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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs @ Phoenix Suns

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After beating Dallas in a thrilling season-opener, the Spurs look to improve to 2-0 as they head to Phoenix to take on the Suns. To Robert Sarver's delight, Pop will likely play more of his guys this time around.

Christian Petersen

San Antonio Spurs @ Phoenix Suns

US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
October 31, 2014, 9:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: KENS, RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

At the beginning of last season, San Antonio got an early glimpse of the rebirth of basketball in Phoenix. Before anyone had an idea that they would be competitive (much less push for a playoff spot), the Suns came into the AT&T Center -- minus Goran Dragic -- and nearly defeated a slightly-lethargic Spurs squad. It took Tony Parker scoring 15 of the team's last 16 points and Gerald Green to miss a buzzer three for San Antonio to pull off the win, which at the time seemed underwhelming. After all, everyone had low expectations of an unproven Phoenix roster, with a two-point-guard starting lineup, a collection of NBA journeymen and a rookie head coach.

Now we know better.

These Suns are dangerous, and an especially tough matchup for San Antonio -- with fleet-footed big men, a solid coach, and a penchant for pushing the ball up the floor. On Wednesday, Monta Ellis demonstrated how a quick, athletic guard can consistently pick apart the San Antonio defense. Phoenix happens to have three of them in Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and new arrival Isaiah Thomas.

That trio combined for 57 points against the Lakers on Thursday, leading the Suns to a blow-out win in their first game of the season. LA's JV team will make lots of players look good this year, but I wouldn't be surprised if that scoring output became a regular occurrence in 2014-15.

The Spurs' defensive focus begins with containing them, two of whom will generally be sharing the floor at the same time. While Dragic and Bledsoe will look to attack the hoop whenever possible, the smaller Thomas is happy to punish teams from mid- and long-range. All three will stretch the D and provide good looks for frontcourt players like Miles Plumlee and Markieff Morris. Plumlee's an athletic seven-footer and a handful coming off the pick-and-roll, while Markieff, the more offensive-minded of the siblings, can face up against slower defenders or post up smaller ones.

Rounding out the rotation are two three-point threats (Anthony Tolliver and Gerald Green), a poor man's Bruce Bowen (P.J. Tucker -- note: out, suspended for this one), another Dragic (Zoran) and another Morris (Marcus). Beyond Thomas, Phoenix doesn't possess an especially frightening bench and, if the Spurs second unit plays with focus and drive, San Antonio should erase any deficit suffered in the first quarter.

Hunger wasn't a problem in the Spurs' first game of the season. Tim Duncan chased down a ball before it went out of bounds, Manu Ginobili looked spry and driven, and together they rallied from a second-half deficit to defeat a talented Dallas team. That's saying nothing of Boris Diaw -- not because he did or didn't try, really, but because hungry Boris jokes aren't cool this year.

The issue, as Pop said in an interview on Thursday, was in execution. The team had 21 turnovers in total, and was slightly bailed out by making 14 of its 28 three-point attempts, including Tony going four for four. At times they made the wrong pass, and at others passed too much. It will take time to sharpen this aspect of the offense, but look for it to be a focus of tonight's game.

I guessed that Kawhi would be back from his eye infection last game and was wrong, but he'll be back for this one. Leonard may take a while to get back into the flow of the offense, but his presence will immediately be felt defending on the wing, where his length will be an asset against the three-headed Phoenix Hydra.

The frontcourt remains shorthanded with Tiago Splitter still out with a calf injury. Tiago's absence will push Diaw or Bonner into the starting lineup once again. I've penciled Bonner in for now, but he didn't see much of the floor aside from the beginning of the first and third quarters.

One player who saw significant time last game was Aussie Aron Baynes, the last Spur to re-sign during the offseason. Baynes looked good on both ends, showing confidence around the hoop for a few nifty scores while rebounding and playing the pick-and-roll well on defense. The Big Banger seems to have Pop's confidence to start the season (enough that Jeff Ayres got a DNP), and could be an asset tonight bodying up against the likes of Plumlee and second-year center Alex Len.

The Suns will undoubtedly want to push the pace and get behind the San Antonio defense every chance they get. Everyone on the Suns can run the floor and Dragic is deft at weaving his way to the bucket in transition. It's a smart, cheap way to get buckets and is surely something Pop will be ready for. The first time it happens will likely be followed by a time-out and a death stare at the parties responsible.

With a long rest after this one (they'll next play on the 5th against Atlanta), I'll look for San Antonio to come out strong and aggressive with Pop letting the ageing Big Three go for 30-plus minutes each. As long as their execution matches their effort, the Spurs should be able to get their second win of the season tonight.

Matchup to watch: Cory Joseph vs. Isaiah Thomas. Cojo is going to get plenty of minutes in these first few months of the season, and part of that will involve tough assignments against opposing guards. Monta Ellis relished going at him on opening night, but Joseph's got the size advantage on Thomas. If he can limit his offensive contributions, it'll put some pressure on Dragic and Bledsoe to produce even more. A quiet night from two of the three should be enough to get the Spurs the W.

@

San Antonio Spurs

Phoenix Suns

October, 31, 2014

US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona

9:00 PM CDT

TV: KENS

Radio: WOAI 1200AM

Starters

Goran Dragic

PG

Tony Parker

Eric Bledsoe

SG

Danny Green

P.J. Tucker Marcus Morris

SF

Kawhi Leonard

Markieff Morris

PF

Matt Bonner

Miles Plumlee

C

Tim Duncan


For the Suns' perspective, visit Bright Side of the Sun.

Game prediction: Spurs by 6.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and you can get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment: Tel: 210-444-5607 | dfarias@attcenter.com