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 ]