San Antonio Spurs 105, Phoenix Suns 91 – A really bad dream

Duncan and the Spurs dominated Gortat and the Suns from the opening tip. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The San Antonio Spurs outscored the Phoenix Suns 35-13 in the opening quarter and never looked back in their 105-91 win Saturday night at the AT&T Center. The game was far more lopsided than the final score would suggest as San Antonio held a 20-plus point lead for much of the game.

Steve Nash played the opening six minutes of the game, but never returned as coach Alvin Gentry saw this one getting away from the Suns early and chose to rest his 38-year old point guard. The Spurs shot 53 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc as they torched the Suns’ defense with their ball movement and penetration.

The most interesting thing about this game was the difference between the two offenses. The Suns were constantly moving without the ball but had a hard time getting open. The Spurs moved very little without the ball, and seemed to be wide open on every play. What led to this dichotomy? The answer is spacing.

The Suns were consistently initiating their offense below the top of the key. The perimeter players were on or inside the 3-point line on almost every possession. This clogged driving lanes and prevented penetration. Without spacing the Suns’ pick-and-roll couldn’t be effective because it drew two defenders into a small space with no room to maneuver for the ball handler or the screener. Initiating the offense at such a low point on the court also led to 12 turnovers – all steals by the Spurs. San Antonio’s defenders were able to gamble when Phoenix tried to swing the ball from one side of the floor to the other because the angle of the pass was so flat. The Suns shot themselves in the foot offensively by choosing to operate in such a small amount of space. This is something they’ll see quite clearly in the game film and must correct going forward.

On the other side of the court, the Spurs’ spacing was perfect. San Antonio’s standard set was a “1-4 Low” where the point guard started three to four feet beyond the 3-point line and the other four players began the play close to the baseline. This setup created a huge gulf of open court between the ball handler and the rest of the team and provided a ton of room for the ball handler to operate.

The Spurs would initiate this offense with Duncan in a pick-and-roll or straight dribble penetration. When the Suns showed in help defense, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili did a great job hitting the open man — either Tim Duncan or a shooter on the perimeter. Because of the distance the Suns’ help defender was forced to cover, there was no chance of him closing out on his original man. The Spurs had wide open looks all night long — especially starting rookie Kawhi Leonard, who was 3-for-3 from downtown. In addition, most of Tim Duncan’s 19 points came off plays where Marcin Gortat was forced to help or rotate to another player and was late in recovering to Duncan.

When Gortat did matchup with Duncan one-on-one, he never closed out on him hard. In fact, the first and only Sun to close out hard on Duncan, get into his body, and make him uncomfortable was Ronnie Price with 2:40 left in the second quarter (Duncan missed the shot badly.) Marcin gave Duncan far too much room to operate and Tim made him pay for it with 13 points in the first quarter and 19 for the game.

Duncan, despite being in his 15th season, is still an incredibly efficient and effective scorer when he faces up. He connected on three jumpers while Gortat was guarding him as well as a nifty one-dribble move to the middle for a three-point play. On the defensive end, Duncan held Gortat to six points (3-for-12 from the field) and seven rebounds.

One quick note on Marcin: he is fading quite a lot on his jumper. Instead of engaging his legs and jumping straight up in the air, Marcin is jumping backward on every single jumper whether or not there is a chance of his shot being blocked. This motion flattens out his shot and decreases his shooting percentage. In this game, it was clear he was afraid of Duncan’s defense, but I’ve also observed this trend in his shot against smaller defenders as well. The 10-15 foot jumper is a key part of Gortat’s game as it forces defenders to play him out that far and gives him the opportunity to use his quick feet and strong body to score inside. If that jumper becomes a weakness, his overall offensive game will suffer.

Getting back to the Suns’ poor defensive showing, it is clear to me that San Antonio had the best ball movement of any Suns opponent this season. But this is only half the story of Phoenix’s awful performance tonight. The other half is exhaustion. Tonight was the final game of a four-game road trip. Phoenix has also played its last eight games in eight different cities. Coach Alvin Gentry tweeted after the game: “Spurs jumped on us early. We were never in the game. Tired legs after being on the road for 2 wks. Have to regroup for Mon.”

