In about as anticlimactic a finish as the NBA playoffs have seen thus far, the San Antonio Spurs finished off the Phoenix Suns, 114-106 in the Western Conference semifinal.
Phoenix once again had the services of its NBA first team forward Amare Stoudemire and reserve Boris Diaw. Even with these players resuming their roles, the Suns weren't able to overcome a combustible atmosphere in the AT&T Center and dropped the series, four games to two, to the Spurs.
Phoenix fans will have their fair amount of beef with the officials, as is the case with just about any losing team in an NBA playoff game these days. Even if one factors in those few non-calls on the Spurs defense and the quick whistles when San Antonio was working its offense, the truth is that Phoenix allowed the Spurs triumvirate to close this series. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili eclipsed 30 points each, and Tim Duncan had his usual impressive but aesthetically unspectacular 24 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 blocks. Duncan's detractors can only point to his 2-of-6 performance from the free throw line.
But Game Six, despite it being the finishing blow, will never be viewed as the pivotal game in this series. That honor is equally distributed to Games Four and Five. For it was in Game Four where Stoudemire and Diaw earned their controversial suspensions, and in Game Five where they served them. Amare lead all scorers with 38 points and pulled down 15 rebounds in Game Six, providing ammunition to the train of thought that says Phoenix would have won the very closely fought game five had he been available.
As is the tendency with sports, controversy here burns white hot briefly and then quickly fades. The grumbles from this series will bounce off the walls in Phoenix for some time though, and there can be no doubt that the series' integrity was compromised by the game five dispute that has been the majority of NBA oriented discussion since the suspension were handed down late Tuesday. Even if San Antonio had won in a decisive Game Seven on Phoenix's court, the naysayers' flames would be somewhat doused by San Antonio winning said Game Seven against a fully active Suns team. As it stands, the decisive game will likely always be viewed as one played without Stoudemire and Diaw, and David Stern's ruling will always overshadow what was two fantastic teams continuing to bring the NBA back to the prominence it has in the past enjoyed.