Alex Len arrived. Isaiah Thomas reminded everyone he was already a great player. And Markieff Morris provided the muscle as the Phoenix Suns overcame an 11-point first quarter to beat the Spurs 94-89.
The Suns started the game okay with Markieff Morris stepping into a short jumper and Miles Plumlee making a driving hook, but then the Suns went ice cold. The Spurs slowly built an 18-8 lead on the back of Suns misses and a little bit of good defense.
The Suns missed 14 of their first 18 shots. All jumpers, which is part of the problem. Duncan didn't allow any layups, and the Suns didn't make their kick-outs. Bledsoe started the game 0-5, Marcus 0-3, Markieff 1-3 and Plumlee 1-3. The pace was too slow, much more to the Spurs liking than the Suns'.
The first quarter ended with the Spurs methodically leading 24-11. That's not a typo. 11. Even the Spurs would tell you they weren't playing very well. They were just playing a lot better than the Suns.
In the second quarter, the Spurs second unit played even worse than their first unit while the Suns finally woke up and were able to claw back to tie the game at 30-30. At this point the Suns still had just one three-pointer on the game, but had finally decided that attacking the rim was the best option. Alex Len helped a lot with that. He had 8 points, 2 rebounds and a block before Miles Plumlee came back out.
Then the starters came back out and the Spurs finished the half on a 15-6 run. Bledsoe and Dragic just seemed gobbled up by the Spurs length. Duncan, Daye (he's a terrible defender but he's at least lone), Green and Leonard all made shots at the rim a major challenge. Only Len had the length to compete there.
Suns down 45-36 at half.
The second half didn't start much better than the first half and the Suns were down 54-46 before Eric Bledsoe knifed through the lane to put back a too-short Marcus Morris jumper to get the crowd, and maybe himself, into the game. To that point, Bledsoe was just 1-10 from the field with nearly every shot being missed within 5 feet of the basket. The Spurs were really clogging the lane to cut off drives and the Suns were not making them pay with threes.
The Suns pulled to within 54-51 but then the Spurs started Spursing again. They got Tim Duncan close to the basket against Plumlee and Len and it was over each time. The lead was back to 7 (62-55) before the Suns called a timeout.
They had cut the lead to 5 when Anthony Tolliver took the most perfect open court charge... and the foul was called on him. Teams may end up using that clip to teach players proper technique, but this game it's a foul. Of course.
The Suns would not go away though, cutting the lead to two on a great drive by Isaiah Thomas into the body of Aaron Baynes. Thomas scored again and again (13 points in 17 minutes) and had the chance to tie the game but took a terrible fallaway three point attempt that had a long rebound, which Boris Diaw bulldozed into a layup with 0.2 left.
Spurs 71-67 at the end of three.
The fourth quarter started with a three-point fest - the Spurs making two to the Suns' one. Not the right direction. The Suns spent the rest of the fourth quarter playing catch up.
But then Hornacek unleashed the HYDRA again, along with Markieff and Alex Len and the Suns were able to take the lead with 3:30 to go, 88-87. Isaiah Thomas was just playing too damn good to sit. He had 23 again, this time in 27 minutes.
After a timeout, Markieff drove the lane against Diaw and drew the foul. And then Alex Len happened. He filled the lane on a cut and then dished the ball to Markieff for two-hand slam and 5-point lead.
Len had 10 points and 11 rebounds tonight in 32 minutes. HUGE game. Best game of his career.
Isaiah Thomas had 23 points again, this time being able to finish the game as part of the HYDRA.
Markieff was huge under the basket as well, with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 3 nice assists.
Good to see the Suns can win when two of three HYDRA are out of sync.
Not much introduction needed for a video of Goran Dragic teaming up with a dinosaur to scare his fellow Phoenix Suns teammates. You'll watch and laugh and maybe even be a bit scared yourself!