Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Phoenix Suns

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs matchup against the upstart Phoenix Suns, who have been surprising nearly everyone on their way to a 14-9 record.

San Antonio Spurs @ Phoenix Suns

US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
December 18, 2013, 8:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

The long week ended up costing San Antonio as the Spurs dropped Monday's road-contest with the Los Angeles Clippers, snapping a four-game winning-streak. Let's get this out of the way: there are no big wins or big losses for the Spurs in December. If the Spurs have anything to feel bad about going into tonight's game with a surging Phoenix Suns team, it's the health of Tony Parker's right shin, an injury that forced Parker to miss the final quarter and a half against the Clippers.

The loss to the Clippers was more about the grind of the regular season and the injury to Tony Parker than an indictment of where the Spurs are early in the season. Los Angeles is a quality team that should be considered a contender in the West, so there is no shame dropping a road-game to a top-four team in the best conference in basketball. San Antonio turned the ball over and didn't get the 50/50 balls; two things the Spurs normally do a great job of, and it could have come down to the game being the fifth in seven days for the Spurs.

San Antonio received a day off to rest its legs and recover for a shockingly good Suns team that is riding a five-game winning-streak and most recently knocked off Golden State, 106-102 on Sunday. Phoenix is 14-9 on the season and would be the six-seed in the Western Conference if the season ended today. Not bad for a team most projected to compete for the top-spot in the upcoming lottery.

Instead, Phoenix is surging behind the stellar play of Eric Bledsoe and the emerging talent of Miles Plumlee. This is still a league that rewards teams with an inside-out duo and those two are becoming a Cinderella story of sorts. Bledsoe leads the team in points (19.5), assists (6.4), and steals (1.8). He is also has a PER of 22.2. Plumlee, on the other hand, has become a force on the boards and as a shot blocker, which is something Phoenix hasn't had in a very long time. Plumlee leads the team with 8.4 rebounds and two blocks per game. He averages just less than 10 points a game, but his offense is coming around, and he is a guy that Phoenix doesn't have to draw up plays for because of his activeness on the glass.

Phoenix is an interesting team on offense because it has no point guard and two point guards at the same time. Technically, Bledsoe runs the point with Goran Dragic listed as the shooting guard, but either is capable of running the point while neither is a true point guard in an old-school sense. Dragic's ability to play off of the ball has turned the Suns backcourt into one of the more explosive units in the West. Dragic is averaging 19.1 points per game with 6.1 assists. Like Bledsoe, his PER is also over 20 on the season.

Channing Frye is a dangerous stretch-four that is still capable of putting up points in bunches, which he showed-off against Golden State in his last game out by scoring 20 points. He went five-of-seven from behind the arc. P.J. Tucker can be an offensive liability at small forward, but that is okay with the roster around him. He does the dirty work and has worked himself into a valuable NBA player.

The depth off of the bench for Phoenix can be light and that is what will play in San Antonio's favor if the Spurs can be close to full-strength in this game. Phoenix played just four guys off of the bench against Golden State with Alex Len out with an injury. That puts a lot of pressure on Markieff and Marcus Morris to be the top contributors off of the bench at forward with Gerald Green being the only guard that truly contributes.

Matchup to watch: It all comes down to if Tony Parker can play, because if he can't, Phoenix will have a decided advantage in the backcourt. Guarding Bledsoe and Dragic is a chore, but it becomes a task without your best guard. San Antonio should have an advantage down low and at the wing, so it comes down to the Spurs containing the production of Phoenix's guards.

[[Editor: After this was written Tony Parker was ruled out for the game against Phoenix and the game against the Warriors. ]]

Lineups

Starters
PG: Cory Joseph
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Tim Duncan
C: Tiago Splitter

Key Bench Players
Manu Ginobili
Boris Diaw
Marco Belinelli

Head Coach
Gregg Popovich

Lineups

Starters
PG: Eric Bledsoe
SG: Goran Dragic
SF: P.J. Tucker
PF: Miles Plumlee
C: Channing Frye

Key Bench Players
Markieff Morris
Marcus Morris
Gerald Green


Head Coach

Jeff Hornacek

Suns perspective can be found here: Bright Side Of The Sun

Game Prediction: Spurs by 5.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.

Get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment:

Tel: 210-444-5607 | dfarias@attcenter.com

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