It was apparent from the outset the Suns did not have the energy to compete tonight. While San Antonio had a day off to prepare for this game, Phoenix’s legs were beat from a tough win in Houston last night. This was evident not just in Phoenix’s defensive sluggishness, but also in its offensive execution.

The Suns hit only two of their 16 attempts from beyond the arc. They were also terrible finishing at the rim. The Suns missed at least 15 shots at the rim. Some of these were well defended, but others were just out and out misses. The one thing the Suns had going was their mid-range game. The areas where they came up short are the types of shots that require the most legs. They were beat, ready to get back home, and it showed on the court.

The sole highlight of this game was the effort given by the reserves. Robin Lopez, Markieff Morris, Sebastian Telfair, and Michael Redd weren’t on the floor when the Spurs came out swinging for the fences in the first quarter, and thus they weren’t shell-shocked like the starters. Gentry put these four and Grant Hill on the floor just before the halfway point of the opening period, pulling all the starters off the floor. Every moment they were on the floor, they hustled and gave 100 percent.

The best example of this effort was the 10-0 run led by Telfair that cut the Spurs’ lead, which was once 28 points, down to 13 with 2:21 left to play. Phoenix was never going to win this game. That was apparent early, but Telfair and Redd never stopped attacking. Redd finished the night with 13 points. Telfair had perhaps his best line of the season with 21 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and only two turnovers in 31 minutes.

The good news for the Suns, if they can take anything good away from this blowout loss, is that they got two crucial road wins on this trip. After playing a huge stretch of games away from home over the last three and a half weeks, the Suns now have five of their last six at home. The sooner they can put tonight’s game out of their mind, the better off they will be.

Phoenix is currently 1 1/2 games behind Houston and Denver, the seventh and eighth seeds in the Western Conference. On Monday, the Suns will face a Portland team that just lost its best player.

If they hope to win that matchup and continue pushing for a playoff berth, they must dismiss this defeat as just a bad dream, wake up tomorrow, and move on.

Tags: Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap San Antonio Spurs

  • neurotic suns fan


  • loyal suns fan

    I thought the reserves had plenty of energy. If was the starters who didn’t have any energy. Gentry should have started with the reserves, and sat the starters. Also, they didn’t seem to try hard in covering Duncan in the beginning, same as the previous game. He killed us in the beginning.

  • A-ROCK

    Good Job Gentry hahah you played your top elite 38 year old point guard 6 minutes hahaha

    If he would have stayed in I wonder if they would have been stuck on 4 hahaha

    Nash is starting to look washed up.

    Gentry knows it so he better create some plays for the back ups to perform with the 1st unit too because the backups can’t play with the 1st unit like nash does is what I been saying all along.

    Nash got booted in the 1st I aint never seen him look so slow, bad passes, no chemistry, and he can’t blame it on his team! hahaha

    Again the only reason the 1st unit plays so soft is because of him, they can’t get open anymore because it’s 4 against 5 players, teams don’t even need to guard him anymore, either he won’t shoot or he will miss the lay up flat out.

    He had more turnovers than anyother player on the team and he only played 6 minutes. smh

    Nash is turning into a turnover magnet lol

    Gortat just showed his true colors out there with out Nash though, that he needs to work on that outside shot.

  • A-ROCK

    It’s coming back to bite Gentry in the tail with his sorry weak 1st unit, it’s all Nash’s fault or it’s the coaches fault. He tried to make it right early and I liked the timeouts he would call to control the game. The spurs are a good team that look like they watch tape on alot of teams and just pulled the rug from under the suns.

    So how many more games does Nash need to give up on or show he is washed up before you Nash lovers begin to see he is no longer elite?

  • steve

    Again, guys, nothing to see here. Move along, and please don’t feed the troll.

  • grover

    Wow was that ugly. I think this is one of those games you just throw away… Don’t don’t watch game film, don’t think about it, don’t try to learn from it. Just walk away and prepare for the next one.

    The good news is Utah and Houston play each other tomorrow so we’re guaranteed to pick up a half game on one of them (I’m trying to be optimistic and ignore that we lose another half game to the other).

