  11 Pts
23 Rebs, 6 Assists
 Phoenix
S. Marbury S. Marbury
12-26,  25 Pts
1 Rebs, 7 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists