Tonight the San Antonio Spurs exhibited the divide between the Western Conference elite and the rest of the crowded bunch desperately fighting for a spot in the postseason. The Suns could have beaten many Western Conference foes tonight with their offensive output, but their defensive deficiencies were exploited by a clear NBA title contender.
Both teams came out gunning in the first. Tim Duncan scored the first 7 points for the Spurs with a variety of arc-less shots. Shannon Brown came up huge with 14 points. With the Spurs up 29-23, a 3 by Brown and a 2 by Nash cut the lead to 1 at the end of the quarter.
In the second, with the Spurs leading 42-36, Sebastian Telfair ran off 9 consecutive points to keep the Suns close, but the Suns defense couldn't stop a variety of Spurs from scoring at will. A Duncan bucket stretched the San Antonio lead to 52-43. But consecutive hoops by Telfair and Gortat reduced the Spurs' lead to 3. Both squads traded hoops until the midway break interrupted, with the Spurs leading 62-57. The trio of Gortat, Brown and Telfair led the Suns with 44 of the Suns' 57 first half points.
In the third, Shannon Brown continued his torrid shooting with a 3 and a 2 to start the quarter, tying the game at 64. The Suns went on 10-0 run to take a 69-64 lead. But the Spurs, led by Manu Ginobili, erased the Suns' lead. The Suns fought back, outscoring the Spurs 26-22, yet still trailed by a point at the end of 3.
In the 4th, the Spurs outscored the Suns 12-4, as the second unit led by Ginobili and Tony Parker scored at will while the Suns bench dwellers missed 8 of 10 field goal attempts. After a timeout Steve Nash and Channing Frye turned the ball over as the Spurs stretched their lead to 11. A Kawhi Leonard 3 gave the Spurs a 12 point lead with 5 minutes left. The Suns could get no closer than 5 for the duration.
BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH BULLETS:
"We weren't very good defensively ... we had a couple of crucial turnovers ... Tony's (Parker) been playing like an MVP. At the end of the games he does a good job of controlling games ... We over dribbled on too many plays ... We didn't do a very good job of flowing our offense ... down the stretch we gave up too many offensive rebounds ..."
This was a solid punch to the gut. The Suns could not stop the Spurs tonight. They competed, which constitutes a very, very, very small victory, but the outcome was a loss, which is a very, very, very large blow to their playoff hopes, especially on a night when 9th seeded Houston lost. There's no time to cry, no reason to kick the cat or give your girlfriend the silent treatment; the Clippers are up tomorrow night.
[Note by Wil Cantrell, 03/27/12 6:24 PM MST ]
Suns fans, I am going to dump the formalities here and get down to brass tacks ... Whereas yesterday I was lost, today I was found ... Yesterday I questioned whether there was a true rivalry between the Spurs and Suns anymore. But today I awoke to sunshine, and an odd, familiar feeling.
IT IS SPRING.
And spring means a couple of things to me, the most important being the Suns usual run at the playoffs. And when I think of the Suns and playoffs many thoughts race through my mind. But inevitably it all fades to black. And silver. Yeah, the Spurs. Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen, Robert Horry, Tony Parker and the ever smug yet somehow brilliant Gregg Poppovich.
Suns fans, you know as well as I do that San Antonio is, was and will continue to be a hated rival and arch nemesis of the Phoenix Suns long into the future. Well after Steve Nash dishes his final NBA assist, Timmeh limps off into the sunset, and Pops slinks off into some dark cave where he belongs.
There is no need to toss out fancy, colorful graphs, and I feel there's no use in dissecting this matchup in order to determine what the Suns need to do in order to win. I don't care about X's and O's tonight. I care about heart and pride. And while most of the present Suns were not on the squads to experience the misery of the early to late 2000s and the complete glee of the 2010 SWEEP, I believe they will understand how big a victory against the Spurs is.
For the 2012 Suns, the season gets no more important than March 27, at home, versus the San Antonio Spurs.
If you aren't jacked up for the game tonight, you may as well burn your Nash jersey and pick up a nice black and silver one with the letters B-O-W-E-N or H-O-R-R-Y etched into the back.
[Note by Wil Cantrell, 03/27/12 6:05 PM MST ]
Tiago Splitter and Stephen Jackson are "doubtful" tonight for the Spurs.