  • Scott

    I hope Blanks is going to be able to turn this franchise around.

    I fear it may actually get far worse.

  •!/True_Rys Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Okay, A-Rock once again you’re way off the deep end, ha ha.

    San Antonio did to the Suns what we’ve done to teams like Portland or Cleveland when they came to town after being on the road for a week or more.

    As far as the playoff race goes, it wasn’t the end of things so for those who really want the Suns to make it there is still time.

    Telfair is playing out of his mind right now. Gotta give him his props.

  • RockChucker

    That was just awful. I couldn’t even watch the game after the 1st quarter. I checked after halftime and watched the remainder of the 4th. Gortat gave Duncan so much room to play with, I’m surprised he didn’t just posterize him from the get-go. I’m shocked that no one on the Suns know how to defend against Duncan. You have to sit right underneath him and not allow him to set his feet. He’s all about footwork. Disrupt that and his shooting percentage goes down significantly. He becomes more likely to pass. If he hook-shoots over you. Live with it. Nash had no energy. No one closed out on the shooters. I know they’ve been on the road for a while but that’s no excuse for having no fight or pride left in you.

  • A-ROCK

    Nash has 2-3 years in his tank……No that the way he plays!

    I don’t commend Gentry for taking him out trying to keep the stock high on Nash and letting his team suffer by not creating plays for his back up point guards to be initiate with the 1st unit.

    It looked like everything they did last night was on the fly. Not impressive.

    I’m starting to think it wasn’t Nash who makes his players better it was the good talent around him that could adapt and adjust to his game.

    There was a reason the slower Mavs at that time gave him up to a more upbeat Phoenix team.

    Poor Nash still has the go to be the distributor when he is no longer in elite status more of a Jason kid at his age. That is not a formula to when since he has to have the ball to much to operate unlike his ederly counter part kid is a straight up assist guy who doesn’t demand the rock as much. As much as Nash demands the rock he should be able to score more but he doesn’t and creates a 4 on 5 effect against the other team.

    Gentry should have allowed him to continue the game so the fans could see how washed up he is so they won’t come to this page all but hurt like I am trolling when I comment on Nash. Hahaha

  • steve

    Don’t bother with him, folks. Trolls starve without food.

  • Tony

    To all true Suns fans, excluding the loser above, the Suns were just tired not only from playing so many road games and this being the last one, but also because of the mentally and physically let-down they probably had after such an important and emotional win against the Rockets.

    They just need to put this game behind them, get a little rest today, and revenge their bad loss against the Blazers on Monday.

  • PennyAnd1

    Gortat pissed me off, I dunno why Gentry kept him in instead of Lopez. The dude don’t know how to stay calm when things get rough. He just throws the ball up there. What an embarassment display in front of ESPN.

  • A-ROCK

    Hahaha you noticed that about Girltot too hahaha

    He is going to back to his 2nd string ways once Nash leaves hahah hopefully not though because the Suns have put interest in him.

  • A-ROCK

    Girotot is almost as bad as I left my confidence in the basement Fry. I swear that guy starts blowing in his hands as soon as he starts struggling or having a bad a game, I mentioned it earlier last season and he stopped and started producing and now he is back to his old ways.. I hope there is nothing going on in the locker room?!

  • PennyAnd1

    Since I got editted.. i’ll be more professional then.


    Gortat was never brought in to be the scorer anyways. His strength is rebound and defense and he should stay that way. I really do hope Eric Gordon plays besides Nash next season. The reason why Nash & J-Rich was successful during 2012 was the balance of scoring (J-Rich) & passing (Nash). As much as I love Dudley, he really is just a role-player, and a good one at that too.

  • PennyAnd1

    i meant a successful tandem of Nash & J-Rich in 2010*

  • A-ROCK

    Well I’ve been Edited over 10 times and you don’t here me complaining.

    It seems like you complain about everything.

    Eric Gordon is Not the solution here it is Nash’s exit from Phoenix.

    Didn’t you watch the game against the spurs, I can’t deal with another year of Nash against these elite point guards who run him out the building and he couldn’t even keep up with memphis’ point guards.

