The San Antonio Spurs are in an interesting position heading into the final week of the regular season. Despite a stinker of a performance against Minnesota earlier this week, the Spurs are still three games up on OKC for the first-seed in the Western Conference. The Spurs faced Dallas last night in the first game of a back-to-back that concludes with a home game against Phoenix tonight. The result against Dallas will probably play a large factor in what Gregg Popovich does with his lineup tonight.
With last night's win against Dallas, San Antonio will need just one more win to sew up the one seed. In an ideal world, Pop would want to rest his starters for at least one game down the stretch. If the Spurs have the one seed locked up going into the final game, it is likely San Antonio will rest most of the lineup against the Lakers, but Popovich has to be looking at this Suns game as an opportunity to rest players.
Seeding has mattered very little to the Spurs over the years. If it was a top priority, then Popovich wouldn't be so prone to resting players in big games. However, after running the table in March and building a cushion at the top of the Western Conference, it would be a blow to this team to not enter the playoffs as the top dog. Winning at Houston on Monday will be a difficult task, so beating Phoenix becomes a pretty important game.
If the season ended on Thursday, the Suns would be the first-round opponent for San Antonio, adding another layer to the onion Popovich must peel heading into the playoffs. We saw the Spurs hesitate to show a true rotation against OKC in the most-recent showdown between the two top teams in the NBA and Pop may try to avoid showing all of his cards against a Suns team that may be the first hurdle in getting back to the NBA Finals.
Phoenix enters the game at 47-31 on the season and coming off a 94-88 victory over New Orleans on Wednesday. The backcourt duo of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic led the way offensively in the win, combining for 36 points, 15 assists and nine rebounds against the Pelicans. P.J. Tucker has continued to become a consistent piece to the Phoenix puzzle, scoring 15 points and registering a +17 in the win, which was the highest on the team. Gerald Green led the team with 21 points off of the bench.
The Suns entered the season predicted to compete for a Lottery Pick and not a playoff berth. Instead, Phoenix may be the most pleasant surprise of the entire season. The Suns are sixth in the league in points per game, but only 29th in assists. It is a bit of a double-edged sword for the Phoenix backcourt. Neither Dragic nor Bledsoe is a true point guard. Each is capable of lighting up a stat sheet, but neither does best when asked to be a pure distributor. And with a frontcourt that isn't terribly efficient in the half-court offense, Dragic and Bledsoe are needed to score.
Phoenix has never been known as a great defensive team and that hasn't changed this season. The Suns are ranked 22nd in points allowed despite being 12th in rebounding. Miles Plumlee has been a pleasant surprise in the post, but he is not yet a defender that other teams try to avoid. Teams have been able to get to the rim with relative ease against Phoenix and that causes issues on rotations and leaves open shooters on the perimeter. If San Antonio plays its available roster, that is where the Spurs can really cause problems for this defense.
Matchup to watch: Containing Phoenix is all about forcing the perimeter players to give up the basketball. Dragic, Bledsoe and Green will be looking to score all night and it is up to the San Antonio defense, as a whole, to force those players to take perimeter shots instead of creating in the lane. This game probably comes down to what San Antonio team trots out on the court, but a Spurs team at full-strength should be beat the Suns unless one of those guards goes off.
Suns perspective may be found at: Bright Side Of The Sun
Game Prediction: Spurs by 6.
Line in Vegas: Spurs by 3 1/2.
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.
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