Spurs, Suns Renew Playoff Rivalry In Game One Of Western Conference Semifinals

(Sports Network) - The Western Conference semifinals matchup between the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs figures to be a clash of styles with a pair of teams that are intimately familiar with each other.

In recent years, the Suns were beaten by San Antonio in a 2008 first-round matchup and a 2007 semifinal series. Overall the two franchises have matched up nine times in the postseason with the Spurs winning six, including the last four.

The latest incarnation of the rivalry kicks off tonight as Phoenix welcomes San Antonio to US Airways Center.

"There's great history between us and the Spurs over the past five, six years," said Suns All-Star forward Amare Stoudemire. "It's going to be a great matchup between us and also myself and Tim Duncan. We always take the challenge of playing against each other. So it's going to be another great challenge for us. The Spurs play well in the postseason."

The high-flying Suns will want to push the ball and score in transition, using the incredible playmaking skills of former two-time MVP Steve Nash.

San Antonio, although possessing a quick point guard of its own in Tony Parker, would prefer to walk things up, limit possessions and force Phoenix into a half-court game.

The team that is able to impose its will likely will come put on top.

"It's hard to slow down when you play Phoenix," former NBA coach Doug Collins said. "If we got into rush hour traffic tomorrow and cars were driving fast you'd drive fast with them."

The third-seeded Suns reached the Western semis by downing the banged-up Trail Blazers in six games, clinching things in Portland on Thursday.

The Spurs, meanwhile, became the first seven seed to upset a No. 2 since the NBA went to a best-of-seven first round format in 2003, when they took out in- state rival Dallas in six games.

"We took a pretty good punch," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said after dispensing of the Mavs. "For me that was my favorite part of the game, to see the guys continue to persevere and pursue the basketball. They continued to play hard. They stuck together."

On the injury front for Phoenix, center Robin Lopez hasn't played since March 26 due to a bulging disk in his back but was able to take place in part of the team's practice on Sunday. The 7-footer is set to be examined by a specialist before the contest tonight and could play a few minutes.

"I feel a lot better but I still have a ways to go," Lopez told ESPN. "I just started running and you can kind of tell that a little bit."

The Suns haven't beaten San Antonio in the postseason since 2000 and the Spurs have compiled a 16-6 record in the last four playoff matchups between the two clubs. In fact, the last three times San Antonio has won the NBA championship, the team topped the Suns along the way.

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