    Again the suns already have a player like gordon so a blind man can see he is not the answer.

    Sometimes I think you just comment just to prove to yourself you can spell a word!

  • grover

    I used to love this website, but unfortunately it’s gone the same direction as the Suns.

  • Carlos

    A-Rock didn’t u hear that Nash injure his hips on the Memphis game? even if Nash was playing great and the Suns were winning the game, Nash wasn’t going to play anymore, Gentry wasn’t going to risk his injury he even said that in the press conference.
    I’m amazed at how Nash was able to have a great game against Houston with an injure hip, of course a day-off helps you to recuperate and be able to play, but 2 games in a row was too much for his hips.
    I don’t see Nash missing the next 2 games, since he will have 1 day off to rest his hip and recuperate before the next 2 games, but the game I’m worry about is the game against the Clippers because he won’t have a day off since is back to back, I hope his hip will hold up, and it doesn’t repeat what happened on saturday against the Spurs.

  • steve

    @grover – don’t let one (or a few) bad apple(s) spoil the bushel. There are still sane suns fans here.

  • PennyAnd1


    Nash can still outperform that elite PGs even with injuries. That should tell you the brilliance of that man, unless of course you’re head is

    And no, Suns don’t have a player like Eric Gordon. If you are thinking Shannon please… The only player close enough like Gordon here is Michael Redd. But even Machael Redd is limited to physical abilities as a scorer. Eric Gordon is a consistent scorer who knows how to get points not relying on jump shot as much as Brown, hence knows how to take good shots. Plus Eric has basketball IQ, very smart & knows how to play without the ball..something Brown can’t do in consistent basis.

    I just can’t get rid of the fact how Gortat pisses me off. This has began since the beginning of the season. It just goes to show you that the guy hasn’t learned anything at all. If anything, he’s learned to take bad shots from Brown. Why in the world would you fade away from nothing? Take some contact, you’re a big guy for crying out loud Polish softener.

    I think Suns has a great shot at playoffs if they beat OKC & Nuggets, I know they will beat Clippers cause they have Clippers’ number..and if momentum pushes through they can take the win in Utah and take revenge on Spurs.

    Mavs are the likeliest to fall off from the race. If they lose to Utah on their next game, which is likely, they could lose to Bulls & Hawks as well. Plus Hornets are no push-overs, especially with Gordon back in the line-up.

    Rockets have three hard teams in their remainding schedule. While Nuggets also have three hard opponents.

    My prediciton: Suns loses 1 more game (likely at Utah), Dallas losing 3-4 more games, Rockets losing 2-3 more, and Nuggets losing 2 more.

  • Fan in Chi Town

    Penny, while I admire your unending optimism I have to respectfully disagree with your assesment. In my opinion Portland and Utah might be our only guaranteed wins and even those aren’t guaranteed. OKC is the best team in the west. The clippers game will be on a back to back and last time we played them they blew us out because our huge didn’t get physical enough with griffin and Jordan. Also, CP3 has been playing mbps caliber this month. Then of course we all know our struggles with san antonio. It will be a tough road, my friend. And then IF we make it, we see OKC or the spurs in the first round, which will end brutally. That being said, I’m excited and hopeful that we do get in.

  • Fan in Chi Town

    My bad, I meant to put our BIGS didn’t get physical enough with griffin and Jordan and MVP caliber. Stupid autocorrect…

  • Scott

    I see people keep complaining about Gortat, expecting him to be a scoring machine when he never was.

    All the points we get from Gortat are gravy. Same from Frye and Lopez. These guys were never viewed as / sold as scorers. The nice thing about these guys is that they can defend, rebound, and shoot, as opposed to being unable to defend, rebound, or shoot.

    The Suns have a lot of middle range talent but not a lot of star talent.

    If the Suns were pairing Amare plus any of Gortat, Frye, or Lopez at center, the Suns would be doing a lot better.

    I don’t know how the Suns are going to trade mid-range talent into a star, or how they’re going to get them in the draft.

    We may be on the verge of a long period of relatively non-competitive Suns teams.

