The Phoenix Suns tried hard, but the efficiency of the San Antonio Spurs just overtook the Suns at the end of the game. The Spurs finished on a 15-6 run after the Suns had taken a 95-93 lead with 5 minutes left.
The San Antonio Spurs came into the game with a 10-3 road record, slightly better than the Suns' 9-3 home record, so a win in the Valley wasn't going to be easy.
Even if you discount the Spurs chances without their All-Star Tony Parker in the lineup, they are still THE SPURS who just were in the Finals AGAIN a few months ago. For those keeping score, that's 5 Finals over 14 seasons for Tim Duncan.
In fact, Tim Duncan entered the game having played 17 more minutes than the ENTIRE ACTIVE SUNS ROSTER for this game. Holy sheesh.
The game was close from end to end, but the Spurs eventually pulled away in typical Spurs fashion. The Suns came back on emotion and energy to take a late lead (95-93) but then the consistent Spurs closed on a 15-6 run.
I guess you can be encouraged that the game so resembled Suns/Spurs of old.
Or, you can stay up all night, unable to fall asleep, wondering why the fuck the Suns just can't get over that gaw-damm hump.
The game started off with the Suns not taking any
shit stuff from the Spurs and getting a few steals on hot dogging (Duncan) and lazy entry passes (backups starting at guard). The Suns lead was quickly up to 11-6 before Gregg Popovich finally called a timeout.
The first points were from Frye's two quick-shot threes. The last points were on a pretty fast break led by Bledsoe where he fed Frye to an open jam.
The Spurs ran their offense through Tiago Splitter, while the Suns ran theirs through Frye. A classic "who blinks first" move by both coaches because neither could defend the other. Within 6 minutes, Frye had 12 while Splitter had 5.
Pop blinked. He brought Diaw in for Splitter at the 19-12 timeout.
With Parker out, the Spurs didn't play their best lineup until Manu Ginobili entered at the 5 minute mark, joining Diaw, Duncan and Leonard along with Patty Mills for PG support. The Spurs briefly played well before the Suns continued to overwhelm them with effort and really good execution.
The Suns were on fire in this game to start, especially Frye. Frye started with 15 points in the first quarter alone, 6-6 from the field including 3 threes. Wow.
The Bledsoe plus/minus reared its head again, though. After leading 21-13 with Dragic and Bledsoe in together, the Suns were outscored 16-13 the rest of the quarter.
At the end of 1, 34-29 Suns.
The second quarter started slow, with the Spurs still boasting Ginobili, Danny Green and Diaw in the lineup while the Suns had Dragic and a few chuckers (Green, Morris, Morris). The Morrii forgot that the fallaway 20-footer is NOT the best shot on the court. Green forgot that a contested off balance three is NOT the best either.
The Spurs closed the lead to 1 right away and kept within 1-5 points through the first seven minutes of the Q while Archie Goodwin played with Dragic. Goodwin got to the rim on four straight drives, only finishing once and drawing free throws another time. The dude has so many skills, but man is that kid a 19 year old. He's a boy among those men out there.
The Spurs finally tied it with 4:50 in the second and then took the lead with 4 minutes left after Duncan returned while Ginobili took a rest.
Finally, Hornacek went back to the Slash Brothers along with Goodwin on a fast wing set. Goodwin quickly got a breakaway dunk off a steal, and then Bledsoe led a late-breaking break to Plumlee for the lead. The game seesawed back and forth after that, with the half ending at 59-58 Spurs lead. (was tied at 58, but a Leonard two was later ruled a three)
After getting torched by Frye in the first 7 minutes (12 points on 5-5 shooting), Splitter never returned. And Frye took only two more shots in 8 more game minutes, missing one. The Spurs adjusted.
Rookie Archie Goodwin played the entire second quarter in place of P.J. Tucker because he was hustling like crazy out there. He made two steal/breakaway shots and drove to the basket several other times with mixed results. At the end of the second, defending Manu Ginobili became a teacher/student thing where Manu got two clean step-back looks off great drive-fakes, but missed one.
The Spurs took a page out of the Suns' book, making 6 of 11 threes in the first half - a major reason they were able to take the lead. Many of the threes were open, off bad Suns rotations (Marcus Morris, to name one), so making them wasn't much of challenge. The Suns really need to tighten their second half defense.
The Suns made 5 of 7 threes themselves in the half, 57% of their shots overall and had 5 steals. But they also had 10 turnovers and were out-rebounded and out-assisted by the Spurs missing Tony Parker. It helped to have Manu Ginobili play most of the first half, and running out a rotation that's played together for years and just went to the Finals a few months ago.
Still, replacing Tony Parker with Patty Mills and Corey Joseph just isn't the sizzle on the steak. Yet Mills had 8 points (3-4 from the field, 2-2 on three) and 2 assists in 15 first half minutes, a plus-10 for the half. Not bad.
Here we go, second half! First team that plays defense wins.
The Spurs started the half with a 3/4-court press and an aggressive drive to the basket by Tiago Splitter to get another foul on Frye. Frye committed an offensive foul on the next possession, and he was quickly at 3.
And the Suns were quickly down 5. But then Frye made a three, and Bledsoe made a runner and the game was tied again.
Seesaw battle here. While the Suns are closing better than earlier this season, I wouldn't want to rely on closing this one against the Evil Empire if it came down to final possessions. That's how the Spurs won the first game against the Suns. Why not again?
The Spurs took the lead a few minutes later, ballooning up to 9 before the Suns came back with a three and a layup. It could have gotten a lot closer but the Suns missed a number of bunnies and the Spurs made an and-1 and a layup to get back to 9.
