Preview: San Antonio Spurs (44-13) at Phoenix Suns (18-38)


Time: 6 p.m. MST

TV: FSAZ

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PHOENIX – The rotational questions surrounding the Phoenix Suns and their forward-heavy roster was supposed to be cleared up once Marcus Morris got a few practices under his belt. As of now, it appears it’d be the smart thing to put that talk on hold.

Lindsey Hunter said before Phoenix’s game against the Boston Celtics that he hadn’t gotten close to thinking about how the rotations would be planned out. At the time, it felt like it just wasn’t something Hunter needed to do with the newest Morris not expected to see playing time on Friday night.

But after he did play and the final buzzer sounded, it was clear that what Hunter said before the game was very true. Whoever earns playing time will see it – no set rotation needed as the Suns move on to face another team that has a rich tradition of winning.

“If guys don’t have to play that think they’re entitled, then they won’t play,” Hunter said after playing point guard Goran Dragic to the end of a foul-tasting 25-point loss. “That’s part of why I left Goran in, because he didn’t want to come out.”

The San Antonio Spurs visit U.S. Airways Center on Sunday in the first meeting of a two-game series against Phoenix.

Since Hunter took over for Alvin Gentry, the Suns have gone 5-10 and lost by 20 points or more in four games, a sign that the young head coach’s in-game motivational tactics perhaps could use some tinkering. Hunter guaranteed after the Boston game that he’d coach effort if need be. He also promised that that only those who show fight will see playing time, and he threatened to play third-string point guard Diante Garrett 30 minutes per night, a sign that the Suns’ season is already appearing to be trending toward a more painful final 26 games than most could have comprehended in the preseason.

Within single games, the Suns have often fallen behind like they did against Boston, but in the Hunter era, runs by other teams have snowballed more than ever before.

Forward P.J. Tucker said that memories of the game against the Celtics must be dropped, and quickly.

“The schedule is not getting easier. We can’t harp on it,” Tucker said on Friday. “We’ve had games like that. We’ve had games where we come back from deficits of way more than tonight (early on). Tonight I don’t know what it was.”

San Antonio is coming off an overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors, and a nine-game rodeo trip will end, fittingly, in Phoenix before two days off before their next game, a bout against the Suns in Texas on Wednesday.

The Spurs are overall healthier than the team that Phoenix last saw on Jan. 26, when Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan sat out in a 108-99 San Antonio victory, but without perennial darkhorse MVP candidate Tony Parker, could be even more vulnerable. He is out with a triceps contusion.

Leery, the Spurs are looking to finish their rodeo trip on a high note.

“If we win in Phoenix, it will be a very, very nice road trip, but it’s important to not get ahead of ourselves thinking about getting home,” Ginobili told SpursNation.com. “Let’s get Phoenix and then, yes, it will be nice to be back in San Antonio for all those games.”

  • DBreezy

    While he does this sort of thing all the time anyway, you have to wonder if Pop saw Lindsey’s comments on the Celts disrespecting the Suns by resting KG among other things when he was deciding whether or not to sit Parker out.

    • Kevin Zimmerman

      @DBreezy I thought the exact same thing. The disrespect comments I don’t think were in context to KG so much as Boston disrespected the Suns because Phoenix didn’t demand it. But yeah, they aren’t commanding the respect. Parker’s injury occurred two games ago and he didn’t sit against Golden State.

      • DBreezy

        @Kevin Zimmerman No they’re not commanding any respect and I think Lindsey may have to tread carefully going forward. As you noted above there has been an increase in blowouts and a corresponding increase in rants from Hunter. When Alvin went to rant mode, it cost him with the front office but I don’t think he had lost the team at that point. Lindsey seems like he’s much closer to losing the team if he continues using certain motivational tactics. As fugly as its been, the Suns still aren’t in the organizational swamp that a team like the Kings is in where things like Beasley’s ‘elbow-gate’ are routine. It can get worse from both a record and culture standpoint.

    • 4everis2long

      @DBreezy It is pretty funny when teams now look at the Suns as a JV team. The Suns need to earn some respect at least from the standpoint where teams know they will play hard and smart. I do not blame PoP at all. The Suns are pathetic with Gortat playing so soft.
       
      Did you see Payne for Michigan State today against Ohio? I hope the Suns have him on their radar for an early 2nd round pick unless he shows well enough in post season tournaments to warrant a late 1st round pick. I think he had 10 points and 14 boards. He is 6’10″ with a 7’4″ wingspan with a decent stroke.

      • DBreezy

        @4everis2long I had a good night hanging out in San Fran last night, so I saw a nap instead any hoops this afternoon. It’s gonna be hard for them to earn respect. The vets know what the team is at this point, the youngins are inexperienced and mostly happy to be out there and the bench staff is very inexperienced outside of Igor. I’m real interested to see what happens if Lindsey gets his wish to run long practices where they act like they’re preparing for the finals every game. I see the Spurs are also sitting Neal tonight. I get the feeling that the first 7mins or so will tell the tale of the whole game.

        • 4everis2long

          @DBreezy  @4everis2long I am not mad at you. When I lived in Sacramento for 3 years I spent numerous weekends in the Bay area. Great place to hang out. It looks like Warriors will have an awesome arena I think next season that will make the Bay area even more attractive for hoops fans.

  • HarrySun

    Over/under for wide open corner three’s allowed by Dudley at 3.5.  Against San Antonio it would be higher but he may not play much.  My money’s on the over.  Always the over with Duds and corner threes defended.  How do the coaches not see this?

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