  • belike81

    I’m sorry but can I ask all of You guys complaining about Gortat, who is the leading scorer, rebounder, blocker for the Suns, and who has played the most this season for them? Guy who was brought to the team as part of a trade? Don’t You think it’s pretty impressive what he has done this year?

    Think about were would the Suns be without Gortat on the roster.

  • erierikas

    Let imbeciles be whining as it has always been.

    Truly speaking,the Sun’s upcoming schedule is a nightmare. Getting 4-5 wins is about as good as it can get for a team without having any semblance of all-star talent(excluding Nash). Hence,I can’t for the life of me understand the optimism of people who actually believe the Suns can rack up 6 wins against the likes of OKC,Clippers and Spurs.

    Coming this far from 12-19,the Suns better be taking care of business later in Portland or we’ll really be looking at the next season and rebuilding for good. Hopefully not with Telfair at the PG.

  • steve

    @belike81 – I’m with you. Gortat is the second biggest reason this team has tasted any success this season at all, despite his recent struggles. He’s the man.

  • A-ROCK

    What is your definition of the man?

    The man on the suns?

    The man amongst the other centers in the league?

    Or just your man? hahaha

    He is atleast not 2 of the 3 afore mentioned!

    Gortat is not the Man I prefer what my buddy said….. The Polish Softner Lmao hahah

  • PennyAnd1

    Oh c’mon, those of you who don’t whine about Gortat just don’t understand. If there is any other player that irritates me the most other than Brown it’s Gortat. I was always on his a** ever since the beginning of the season. I cooled off about a month ago just because Suns were winning. But then, on the Spurs game he reminded me why he always irritated me.

    @Belike81. The only reason why he leads in scoring is because he gets most of his points from Steve Nash babying him. They give him the ball more just because he is big & closest to the basket than anyone out there. And I’m sure if Lopez played more minutes he’d rebound more than Gortat. Lopez’s block ratio per 24 min. is twice as much as Gortat.

    But then I was the first to point out that Gortat was brought in to rebound & defense which he has done a great job of doing..therefore I disagree with @Scott. If Gortat is not brought in to score, than he shouldn’t be jacking up shots, fading away like he’s MJ or somethin’, like the way he displayed at San Antonio. With that in mind how could you not complain. I saw Steve Nash shaking his head in the corner whenever Gortat threw up hailmarys up there. He missed so many easy layups just because he wouldn’t dunk. Hey! don’t take my word for it. Gortat said it himself that he would’ve been averaging 30 points per game if he didn’t missed easy layups. So don’t calm me down about Gortat. He is like a mice who keeps trying to bite the cheese even though he feels the electric shock.

    @Fan in Chi Town
    The reason why I believe Suns will beat OKC is because of the confidence they have at home, plus they have an urgent reason to play hard. And I don’t care how good Clippers are playing now, their cryptonite will always be the Suns. The reason they blew the Suns away in the last game is because no one in the Suns team could score at that game..and it wasn’t Clippers’ defense at all. Suns had so many opportunities to run away with that game, but they missed it..I gaurantee you it won’t happen again. My only concern is Nuggets & Jazz. I believe Suns will rip Spurs on the last game for what they did recently.

  • belike81

    But wasn’t Lopez in the same position as Gortat is right now, last season? If I remember correctly, his stats as a starting center for the Suns where nowhere near Gortat’s.

    I know Gortat could do better, but as You said it yourself, he wasn’t brought to the team as a scorer. Infact he’s not a scorer, but he’s still leading the team in that category. It’s not why he was brought in to the Suns, and despite that he leads the team in this category.

    Would I like him to cut to the basket more, finish hard and not miss so many layups? Sure. But I don’t think he will ever be a scorer. He will improve, and I think he will be a solid player (even more so then now), but don’t count he will ever score 30 on a nightly basis.

    P.S. 20 points, 10 rebound, 1 TO in todays game – give the guy a break ;)

  • steve

    Haters gonna hate no matter what the stats say, and the stats say Gortat is a stud.

  • A-ROCK

    stup!d your probably Gortat hahah