San Antonio Spurs 107, Phoenix Suns 100 -- Brown explodes, offense sputters late

PHOENIX — The Western Conference is an unforgiving place.

Aside from a defensive hiccup against Minnesota, the Suns’ only other losses since the All-Star break have come at the hands of four of the five best teams in basketball, teams with a combined record of 163-84 — and yet after Tuesday’s 107-100 loss to the San Antonio Spurs the Suns now find themselves 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot in 10th place in the West.

Things do not get any easier with eight of their next 10 games on the road and 12 of their final 16 games against Western Conference teams currently ahead of them in the standings.

That is why it hurts so much to drop a game at home where they had been so good (10-2 in their previous 12) in a winnable game against one of the league’s hottest teams.

The Suns trailed by just one after three quarters, at which time they had knocked down 51.5 percent of their shots, but they could only hit a third of their attempts in an anemic final period in which the Spurs’ defense tightened up down the stretch like old times.

As the Suns attempted to make a comeback from 12 points down with just over four minutes to go, their offensive rebounding issue reared its ugly head again. Tim Duncan corralled one up nine with just under three minutes left in the contest and later Matt Bonner collected a board with a minute left and the Spurs up seven that effectively ended the game. Gentry stomped down the sideline fuming mad after that last critical board.

“It killed us,” Gentry said. “It’s kind of like we’ve done in the past and we haven’t done that in a while really where we’ve had good solid defensive possessions and then they’ve shot it and gotten it back. That’s really a little bit deflating when that happens. There were too many second shots, too many missed shots, too many rebounds. Down the stretch we gave up three straight offensive rebounds. You can’t do that against that team.”

After Nash carved the Spurs up for eight points and five assists in the first half, his back “just tightened up” in the second quarter and he struggled to get it loose down the stretch.

That really is no surprise as the Suns never could get on track in the fourth quarter either. Not just Nash but the entire team failed to record even a single assist in that decisive quarter, and no player other than Two Time hit more than one shot.

“I think we just didn’t play well enough,” Nash said. “We got close, we kept ourselves in the game for a long time and couldn’t ever really get more than that five- or six-point lead and they came flying back and then the start of the fourth there they kind of got up there by nine and we couldn’t close back the distance. So, it’s a disappointing loss for us and we’ve got to pick it up tomorrow and try and get one.”

With Grant Hill out with right knee inflammation, Shannon Brown replaced him in the starting lineup and nearly shot the Suns to the upset. Brown scored a career-high 32 points on 11-for-18 shooting and 5-of-10 marksmanship from distance in a team-high 42 minutes.

Brown was blazing from the start as he scored 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting in the first quarter and never really stopped from there. Before tonight only Nash had a 30-point game for Phoenix this season.

“I definitely thought about (being in a zone) after my first couple shots, it wasn’t touching the rim, so I just felt like every time I got a good look I had to take it,” Brown said.

Added Nash, “Shannon was fantastic. He gave us a chance to win the game. He kept us in it. It was a terrific performance. We missed Grant obviously, but Shannon was fantastic in his absence. … We’ve come to expect that offense out of him.”

Brown’s monster game is all the more impressive considering the fact he did not even know he would be starting before the team’s pregame meeting when it was decided that Hill would not play.

Yet that hardly seemed to matter as Brown got in his groove and gave the Suns a chance to win on a night they received a combined nine points from Channing Frye and Jared Dudley and none from Markieff Morris or Michael Redd.

As the Suns continue this daunting stretch to end the season they understand the good news is that they can catch up in a hurry if they continue to only lose to the very top teams in basketball.

But time is running out and it must be a bit deflating to waste Brown’s career effort with their poor offensive showing down the stretch, even if this is exactly what San Antonio’s been doing to teams all year (and really all decade).

“Every game puts more pressure on us, no matter if it’s home or away,” Nash said. “We’ve got to find a way to get more and more games over .500 to catch up to the teams ahead of us. To do that we’re going to play a lot of good teams, we’ve got to play at a high level.”

And 1

  • Tim Duncan once again hurt the Suns with a stellar game of 26 points and 11 rebounds on 11-for-16 shooting. Said Marcin Gortat of Duncan, “He’s like a wine, each year he’s better and better.” The Polish Hammer was pretty good himself in producing a 21-point, 14-rebound effort that marked his 12th 20-10 game of the season.
  • Gentry on Hill’s status for tomorrow: “We’ll look at it again tomorrow and see where it is. If he feels good then he’ll play, if he doesn’t we’ll expect someone else to step in and do what Shannon did.”

Tags: Shannon Brown Steve Nash

  • PennyAnd1

    I dunno why, but Nash always seems to have a hard time against Spurs. I think he is trying too much forcing things, rather than play his game. He really needs to watch his previous games against Spurs, cause it hasn’t change since 2005-2006. Doing to much just causes the team to suffer with him.

    Congrats to Shannon Brown for keeping the Suns in the game. I was one of the many who cursed Brown because of his brick shot and bad selections. He definitely has been a great bench player.

  • Serek

    Coming back to the article about JD, how he is a conscious player.

    In many ways Shannon Brown is his opposite. Height, athleticism and also the fact that he doesn’t analyze his game – he just keeps laying those bricks until he builds a 30+ game out of them :) Good for him.

  • Scott

    @Penny -

    I think it’s possible the Spurs just know Nash. He’s the head of the snake, and they focus on him in particular.

