The 2013-14 Spurs won the NBA championship playing “The beautiful game.” San Antonio sliced and diced opponents throughout that season with pristine cuts, filters and passes that brought basketball purists to tears.
No team can match the consistent offensive brilliance of Gregg Popovich’s group, but for one possession during Game 2 of the NBA Finals, the Suns looked positively like Spurs-ian.
MORE: Best Highlights from Game 2 of the NBA Finals
Note the movement of the ball in the second quarter of Phoenix’s 118-108 victory over Milwaukee, which gave the Suns a 2-0 lead in the series.
What an incredible sequence. The Suns completed 10 total passes on this possession, and every Phoenix player on the court – Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder and Deandre Ayton – touched the ball at least once. Four players touched the ball at least twice.
“We have a saying with our team, it’s called good to great,” Paul said when asked about the play after the second game. “We let good shots go by to get great shots, and it’s the generosity of our team. I’m sure they’d love to show their team that clip, and [Ayton] ends at the end “.
Let’s break this down and explain why the Bucks are busy covering this particular five-man unit.
First, Paul pushes the ball across the floor and sucks several Milwaukee defenders into the paint, forcing them to help out and regain the rest of possession. Paul finds Booker flying to the right elbow, and Booker kicks Crowder. When the ball goes from Crowder to Bridges, it looks like Bridges is going to throw a corner 3-pointer, but as Paul put it, “good to great.”
Bridges sends PJ Tucker flying with a false head, and Crowder moves to the other side of the floor. Paul lunges into the corner and, again, this is a potential corner triple. But Paul notices that both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday are closing in on him, so he throws the ball to Crowder. (Important note: Antetokounmpo is now in Paul).
Then Crowder passes to Booker, who is looking to isolate with three shooters on the perimeter and Ayton on the left block. Booker fires the ball back to Crowder after failing to foul Tucker. Crowder nearly flipped the ball over, but recovers and hits Bridges, who was cutting behind Booker.
Bridges acknowledged that his defender, Pat Connaughton, removed him to cover Booker, giving him the opening he needed.
Holiday advances toward Bridges, leaving Ayton wide open. Remember when Antetokounmpo picked up Paul? Well, that means the Bucks don’t have rim protection.
Tucker just isn’t big enough to challenge Ayton. That is a bucket, plus the lack.
The Suns starting lineup is very difficult to mark because, like the Spurs team, there is no weak link in any position. Although the Bucks are primarily focused on stopping Paul and Booker, they have to respect the Bridges and Crowder shooting. And they can’t ignore Ayton, who has been a great finisher during the playoffs.
But it goes beyond skill. The Suns know very well when the ball should keep moving and how to maintain adequate space.
“Just chemistry, trust, believe in your brother, believe in your teammate,” Booker said. “We actually talked about that play right after the game, Mikal and I, and he said, ‘I think it was the most emotional I’ve ever been after a play. And I was like, ‘Me too. The same here’. So when you play like this, it’s fun. It’s fun, everyone touches it, you feel the energy of the ball.
“When you get it, you want to make a play for someone else and something always opens when it pops and moves like that.”
If the Suns’ offense continues to perform like this, Phoenix will soon have more in common with those Spurs.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.