The Spurs rested Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili after playing Thursday against Dallas. Tony Parker came back after a two-game absence with a back sprain. And they were facing a very good Phoenix team that is fighting for a spot in the playoffs. The cards were stacked against the good guys but they fought tooth and nail and came back to win the game and secure home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Suns are one of the worst teams to face on the second game of a back-to-back. They have very quick, athletic players at all five positions and they like to run. So it wasn't exactly surprising when they took advantage of live ball turnovers - the bane of the Spurs' existence - to get buckets and build a lead. Things got out of control early, as Phoenix's guards scored after ball-screens from mid-range or using stretch bigs to draw Splitter away from the paint. It seemed like Jeff Hornacek knew all of the Spurs' weakness and was ready to have his team exploit them. The Suns stretched their lead to 21 in the first quarter and it looked the Spurs were going to have to wait at least one more game before clinching the first seed in the West.
That's when Danny Green took over. Green scored eleven points between the end of the first and beginning of the second quarter and was the only reason the Suns didn't pull away. After surviving that first blow, the Spurs offense settled and the defense tightened up. Even though the lead remained in double digits, the Suns were unable to get transition buckets and were resorting to isolations on offense, going away from what had worked early. A push by the Spurs seemed all but inevitable until, out of the blue, the turnover woes returned. Fortunately, Danny Green came to the rescue once again, scoring eight points and assisting on a Mills bucket to finish the half. Going into the break the Spurs stayed at striking distance, trailing by 13.
If they were going to make a game of it, the Spurs were going to need someone other than Danny Green to provide some scoring. Parker, who seemed tentative to start the game, stepped up and contributed 14 points on just a little over six minutes on the court in the third. But most importantly, Tony's offensive explosion had a steadying effect on the Spurs' offense. The Suns couldn't rely on turnovers anymore to fuel their offense like they did in the first half. Kawhi Leonard joined in on the fun and San Antonio had momentum on its side. After trailing for almost 25 minutes, the Spurs finally got the lead with 2:45 to go in the third on a Belinelli jumper.
But the Suns are in a ruthless fight to get to the playoffs and couldn't afford to lose this one. They were not going away willingly. With the Spurs going small with Boris Diaw at center, Markieff Morris took advantage of his size to give the Suns the lead back with 7:02 to go. Kawhi Leonard responded with seven consecutive points, showing us a glimpse of how he'd look as the star of the team. But in the end it came down to hustle and execution. The Spurs got some key buckets and boards and hit their free throws to hold off the Suns and clinch home court advantage throughout the playoffs with a 112-104 win at home.
- Green scored a career-high 33 points on only 17 shots after going 5-9 from three the night before against Dallas. It's great to see Danny peak right when the playoffs are around the corner.
- Tony Parker looked healthy to me. I was a bit worried after he went 2-7 from the field in the first half but he really took over in the third quarter. With the Spurs now having secured home court advantage, I wouldn't mind if he sits the next two, just to be on the safe side.
- Kawhi Leonard keeps getting better and better. That's not normal. I honestly have no idea what his ceiling might be but those Pippen comparisons I used to find silly are not looking so far-fetched anymore.
- Just as I tried to not overreact to Austin Daye looking great on a couple of games, I don't think his poor performance here is a cause for concern. He will be cheap next season and he will have the whole summer to get used to being a power forward.
- Jeff Ayres was big for the Spurs tonight. Ayres is a great fit against quicker teams that like to run because he can get up and down the court. Pop leaned on him after sitting Splitter in the second half and he responded by grabbing 10 boards in less than 20 minutes and generally giving the team the shot of energy it needed.
- I really don't want to see the Suns in the first round. They are built to give the Spurs trouble. I believe San Antonio would eventually prevail but it might take six fast paced games to advance.
For the opponent's perspective, visit Bright Side Of The Sun
- Recap: Spurs secure best record in the league with 112-104 win against Suns
- Final Score: Spurs fall down 21, but come back to beat Suns 112-104
- Full Coverage: San Antonio Spurs vs. Phoenix Suns
- Playoff Countdown: Tim Duncan puts his playoff cards on the table
- GIF Breakdown: Spurs at Dallas Mavericks