Game #40 saw the Spurs back in the friendly confines of the AT&T center for a one-game home stand against the lowly Phoenix Suns. Looking for their ninth straight home win over the Suns, the Silver and Black methodically bested a rebuilding Phoenix team on the back of some hot shooting and opportunistic defense.
Coming off of a tough loss to the Sixers while playing without the injured Danny Green/Rudy Gay and the resting LaMarcus Aldridge, this was a good win for the good guys. Any time the Spurs can grab a W while employing the ‘next man up’ philosophy is always going to make the victory sweeter.
Here are a few takeaways from the lopsided win.
- Playing just a shade under 30 minutes, Kawhi Leonard delivered one of his best defensive performances of the season while dropping 21. The two time defensive player of the year caused the Suns fits on the perimeter and in the paint, as he suffocated the Phoenix backcourt with his length and anticipation. Oh, and he also dusted off his patented ‘steal-n-slam’ #KawhiSpecial before he busted the game open in the second quarter.
Offensively, there was not a player on the floor that could check him. His footwork and handle have improved every year and it has done wonders for his game, as he showcased his ability to get to the rim and finish in a variety of ways.
- The Suns took a punch in the mouth on the perimeter tonight, as Leonard’s brilliance was complemented by Manu Ginobili who made Phoenix look like a group of G-leaguers as he got to the rim at will and consistently knifed his way through the paint. For as great as he was attacking of the dribble, his eruption from beyond the arc in the third quarter was what put the nail in the Suns’ coffin. The electric 40 year old is making great additions to his hall of fame resume this season.
- Bryn Forbes once again took advantage of his uptick in minutes as he poured in 16 points in the absence of the injured Danny Green. The undersized gunner has successfully filled an important role for this team, as he provides an extra shooter to stretch the floor and can create his own shot when needed for small stretches. Expect his limitations defensively to constrain his minutes come playoff time, but we’ve seen firsthand how scorers like Forbes can swing a game in April and May.
- Between Davis Bertans, Brandon Paul, and Patty Mills, the reserves did not do a ton to stand out this evening, but they didn’t really need to. This Suns team is among the worst I’ve ever laid eyes on. I have never seen a team look so lost defensively. These guys have looked uninspired or embarrassing every time I've seen them take the court this season. It’a annoyong to see a team not start swinging when their backs are against the wall.
- Tony Parker’s lack of aggression these past few weeks has been going on too long to be an accident. The 35-year-old Frenchman hasn’t sniffed a double digit scoring outing in 2018 and looks to be content with taking a backseat as a game manager. Nowhere has that been more evident than in Friday night’s game when in 27 minutes he made half of his four shots, yet handed out seven assists. For anyone who has wondered what a late-career Parker would look like, we are seeing it now: an accomplished pick-and-roll artist who thrives in the lane, content with setting up younger players and saving his effort for when it’s needed. And it wasnt needed against Phoenix.
- It was great to see Pau Gasol get back in on the fun. The veteran Spaniard hasn’t had a great statline in the past few games, so it was great for the big man to see the ball go in the basket tonight against a flatfooted Phoenix frontcourt. This is old news, but I don't think #16 gets nearly enough credit for developing that 3 point shot at such a late stage in his career. There are not many guys with his resume that would be humble, or able, enough to go back to the drawing board after having so much success doing things on his own. This dude was just meant to be a Spur.