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San Antonio at Phoenix, Final Score: Spurs somehow escape the Suns, 120-118

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Devin Booker went nuclear in the second half, and the Spurs almost blew a huge fourth quarter lead, but they played just well enough to escape with a win.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

In the fourth quarter, this game started to have a familiar feel for Spurs fans, as the Silver and Black squandered a huge lead and began to crumble in the fourth quarter, and the Suns took their first lead in the last few minutes of the game. The big lead was built by an amazing first half from Bryn Forbes where he hit 7 three-point shots, but he only scored one basket in the second half, albeit an important one. Devin Booker went crazy in the second half and almost single-handedly won the game for the Suns. Derrick White’s basket late was important, but the Spurs also were a little lucky as Ricky Rubio missed a free throw late that would have tied up the game, and Booker’s final shot clanked off the rim as he took it maybe a second or two too early. But a win is a win, and the Spurs are now a half game behind the Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Observations

  • The Grizzlies lost tonight against the Pelicans, and the Spurs can be a half game behind them tonight if they can beat the Suns. The bad news is that the next opponent is the Pelicans, who will debut Zion Williamson, and that will be a tough one for the Silver and Black.
  • With the game being played on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, there were remembrances of MLK interspersed throughout the telecast. It was a great way to remember the meaning of the occasion.
  • Dejounte Murray needs to improve his finishing at the rim. He had at least two opportunities that he couldn’t put away because he wasn’t aggressive or strong enough to take advantage of getting to the rim ahead of the defender.
  • From the play-by-play: “Derrick White makes 26-foot jump bank shot (DeMar DeRozan assists).” Yeah, like that was intentional.
  • I was really hating how Marco Belinelli was playing early in the season, but he’s been great lately. Nobody on this team moves better without the ball.
  • Jakob Poeltl is kind of good at blocking shots. The next level will come when he can keep them in play so that the Spurs can turn them into points.
  • Dario Saric has the worst mustache in the league. No contest.
  • Forbes is terrible on defense, but when he hits his shots, he has his uses.
  • Deandre Ayton has a very nice shooting touch for a big guy. He has a few shots that hit every part of the rim before they rolled through.
  • After lighting it up in the first half, Bryn Forbes hardly saw the ball in the second half.
  • I don’t think Marco’s foul on Rubio at the end of the game should have been called a foul. Both players got to the ball at the same time, and it should have been a no call.

Game Flow

The Spurs won the opening tip, but couldn’t cash in on their first possession. Dejounte Murray made two quick steals and LaMarcus Aldridge was hitting all of his shots, but the Suns could score too, with Kelly Oubre Jr. and Dario Saric making deep shots to keep the game close. Back to back three point shots by Derrick White finally gave the Spurs some breathing room late in the quarter. But maybe more important was Derrick drawing a charge on Devin Booker which had him out of the game early with two fouls. A defensive lapse gave the Suns an easy Cheick Diallo bucket with under a second left and the Silver and Black led 28-26 after one.

A Poeltl block on Diallo started off the second quarter, as the Spurs quickly rushed out to a 6 point lead. Just as quickly, the lead was erased by Jevon Carter and Ricky Rubio hitting 3 point shots. Both teams weren’t playing their best ball, but the Spurs had Bryn Forbes hitting shots, so they took a lead. Bryn got positively radioactive and even though everyone in the arena knew he was going to take the shot, he hit a triple at the buzzer to put the Spurs ahead 66-51 at the half.

Ricky Rubio made a layup to start off the third quarter scoring, but when Ricky ended up guarding LaMarcus Aldridge on the return trip, he fouled, giving free throws to Aldridge. The whistling took over the early part of the quarter as it became a parade to the stripe for both teams, with Phoenix getting into the penalty early in the quarter. No matter, as the Spurs stretched the lead to 20 despite Forbes not getting the looks he had in the first half. Devin Booker took advantage of some lazy Spurs defense in the quarter to score 22 in the quarter, but the Spurs scored enough to keep the Suns from erasing all of the lead as they led 96-83 after three.

Marco hit a contested midrange to start the fourth, and Derrick White hit a pair of clutch shots to build the lead. But the Spurs began to go a little cold, and the Suns, behind Rubio’s deft court leadership began to cut into the lead, reducing it to single digits halfway through the quarter. Oubre’s and-one had the lead down to six, and this fourth quarter was starting to have a familiar feel. The energized Suns could sense that their opponent was shaky, and they went for the kill, tying the game with just under 4 minutes left on a 15-0 run. DeMar broke the run with an and-one, but 5 more points from the Suns finally gave them a lead on a Rubio layup. Bryn Forbes hit his first shot of the second half right at the right time as the Spurs regained the lead. A clutch triple from White extended the lead, and the Spurs finally got some stops as they traded free throws. LaMarcus drew a critical foul on Oubre to foul him out with 38 seconds left, and they had an opportunity to run out most of the clock. Booker made it exciting with a layup to cut it to a basket, and a foul by Belinelli gave the Suns two free throws to tie it up with 5 seconds left, but a miss by Rubio gave the Spurs the ball with a one point lead. LaMarcus was fouled, and hit one of two, and the Spurs had a two point lead. The Suns had a chance to win, but Booker took an ill-advised 30 foot shot, and when it banged off the rim, the Spurs somehow had pulled out an improbable win.

Music Break

Here’s a song written by David Olney, who passed away this weekend doing what he loved. That’s not a bad way to go.

Olney stopped in the middle of a song and paused, said “I’m sorry,” and “put his chin to his chest,” said fellow singer-songwriter Scott Miller ...


For the Suns fans’ perspective, visit Bright Side of the Sun. After tonight’s game, the Spurs head to the Crescent City to face the Pelicans on Wednesday night at 8:30 (note the time change). The Pelicans are hot lately, playing their best basketball of the season, and Wednesday’s game will be the NBA debut of the league’s first pick and best player to never play an NBA game, Zion Williamson. This might be the most-hyped matchup of the season so far, and the home crowd will be loud, so it will be difficult for the Silver and Black to come away with a win. It’s going to be a fun one to watch.