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Scrappy Suns set slowly against the Spurs

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The Phoenix Suns, with a roster decimated by injury, hung with the Spurs for three quarters but the Silver and Black's deep reserves blew open the game in the final quarter as Boban Marjanovic, Jonathon Simmons and Kyle Anderson all had valuable contributions. Devin Booker shone brightly for the Suns, but didn't have a lot of help.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns, their roster decimated by injury, only dressed nine players for tonight's game against the San Antonio Spurs, and lost P.J. Tucker about halfway through the first quarter, leaving them with just eight eligible players for the rest of the game.  One of those eight was Devin Booker, a 19-year-old rookie who is the youngest player in the league, and possibly the best player for the Suns tonight.

The Spurs were also missing some of their guys, Tim Duncan (rest) and Tony Parker (sore hip) were out, but San Antonio still had enough firepower on their bench to easily handle the Suns. The Suns played hard for Jeff Hornacek until they ran out of gas at the end of the third quarter.  Even without two of their best players, the Silver and Black overwhelmed the Suns with their depth and wealth of talented players, starting with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, and finishing with Boban Marjanovic, Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons.

Game Flow:

As Spurs fans have become accustomed to, the Spurs offense started the game in mothballs, somewhat exacerbated by a long layoff before the game. Fortunately for the good guys, the Suns had even more trouble getting their offense off the ground, and after a couple of scoreless minutes, the Spurs scored first on a LaMarcus and-one to lead 3-0, a lead they would never relinquish. Ray McCallum assisted David West on a jumper before Devin Booker sank a three-point shot to open the scoring for the Suns.  The teams traded baskets for most of the rest of the quarter, but the Spurs started to build a bit of a lead with balanced scoring and solid defense against the Suns. The Spurs held a 25-18 lead by the end of the first. Coach Popovich, in the interview between the first and second quarter seemed to be OK with his team's performance, as he said "They're fine, it's just a slow start."

The second quarter started off a little better for the Suns with a driving dunk from Alex Len and a putback from Cory Jefferson, who the Suns had just added on a 10-day contract. Jonathan Simmons and Boris Diaw scored for the Silver and Black, and Kawhi Leonard, the All Star, despite missing some shots, continued to work on offense and made a few buckets. McCallum and Kyle Anderson hit threes and Spurs had extended their lead to 51-39 at the half.

A team coached by Jeff Hornacek doesn't just roll over and quit, and the Suns came out after the break playing a matchup zone which rendered the Spurs' offense stagnant for much of the third quarter. Archie Goodwin found ways to score using his size advantage over the Spurs guards and Booker hit a couple of three pointers. Even T.J. Warren got into the act and hit a trey and the Suns cut the lead to just seven with a pair of free throws from Goodwin to bring the score to 62-55. It seemed like the shorthanded Suns were going to make a game of it, unless the Spurs were able to get their intensity and focus back.  Get it back they did, and the unlikely catalyst was a tall man from Serbia named Boban Marjanovic. Overcoming his somewhat tentative start in the first half, he began to use his size and strength to take up space and prevent and alter shots on defense and rebound.  On offense, he scored just enough to help stretch the Spurs' lead to 79-69 as the quarter came to a close.

With just a 10 point margin, it seemed like the Suns might still be in the game, but the Spurs turned it on in the final frame as Patty Mills hit a shot, Kyle Anderson played solid D and Simmons hit his usual array of aerobatic dunks.

The Sun didn't score for the first two and a half minutes of the fourth quarter, and by that time the Spurs had surged to a 19 point lead.  Rasual Butler and Matt Bonner came in and hit shots, and despite Devin Booker hitting a three late to look the score look a bit more respectable, the fourth quarter was a wipeout for the good guys where they outscored the Suns 38-20, winning 117-89.

Three stars:

All Star Kawhi Leonard

Boban Marjanovic

Tie: Jonathon Simmons/Kyle Anderson

Notes:

  • The Spurs got zero points from their big three, as Tony Parker and Tim Duncan didn't play, and Manu Ginobili played 6 minutes, but didn't score.  Manu was the only player on the active roster that didn't score a point. I don't know how many games the Spurs have won by 20+ points without their big three scoring a point since they've been on the team, but I don't think it's a lot.
  • There's been a bit of controversy here at Pounding the Rock about Boban Marjanovic's popularity with fans, even on the road.  This wasn't an issue tonight, as the Suns fans didn't seem to have much of a reaction to anything that happened in tonight's game.  The only audible reaction from the crowd was when they booed their own players for getting beat down the court by Marjanovic on a fast break. I've been to funerals with much livelier audiences.
  • Instead of entering the game when it's already out of hand, Boban was able to get time early in the game and play against the front line players of the Suns.  With somewhat mixed results.  Alex Len was able to use his speed and strength to get just enough space to get off a shot or two and score in Boban's face.  At other times, he was able to force Len into difficult shots and get the rebound. It's good experience for Boban, who showed that he's able to play with, but not necessarily dominate a good NBA center like Len.

Music Break:

Back when Tim Duncan was a rookie, people had to use an ancient form of technology to field their phone calls when they weren't home. You never knew if they actually got the message.

Bonus Track: A traditional folk tune about how it's not always wise to raise your voice. It's too late, Kawhi, everyone already heard you.

Whats up next?

The Spurs travel to Los Angeles for a SEGABABA, and take on the Lakers, who are trying to put a good face on Kobe Bryant's farewell tour.  The farewell tour will be playing 43 times in the Staples center this year (two of those are road games against the Clippers), not counting preseason games.  That's a lot of farewell. The Spurs will have three more games against the Lakers this year, counting tomorrow, so they're not ready for final goodbyes either.

All this is a warmup for the big game in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors, although I doubt that any of the Spurs will talk about that game until after the Lakers lose ... oops, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Spurs record is now 37-6 and they're in second place in the Western Conference, just two games behind the Warriors.