PHOENIX – Jeff Hornacek will probably say it in a few minutes during the postgame presser. The Phoenix Suns can’t think they can roll out of bed, onto the court and beat anyone. And when turnovers are involved against a Western Conference dynasty, well, call it a loss — even if that team is without its MVP.
Manu Ginobili won’t be buried. If he was thinking about retirement this summer, he showed why he received the loudest boos in U.S. Airways Center en route to a 108-99 San Antonio Spurs win on Wednesday. The Suns’ nemesis put in 24 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals off the bench to make up for the absence of point guard Tony Parker. Tim Duncan added 17 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks, and the turnover-prone Suns floundered down the stretch of a close game.
Channing Frye hit all six field goals, including three triples, in the first quarter to get the Suns off to a roaring hot start. He had 15 after one, didn’t score in the second quarter and finished with 22.
The point guard tandem of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic had one of their worst games yet, hitting 12-of-33 shots for 33 points and 11 dimes. Aside from that duo, Frye and a solid effort from Miles Plumlee, there wasn’t much cleanliness with Phoenix’s play.
It wasn’t a cleanly played game by either side. Phoenix coughed it up 17 times through three quarters and San Antonio added 15 turnovers of its own. By the end of the night, Gregg Popovich’s squad scored 25 points on 19 turnovers, making Phoenix’s 20 points off 18 Spurs miscues all for naught.
Does Goran Dragic make a difference?
Though he struggled at times to harness and corral the second unit, Dragic didn’t leave the court in the second half. It said a bit about Hornacek’s belief in Dragic and the importance of picking up a win against the Spurs.
As of now, the Suns ain’t in the tanking race one bit.
Dragic wasn’t the only backcourt member to make a big difference. Archie Goodwin earned himself extended run in the first half and led all bench players with 12:25 played. In that time, he scored seven points and especially took advantage off his two steals.
How do the Suns handle a brighter spotlight?
Like any other game. The Suns looked steady as usual, building a big lead with the starting unit before the first substitutions led to questionable defensive efforts. Suddenly, Patty Mills was burying two threes as Eric Bledsoe reverted back to his sleep Isaiah Thomas defense and went away from his exceptional Stephen Curry defense. The Morris twins struggled with help defense, couldn’t keep Kawhi Leonard and Matt Bonner covered atop the arc and took a questionable shot each. Nothing out of the ordinary, really.
Phoenix kept scoring even when the defense slipped. A 10-point first quarter lead turned into a 59-58 deficit at halftime even though the Suns were shooting 57.5 percent overall.
Do the Suns control the boards?
The Spurs, and especially Tim Duncan, did his damage on the offensive glass, but Miles Plumlee didn’t necessarily get outworked. Duncan struggled with turnovers, in the first half getting ripped by getting too tricky with his ballhandling around the second-year big man.
Plumlee took an offensive board of his own over the Spurs to give Phoenix a 95-93 lead – its first of the second half – with five minutes to play. After that, it was only sloppy offense and more mistakes for the Suns.
Plumlee finished with 13 points, 13 boards and two blocks. And in the end, the Suns lost the rebounding differential by four and crashed the offensive glass with near equal success, which in the end mattered little.