Stoudemire Vows 'No Mercy' Against Lakers Big Men
When asked about the overwhelming amount of historical evidence that the winner of that game typically went on to win the series, Thunder players I spoke with talked and acted as if it was just another game. They would attempt to be at their best, as always, but there was no tough talk or swagger of any kind, no edge or necessary attitude. They were, of course, subsequently bounced from that night's outing and the series itself one game later.
Fast forward to today's Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, and it's an entirely different scene with these Phoenix Suns. At least if you count Amar'e Stoudemire as the team's spokesman.
As if being picked against by almost every media pundit out there isn't enough to stoke the Suns' fire, they continue to hear about the Lakers' frontcourt that so many expect to have its way with Stoudemire & Co.
"We definitely play down low," Stoudemire said when asked if he was tired of hearing about the 7-foot duo of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. "They just have two guys, so once you beat Gasol you have your little brother right behind you. That makes him a better player.
"I played against Gasol in Memphis, and it was total domination. But now he has his little brother with him so he's a little bit more confident now because he has someone to help him out in the post. But we're still here. We're back, and we're going to see what happens tonight."
Asked if Bynum's knee problems could perhaps turn Gasol into the defender of his younger years, Stoudemire went into ruthless mode.
"If he's banged up, we're going to try to bang him up some more," he said. "There's no mercy man. It's the Western Conference finals. We're here to play, and we're here to win."
As Stoudemire seemed to be aware, it'd be a good idea to win tonight if they plan on taking part in the Finals. Lakers coach Phil Jackson is 46-0 in playoff series in which his team has won the first game, and 78 percent of teams that won Game 1 in a seven-game series have gone on to win the series itself.
"You want to win," Stoudemire continued. "You want to leave a winning stamp on the league. You want to go down as a champion. That's every player. ... Even Charles Barkley right now wants to win a championship right now but he can't (laughs). That's what you ultimately want to do. We have the opportunity now to get very close, and to hopefully win one. We have to cherish the moment, to attack these games with no fear, with intelligence and make sure we execute on both ends."
And as it turns out, he's not alone in that feeling.
"We all feel the same way," he said. "One leader can't do it. The whole team must lead. We all feel the exact same way about our approach to the game. We understand the magnitude of this game. We understand how close we are to achieving a championship. And it starts one game at a time, and it starts tonight."
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