  • Rob

    Frustrating stuff… these games are all very important. That was great to see a performance like that from Shannon Brown though. Do the refs know that Tim Duncan commits fouls? I am not saying, “oh the refs, they sucked, they are the reason for the loss.” But, when Tim Duncan goes over the back and gets offensive rebounds, the refs just swallow the whistle. He does it about 4 times per game and I don’t remember the last time it was called. Also, kudos to the famed French actor Tony Parker for his unbelievable flop. Jared Dudley hit him with a feathery touch on a bump and Parker flew as though he had been hit by a car. I would love to see technical fouls called for flops by players. I am getting tired of these players acting their way in to calls.

  • Grover

    That stretch I think it was early in the fourth qtr where we had two shots in a row hit the side of the backboard followed by a third shot that went over the backboard was embarrassing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an NBA team do that before. Yes, part of it was San Antonio stepping up their effort on D, but that was pathetic.

  • Tony

    Even though the Suns loss last night’s game, it was a very well-played game and both teams put forth maximum effort. While the blame for the Suns loss last night falls on Frye, for not only a pathetic offensive performance, but also an atrocious job defensively and rebounding, along with the reserve unit and to Gentry for once again going with an all-reserve lineup and waiting too long to bring the starters back in, the blame really falls squarely on the shoulders of the Three Stooges, in particular Sarver.

    Let’s examine the differences between the Peter Holt and Robert Sarver. First of all, both own mid-market teams, so there’s no extra perk the League and Stern give to big market teams and hence, Sarver cannot use that excuse. While Holt continues to keep his core three players, he also adds not only depth, but targeted depth at positions the Spurs are weaker or less talented than other elite teams. Just before the deadline they added Stephen Jackson, who is still a solid role player and then they added Boris Diaw when he was bought out, a guy who although struggled with the Bobcats, playing for such a pathetic team is bound to reduce most players’ games. Meanwhile, Pop continues to use his system and commands the respect of any player whose intentions are set to play for the Spurs.

    In contrast, since Sarver inherited that great Suns team with loads of talent in 2004 from Colangelo, just about each season he has steadily reduced the starting lineups talent level while simultaneously cutting corners by selling draft picks and not emphasizing college and professional scouting. The lack of talent on the Suns is obviously apparent with Frye and Dudley as starters and almost 40 years old Grant Hill starting too.

    Thus, this is why each season we see the Spurs at or near the top with an even better team than last season’s Spurs team. In contrast, as each season ends, the Suns get weaker. Next season may turn out to be a major disaster for the Suns, as the team may not feature Nash or Hill and the likely mid to late lotter pick will hardly be someone the team can expect to become an immediate star player.

  • steve

    How many times must someone say this… it isn’t Sarver’s decision to sell picks. If you want to blame him for the failed collective effort of everyone involved in personnel and scouting, then you seriously don’t understand the role of an owner.

    The Spurs (not Holt, because Holt is not the figurehead of personnel decisions for the Spurs) lucked into Duncan, and I would say they lucked into Parker and Ginobili as well (they were able to steal them with high first round picks because the rest of the NBA wasn’t into the whole international craze yet).

    If ANY team had lucked into Duncan (the other two are unncessary), they would look like geniuses for a decade. Drop one of the top 10 players of all time on any team and I guarantee that they’re going to be good.

    And again, Peter Holt did NOTHING to get Duncan because, first and foremost, it’s not in his job description. And he also did nothing to get guys like Neal, Parker, Ginobili, Leonard, Blair, etc etc etc.

    I will agree that the Suns need to change things up in the scouting department, however. Whether or not that’s Sarver’s decision, I’m not so certain (I would think that falls to a PBO or GM more than an owner, but maybe I’m wrong about that). But the Suns always seem to be a step behind in evaluating pre-NBA talent (although Markieff seems to indicate they might know what they’re doing after all).

    I really hate to have to defend Sarver all the time against you, but you direct so much blame toward him that doesn’t belong there. An owner has FAR less to do with personnel than you imagine, and I can’t understand why you can’t come to grips with that. I know you just want to point a finger somewhere, but sheesh.

  • steve

    Oops, forgot about a little promise I made. That’ll be all from me on the matter.

  • Tony

    Do you work in any kind of professional setting at all Steve???? The reason I ask is because leadership and success starts from the top. And no, Holt did not luck into Duncan just as they didn’t luck into Manu, who they selected in the 2nd round. Effective scouting is dependent on the expenditure of resources. The more money you put into scouting, generally speaking, the better results you will get. Sarver himself admitted prior to this season he was going to step up his focus on scouting.

    What amazes me about you Steve is how simple-minded you are. If ownership really had so little to do with winning, why is it that the championship teams in all professional sports have at the minimum, above-average owners???? Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the Mavericks win the championship last NBA season? Now, do you believe that had the roles been reversed and Sarver was the owner of the Mavericks while Cuban was owner of the Suns, oh how I wish for that, do you think the Mavs would have won the Finals last season had Sarver been their owner?

    In sum, this is just basic knowledge. Success of any business starts with the management and extends downward. If you have incompetent and cheap management, inevitably this will lead to hiring second rate people because management doesn’t want to pay for better quality employees. Why do you think Lance Blanks is GM? There were several experienced former GMs looking for work when Sarver chased out Steve Kerr because he wanted him to take a pay cut. So, with other available and experienced GMs, how did Blanks end up with the job? A guy who had never been a GM before. This stuff just doesn’t happen. I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “luck is the residue of design.” Success begins with the leadership and vision of management.

  • steve

    If you do a search of “top 10 worst owners in sports” or something similar, nearly every list will give you people who have won championships.

    That was the first list I checked out, and it includes Art Modell, Jerry Reinsdorf, Jeffrey Loria, Jerry Jones. That covers the Big 3 in American sports. Out of 11 owners on this random person’s list, four of them have ring(s).

    Does winning ALWAYS start from the top? And, conversely, does losing ALWAYS start from the top?