Stu Jackson and the NBA, in their infinite wisdom, have come up with a solution where everybody loses. Everybody except the Spurs, that is.
You can check out the semi-lively discussion in the Diaries about the Horry-Nash-Stoudemire-Diaw fiasco from last night's Suns-Spurs game for more background. But by suspending a first team NBA player and the Suns first big off the bench for a home game in Phoenix, the NBA is going a long way toward gift-wrapping this series for the Spurs.
Moreover, we fans are likely deprived of what by all rights should be a close game, and a seventh and deciding game back in Phoenix. Obviously it's not a done deal yet, but the NBA has put the Suns in an extraordinarily difficult situation, simply because Amare Stoudemire took a few steps toward an intriguing situation to get a better look, without ever coming within 20 feet of Horry.
The biggest loser is likely the league itself, which just rewarded the Spurs for Horry's actions, when in fact they should be punishing the Spurs. There's no way - NO WAY - that anyone can argue that (a) Horry's actions were not the most punishable or (b) the Suns were not given the harshest punishment. Did Robert Horry premeditate this to get Amare Stoudemire kicked out of Game 5? No. But now that it worked, it's easy to imagine it happening again in the future.
The decision is all the more surprising given that Steve Kerr, a seemingly level-headed and unbiased observer (yes he's from Arizona, but he also played for the Spurs) pointed out in his Yahoo column that Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen both clearly left the Spurs' bench when Francisco Elson and James Jones got entangled earlier in the game. Hard to figure how 'letter of the law' applies in one case and not in the other.
The Suns may not be lost yet. They will be truly fired up, just as they were in Game 6 last year against the Lakers without Raja Bell. But this isn't Raja Bell. It's 2 of their 4 rotation players over 6'6". Basically, the Suns will have to play Kurt Thomas and Shawn Marion the whole game on Wednesday. If Kurt Thomas gets into foul trouble, you're looking at Pat Burke guarding Tim Duncan. Still, if Marion and Thomas can stay on the floor, Nash, Barbosa and Bell could get hot and the Suns could win game 5.