San Antonio looked outmatched from the jump against the Suns. On paper, that’s not totally surprising. Phoenix’s starting lineup features three future hall of famers, and a former number one overall pick, while the Spurs rolled out a shorthanded lineup with key contributors resting. They could not overcome that mismatch as they fell to the Suns 115-94.
The Suns immediately tried to target the Spurs smaller players by using Kevin Durant as a screener. Once KD got Tre Jones or Devonte Graham on the mismatch, he operated out of the high post to find his shot, or open players. Because the Spurs were at a disadvantage, they had to send double teams at Durant, which caused the defense to scramble, allowing the Suns to work the ball around and find good looks. They jumped out to an immediate 10 point lead.
Devin Booker and Chris Paul got off to hot starts, both on their way to 20-point nights. The Suns guard duo got to their spots in the mid-range, and showcased why they are some of the best shot creators in the NBA. Booker finished the game with 27 points and 7 rebounds, CP3 added in 22 points and 3 assists. The Suns got out in transition and dominated in the paint early in the game. That dominance continued throughout, as they scored 16 points in transition, and outscored the Spurs 52-38 inside.
The Spurs offense got good looks early, but struggled to convert around the basket. They shot just 38% from the field, and hit only 33% of their shots from deep. Julian Champagnie was not a part of that cold shooting in the first quarter. He hit a couple of 3-pointers and had 10 points to open the game. Those would be his only points, unfortunately, as he struggled shooting for the rest of the contest.
The Suns outscored the Spurs 42-25 in that quarter, and inflated that lead to 31 points in the second. With 6 minutes left in the second quarter, things were looking bleak. Then Tre Jones subbed back in. The Spurs got a jolt from his aggressive scoring, and pestering defense. Jones pressured the Suns guards full court, causing them to rush their offense and make mistakes. Slowly the stops started trickling in, and the Spurs converted on some possessions with nice ball movement. All of a sudden, going into the half the Silver and Black were only down 18.
San Antonio came out of the half aggressively, pressuring full court and causing some problems for the Suns. Jones once again led the team as they stormed back to cut the lead down to single digits in the third quarter, only losing by 9. He finished the game with 20 points and 9 assists, following up his triple double in Sacramento with another good performance.
After coughing the ball over a few possessions in a row the Suns started to adjust to the Spurs pressure, and got better looks moving the ball up the floor faster than San Antonio could get back. Phoenix’s offense was just too explosive to completely shut down, as they went on another big run, led by Durant and Booker to put the Suns up 21 going into the 4th.
By the fourth, the game was mostly over, yet the Spurs still suffered some losses that may impact them down the line. Dominick Barlow left the game after being elbowed in the face fighting for a loose ball, and Devonte Graham seemed to suffer a lower body injury running the fast break. Doug McDermott left the game in the first half after turning his ankle. This is bad news for a Spurs team that is already limping to the finish line of the NBA season.
The Spurs fall to 20-59 on the season, and will travel back to Austin where the first NBA game inside the Moody Center will be played this Thursday agains the Portland Trailblazer. Portland has shut down a lot of it’s starters as they look to improve their draft lottery odds late in the season. The Spurs will have some tough decisions to make with a seemingly banged up roster.
- Malaki Branham has looked comfortable in a “go-to” scoring role with other wings injured. He’s finding success in the mid range, and had some really impressive drives against a lengthy Phoenix defense. He’s shooting the three with a bit more confidence as well, going 3 of 7 from deep. He led San Antonio scorers with 21 points. That type of scoring punch will be useful for the Spurs as they build. Whether it comes in the starting lineup or off of the bench.
- Tre Jones has been fantastic lately. He’s been the beating heart of this team over its last few games. His effort and intensity is palpable on the defensive end. Whether it’s drawing charges in the half court, pressuring full court, or running out of his help to try to jump the passing lanes, the dude just makes plays on that end. He’s so effective in the pick and roll, and is starting to shoot the mid-range pull up and set three point shot with more confidence. He’s just 23-years-old and has a great basketball head on his shoulders. Jones is proving why he should be a part of the long term vision for this team.
- It was a real bummer to see Dominick Barlow go down with an injury in this one. He has been playing some of his best basketball lately. His numbers in this game won’t jump out at you, putting up 2 points, 5 rebounds, a steal and 2 blocks, but his impact was felt outside of the box score. He was the only Spur with a positive +/- with +19 (!!!) and was a force on defense. He guarded all of the Suns stars, from DeAndre Ayton, to Durant, to Booker to CP3. He did so effectively. That defensive versatility is what makes him so intriguing as a prospect. Hopefully he didn’t suffer any serious head injuries, and can continue to earn his spot in the last three games.