Only a Dragic three-point play (aided by the Spurs) cut it to 6 at the end of three.
The Spurs held the lead in the fourth with good execution on offense and defense, outplaying the Suns effort whenever the Suns tried to get close.
It helped the Suns, though, that Markieff Morris finally started playing toward the basket instead of leaning away from it. Morris made a thunderous dunk (that was almost stopped by the rim) and then a few drives to the hoop that scored or drew fouls. Those moves kept the Suns in the game while they otherwise floundered against the Spurs pressure.
For the last seven minutes, the Spurs brought back Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to a loud round of boos. I'll take this moment to give great credit to the crowd tonight - they were THERE for one thing, and they were loud.
These fans were ready to cheer on a Suns win, which really helped the Suns momentum in the 4th. And a young team needs that kind of help.
And with that energy, the Suns finally retook the lead with 5 minutes left, at 95-93. The crowd was LOUD, and the Suns were riding that high, if missing too many shots to take control.
Tie game at 95 with 4 minutes left on a Manu putback after a missed breakaway contested by Bledsoe.
But then the Spurs did some Spurs things. They defended the Suns tightly, while Bledsoe lost a bit of energy after playing so hard all game.
The Spurs took a 5-point lead with 2:26 left and never looked back. The Suns discombobulated while Manu became the Manu of old and made all the right plays from a few minutes.
The Suns just didn't have it at the end.
Like a shark that smells blood... The Suns have an opportunity to pounce on a wounded animal and make a statement to the rest of the NBA ocean.
The first time the Phoenix Suns (14-9) played the San Antonio Spurs (19-5) they lost the game, but won some of the important battles. At that point in the season the team was coming off of an impressive and unexpected 3-1 start, lost to the Thunder, and had a test against the Spurs.
This time around things will be a little different as Tony Parker will miss the game due to injury leaving the offensive keys on the desk of Cory Joseph, Manu Ginobili, and Marco Belinelli for the game.
Right now the Suns are catching the Spurs after one nights rest, but in the third game of their four game Western Conference road trip. Four games in five nights is tough no matter the record of a team or their pedigree around the league. Not having Parker in uniform plays into the Suns favor as well with the way that their back-court has been playing as of late.
In this game the Suns have an opportunity to continue the winning against the short-handed and tired Spurs.
The good thing about being in the Spurs position is that they do not need to take games like this type of game very serious. In their position they can afford to rest their players, strategically plan their season, and not risk a chance at a championship with a game in early December.
On the other hand the Suns have to take every game serious. They are an up-and-coming team that still has a lot to prove whether it is against the bottom of the league teams or against playoff contenders.
There is a statement to be made here by the Suns.
(Recent) History Lesson
0-1 Against the Spurs 99-96
Heading into the fourth quarter the first time the teams played the game was tied and then The Parker Show began. He scored 15 points on 7-7 shooting to close out the Suns in a "moral victory" for the team. The Suns proved they could hang with a contender and played them punch-for-punch before Parker delivered the knockout.
Head-to-Head (past four seasons including Playoffs)
Suns: 99.8 PPG (2 wins)
Spurs: 106.3 PPG (10 wins)
It has been one-sided.
Potential Spurs Inactives: Tony Parker (Right Shin, Out)
Frye vs. Duncan
Some match-ups are just unique and difficult for teams and players. Frye creates that for traditional power forwards and centers with his ability to shoot the ball, stretching the defense out. Against the Spurs he has not been that type of weapon with the Suns shooting 42.8% from three and scoring 8.2 points per game. However, over his past 15 games Frye is shooting 48.1% from three (2.5 makes a game) and seems to have his confidence and legs under him at this point in the season.
Since Frye arrived in Phoenix his shooting has not disrupted the effectiveness of Duncan on the block. He is still putting up 19.7 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game, both of which are within one of his career averages. Can Frye alter Duncan's game tonight? That could be the ultimate question for the Suns in whether they pick up the win or not.
Interesting Stat: 8.3 PPG 3.2 APG
Those are Joseph's numbers as a starter in 11 games with the Spurs in his short career. He is a very limited reserve that normally does not see very much action on the court in general, but when he starts he shoots the ball well (48.5% FG 50% 3PT%) and the team is 7-4 with a winning margin of +1 overall. That means in the four losses, the Spurs were ran out of the gym by margins of 40, 30, 24, and 10 in those games.
Meaningless Stat: 108.2
That is the Spurs offensive rating on the season, good for sixth in the NBA, but without Parker running the offense that is about as meaningful as my three-point shooting percentage in high school. Meaningless.
"You go here and you go there, we got this..." -- Bledsoe directing traffic against the Blazers
In Episode 49 of the podcast Chris Lucia of Blazers Edge joins the conversation to change it up a little bit this week. He had one central question and then the conversation just sort of evolved from there. We talked about how the Phoenix Suns (14-9) and Portland Trail Blazers (22-4) are the biggest surprises in the NBA at this point in the season.
How have the Suns beat the Blazers in 2/3 games with one game coming down to a buzzer beater? Answered that...
What is making the Suns so much better than expectations this year? Answered that...
Does Kris have a man-crush on the Blazers starting five? Answered that...
Did we talk for over an hour about two basketball teams? Probably... (yes)
We promise that this podcast is more entertaining than the 115 minutes of Joaquin Phoenix laying in a burning building and John Travolta talking him through some flashbacks. Swear. Better. This is better I swear.
Checkout Blazers Edge here
Here is the full podcast: Phoenix Suns Podcast Episode 49 (Joint Pod with Blazers Edge)