In fact, you could say offense and defense are equally important, each half of the game. When discussing the Suns and Spurs, this hasn't been a popular approach for analysis over the years, with San Antonio's elite defense regularly beating Phoenix's devastating offense in the playoffs. This could be tied to pace issues -- the Suns' offense is at its best when the tempo is high, and the Spurs have perennially been one of the league's best at turning the hardwood into sand.
But as the Suns have knocked off the Spurs in the postseason for the first time in the 21st century, it's worth acknowledging exactly what was different this time around: Phoenix's offense wasn't stopped by San Antonio. The Suns offense won this series.
The series concluding Sunday, a Phoenix sweep, was the fifth postseason meeting between the teams since 2003. During this set, Phoenix's offense produced more efficiently than in any of the four prior series, scoring 1.13 points per possession, a really top-drawer level.
Did the Suns pick up the defense, as our old adage would suggest? Not really: S.A. scored as efficiently as it had in the teams' 2007 and 2008 meetings. Phoenix's defensive performance was virtually unchanged.
This isn't to say the Suns as a whole or individually didn't defend better than in prior series. The Spurs' offense improved this season, and Phoenix has lost ace defender Shawn Marion since those tough battles with San Antonio. Maintaining the 2007 and 2008 defensive levels can reasonably be considered an improvement for Phoenix, given the circumstances.
It's also worth mentioning that San Antonio's defense hasn't been up to its famous standard this season. While the coaching of Alvin Gentry and the bench play of Goran Dragic and Channing Frye certainly helped Phoenix's old guard of Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire have an impressive season and fantastic first and second round, the Spurs haven't defended in 2010 as they did in 2007 or 2008.
Still, it's worth noting that offense won this series and is fueling Phoenix's surprising run to the conference finals. Defense matters too, but let's stop dismissing offense as irrelevant when the postseason starts.