Weathering 20 points from Tony Parker through the first 40 minutes of the game and also Manu Ginobili’s attempt to take over after being whacked in the face by Shannon Brown, the Phoenix Suns led 88-86 early in the fourth quarter and looked poised for a tight game against the San Antonio Spurs.
But the usual problems began to pop up in the Suns’ 108-99 loss to the Spurs.
A lineup of Jared Dudley, Markieff Morris, P.J. Tucker, Luis Scola and Sebastian Telfair didn’t just fail to score without a dangerous ball-handler or playmaker, but turnovers plagued Phoenix. With that, the Spurs were sparked to a 10-0 run behind seven points from Parker and built a lead as big as 11 to hold off the Suns on Saturday night in San Antonio.
That came behind 31 points and seven assists from Parker. And it was despite strong games from Dudley, who scored 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the floor, and Goran Dragic, who put up a nine-point, 10-assist effort.
Inconsistencies boiled up elsewhere for Phoenix.
Michael Beasley was on the good end of that, scoring a season-high 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting to go with six rebounds and two assists. His assertiveness on both ends continued to look promising, and his confidence in the midrange game and even in attacking the rim told of a player with as fresh a mindset as his new hairdo.
On the bad side of the hard-to-understand Suns’ individual play was center Marcin Gortat, whose miscues built up into missed second-chance points, layups and then floating defensive focus. He grabbed 12 rebounds but hit just 4-of-12 shots for nine points. His passiveness in defensive rotations wasn’t the proactive approach interim head coach Lindsey Hunter would likely approve of.
Dragic’s defense, of course, could be partially to blame for Parker’s 13-of-17 shooting performance that was at its peak to start the game, then to end it.
The matchup problem didn’t make it easy for the Slovenian point guard, however. And the loss was most disappointing for the Suns because they played with the Spurs punch-for-punch for all but the quick two-plus minutes of that 10-0 fourth-quarter run. The first seven points of that run were by Parker against Telfair, and the Suns also gave the ball up three times during that stretch.
That resting period for Dragic ended up being the knockout punch for Phoenix. For the game, Dragic posted a zero in the plus-minus statistic.
Overall, Phoenix simply didn’t have that often-talked-about, coveted star power to keep up with Parker and Ginobili, the latter of whom had 20 points off the bench. When they weren’t turning it over, the Suns played better team ball than the Spurs, posting 30 total assists on 41 made field goals. On the other hand, San Antonio won the turnover battle with nine miscues themselves and scored 22 points off 17 Phoenix giveaways.
Closing the game again became the Suns’ biggest issue, and they were outscored 27-17 in the final period.
The Suns shot 51 percent from the floor for the game, a number that would have been higher had it not been for missed shots in the interior by not only Gortat but Scola as well. The Argentinian went 3-of-10 from the floor after two efficient outings leading into Saturday.
Phoenix didn’t have the guns to keep up with a San Antonio team that shot 49 percent. Dragic didn’t get to the foul stripe once after finding his way there 14 times against the Clippers on Thursday. Tucker’s 11 points – he added 10 rebounds and four assists – made him the only player outside of Dudley and Beasley to reach double-figures.
For a team that can’t afford inconsistencies – individual or mid-game ones – the Suns put up a fight but had no room for error against a Spurs team that has now won 16 straight at home and even without Tim Duncan is one of the most solid offensive units in the NBA.
- Jermaine O’Neal, who has missed the three games of the Lindsey Hunter era with an irregular heartbeat, has been ruled out of Sunday’s game at Dallas, according to Paul Coro.
- Jared Dudley appeared to re-injure the right wrist as he continually grimaced and inspected it, but it didn’t appear to hurt his shooting stroke.
- Shannon Brown was ejected on a flagrant two foul for slapping Manu Ginobili across the face after getting beat on a drive before the end of the third quarter. The play and final call after a review by the officials might have been aided by the previous few plays between the two players, when Ginobili and Brown were getting physical.