The first thing I need to say before starting the proper recap is that the Suns are awful. I'm not trying to burn a former rival or anything like that; after first losing Amar'e Stoudamire and then Steve Nash, the Suns are supposed to be awful. The Suns have a handful of good young players and they will have a lot of cap space this off season, but at this point, they are one of the least talented teams in the league. That wouldn't be as big of an impediment if they hadn't also gone through a coach change and some chemistry issues. They are a bad team with off court drama and were facing the best team in the league, so it's no surprise they got drubbed. With that out of the way...
The game started with Phoenix holding its own against the Parker-less Spurs. Without Tony orchestrating the offense, the Spurs went to Tim Duncan in the post too much, which killed the ball movement and prevented Nando De Colo from running things. It wasn't a bad decision by Pop considering the other players couldn't create for themselves, but these Spurs are not wired for 4-downs. The defense struggled a little bit getting into a groove and the Suns finished the first quarter up, 21-19.
The second quarter saw the Spurs ramp up their defensive intensity against a team that simply doesn't have a talented creator to get teammates open looks or a consistent scorer to throw the ball to in their second unit. Kendall Marshall might become the former some day, but I think the chances of Michael Beasley becoming the latter are slim to none. The Spurs, on the other hand, rode strong performances from Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills to pull away by double digits. Only some inspired play by Gortat kept the game from becoming an embarrassing blowout in the first half.
The Spurs started the third quarter up 14 and would maintain that buffer for most of the second half. Whenever the Suns attempted a little run, the Spurs responded and Lindsey Hunter's guys started to give up, as exemplified by a play in which Boris Diaw, AKA The Land Walrus, beat everyone down the floor. The Spurs got a max lead of 21 but, with the win secured, slowed down and finished the game 97-87, which doesn't paint an accurate picture of how one-sided this game was.
- Since I've criticized the Suns a lot in this recap, I'll say some nice things to compensate. They have some nice complementary young pieces already in place. The Morris twins, Kendall Marshall, Diante Garrett--none of those guys gets a fan base excited but they could play a role in the Suns' future. Ownership allowed GM Lon Babby to offer Eric Gordon a max contract, so you know they are trying to speed up the rebuild and are willing to spend. They will get a very high pick this year and depending on where the Lakers finish, they could get another pick. Dragic is good and their other established players are tradeable. Gortat, Scola and Dudley all have reasonable contracts and even Michael Beasley's contract isn't that outrageous. They likely have a good future ahead of them, but it will take some patience.
- Boris Diaw was aggressive on offense early on. He took three shots in the first quarter alone and made them all. He would finish the game 5-5 from the field with three assists. That, and the Suns ‘ mediocre defense, contributed to the Bonner-Diaw pair doing better this time around. I still don't like that Pop plays them together but depending on match-ups, and if Jackson is there to post up on occasion, it could work.
- Pop kept Tim on the court even when the game was under control. My guess is, he wanted Duncan to get back in rhythm after a good but not great Rodeo Road Trip. Duncan was erratic all game long, shooting 5-12 and notching three turnovers but because he is Tim Duncan, he also contributed ten points and eight rebounds.
- Kawhi Leonard wasn't particularly efficient, but he did score 16 points, pull down 9 boards and got three steals. Similarly, Danny Green didn't have a standout game but he connected on 40% of his threes (2-5) and had two boards, two assists and two steals. Good work by the Spurs starting wings.
- Nando De Colo got the start and didn't do a bad job, but Patty Mills vastly outplayed him. The Spurs seem to only need someone that can shoot as their back up PG, and both Neal and Mills are a better fit than De Colo for that job. Mills scored 16 points, mostly on jumpers, and provided his usual energy to put together a great all around performance. Unfortunately for Mills, the spot is Gary Neal's and I doubt Pop gives it away regardless of how well Mills or De Dolo do on any given night.
- Manu Ginobili read how the refs were calling the game and constantly looked for contact. It resulted in him going to the line for 15 free throws, which allowed him to score 12 points despite going 1-5 from the floor. Manu also displayed his court vision and flair with some great passes and was ready to swipe at the ball if the Suns' bigs lowered it, getting 3 steals.
- Like I mentioned, the game was called pretty tight. Both teams combined for 68 free throw attempts and 53 fouls. The Spurs allowed 13 offensive boards but only 13 second chance points so, yay defense!
The Spurs finished their annual Rodeo Road Trip 7-2 and while I'll let the rehash guys deal with the stats, I'll just point out that their net rating was superior to their season average and, had the ball bounced their way a couple of times, they could have gone 9-0.
Now the Spurs will play 17 of their last 24 games at the AT&T Center, where they've won 12 straight. The number one seed is not a lock but is the Spurs' to lose at this point. If the season ended today, they would be facing the Rockets, but the Lakers loom. There's still a lot of ball to be played and this team could beat either, so I'm not worried.
For the opponent's perspective, visit Bright Side of the Sun
Stats via NBA.com/Stats