The Spurs dropped their season finale against Phoenix, 121-123, as the shorthanded Suns rode their white-hot second unit to victory, extending San Antonio’s losing streak to four games.
DeMar DeRozan led the Silver and Black with 23 points and four assists. But 22 points from E’Twaun Moore, 19 from Cameron Payne, and a near triple-double from Jevon Carter were too much to overcome.
- The Spurs gave Patty Mills a day off for the first time since April 22, and with as worn out as the high-scoring sixth man has looked over the last few months, this could be just what he needs as San Antonio prepares for a matchup with the Grizzlies or Warriors on Wednesday. This rest also gave Tre Jones a chance to put his skills on display, and the rookie point guard recorded nine points and a career-high seven assists off the pine.
- Jakob Poeltl took full advantage of the opposing small-ball lineup, getting deep post position and cleaning the glass from the get-go. The Austrian center accumulated 15 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks by halftime, ending the evening with 17-10-3.
- San Antonio went with their usual starting lineup of Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV, DeMar DeRozan, Keldon Johnson, and Jakob Poeltl. Although resting those guys might have given the Spurs fresh legs to work with heading into the play-in tournament, you never want your best players to show up rusty for a single-elimination game.
- Rudy Gay turned back the clock with a breakaway steal and left-handed slam, posterizing rookie forward Jalen Smith in the process. The veteran forward looked sharp in his 20 minutes off the bench, racking up 12 points, six rebounds, three assists, one block, and a steal.
- After sitting out for rest in the first leg of the back-to-back, DeMar DeRozan came out strong with 10 points in the first quarter. The four-time All-Star scored from all over the court, including a rare three-pointer. He notched 23 points in 25 minutes, carrying some much-needed momentum into San Antonio’s play-in tilt.
- Head coach Gregg Popovich elected to empty his bench early into the fourth quarter, giving Quinndary Weatherspoon, Keita Bates-Diop, and Gorgui Dieng a chance to play in front of the friendly AT&T Center crowd in the regular-season finale. Quinndary flashed his touch and physicality, Keita finished a tough and-one, and Gorgui slashed home a deep three-ball. Best of all, the reserves brought the Spurs back from a double-digit deficit to reclaim the lead, with 1:18 remaining in regulation.
- Keldon Johnson showed Dario Saric why Spurs fans call him “Big Body” as he lowered his shoulder and bowled through the six-ten 225-pound forward on his way to a pair of points at the rim. He only suited up for 21 minutes, but he brought his trademark energy to the court, hustling for several second-chance points and fearlessly slashing into the paint.
- Even when the final score didn’t matter, the third quarter continued to be a bugaboo for the Spurs. Phoenix outscored them by 13 points, bringing San Antonio’s third-worst third-quarter point differential to -163 for the 2020-2021 season.
- Technically, this win gives the Suns a shot at clinching first place in the Western Conference and the top overall seed in the 2021 playoffs. That said, it also put them in a position to potentially face the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. I’m not saying Phoenix sat Devin Booker and Chris Paul in an attempt to throw the game. Their bench fought from end to end to secure a dub in the season finale. However, a loss might have been in their best interest, and it should be interesting to monitor how Utah approaches their matchup with the Kings tonight.
For the Suns fans’ perspective, visit Bright Side of the Sun.
The San Antonio Spurs return to action on Wednesday for the first round of the NBA’s inaugural play-in tournament.