The Spurs escaped Phoenix with a 118-109 win on a game that was definitely closer than it should have been. They were out hustled on both ends by a younger, more energetic team that refused to go away and forced San Antonio to execute late in order to avoid an embarrassing loss. Tony Parker led the way for the Spurs with 22 points while Alex Len posted a career-high 23 in a losing effort.
The Suns were smart about their strategy. The only way they could hang with the Spurs was to introduce some chaos and overwhelm San Antonio with physicality. After a solid first quarter by the Spurs that foreshadowed a blowout, Phoenix did exactly that, to great results. Their athletic bench unit started pressuring and doubling the ball and pushing the pace whenever it had a chance.
It worked like a charm, too, at least for a while. Patty Mills got a taste of his own medicine as Phil Pressey harassed him full court and the Spurs' defense had a hard time guarding both the perimeter and the paint, often surrendering open shots in one of the two areas while trying to shut down the other. The Suns dropped 29 on San Antonio but couldn't make enough stops to take control. The Spurs were lucky to be up 10 at the break.
A good start to the second half would have put the game out of reach for good, but we know by now that the starters hardly ever stomp on opponents when they have the chance. The Suns hit some shots and closed the gap. They started to believe they could win and went back to the strategy that gave San Antonio trouble in the second quarter. The same back cuts and three-point attempts that hurt the Spurs early continued to get results and Phoenix, against all odds, went into the final minutes with a shot at pulling off the upset and snapping a 10-game losing streak.
Ultimately, things ended like they were expected to between one of the worst teams in the league and one of the few real contenders. Danny Green and Tony Parker helped San Antonio close out the game in spectacular fashion, with a putback dunk and a spinning layup, respectively.
Spin on through Tony! pic.twitter.com/Ed25FM8RsL— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) February 22, 2016
Despite showing terrible focus and effort for long stretches, the Spurs won an entertaining game on the road.
As uninspiring as San Antonio's performance was on Sunday, it's hard to get too worked up about it. As far as bad games go, it was as good as it gets. It ended up with a win, it was fun to watch from start to finish and it will definitely give the coaching staff plenty of ammo for the film room, as the Spurs go on a two-day break.
Hopefully Kawhi Leonard will be back Wednesday and the Spurs will not only get a win in Sacramento but also go back to playing like the defensive juggernaut they were earlier in the season.
- The Spurs are now 4-1 i\on the Rodeo Road Trip. The final three games will be against the Kings, the Jazz and the Rockets. If Leonard returns, those are three winnable games against three fringe playoff teams. If he doesn't, they could be three rough nights.
- Tony Parker and Patty Mills combined to score 43 points. The Suns' guards went at them on both ends and at times got the best of them but the Spurs wouldn't have won without them. Mills had six of the team's 10 three-pointers and Parker made timely plays.
- LaMarcus Aldridge had a tidy 19 points on 14 shots and pulled down 10 rebounds. He had the same struggles everyone else had on defense but he was the Spurs' best big man in this one. West and Diaw had their moments but the Suns took advantage of the lack of an interior presence when they were on the court together, scoring 18 points in the paint in nine minutes.
- Speaking of big men, Tim Duncan only played 17 minutes. The Suns used two perimeter-oriented bigs for long stretches, so it's understandable for him to get some extra rest, but if I had to guess, I'd say Big Fun is on a minutes limit. If that's the case, let's hope Pop is simply being extra careful.
- Danny Green did a little bit of everything, finishing the game with 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks. He's getting better at making an impact on games in which he's not getting a lot of three-point attempts.
- Kyle Anderson had a quiet game, but he did this:
OH. MAMMA. pic.twitter.com/qsy0pQbBQ0— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) February 21, 2016
- Rasual Butler had a terrific game. He scored 12 points despite only hitting one three-pointer and he pulled down six rebounds. He took some of Jonathon Simmons' minutes on Saturday and produced.
- That was the Spurs' last game of the season against Phoenix. They swept the season series. Next year the Suns could be a more dangerous opponent if their young players continue to develop. There's a lot of talent on that roster. With a more stable coaching situation and another season under their belts, they could go back to playoff contention in 2016/17.
The Spurs will face the Kings on Wednesday. Rest could be a factor, as San Antonio will have two days off and Sacramento will be on the second game of a back-to-back.
For the opponent's perspective, visit the always great Bright Side of the Sun