Phoenix Suns 106, San Antonio Spurs 85 -- Killer instinct

PHOENIX – A lackluster first two games out of the All-Star break might have caused worry for the Phoenix Suns. The week off may have taken away their edge, and it could have drowned the momentum that had the Suns competing with the Miami Heat in their final game before All-Star weekend.

Against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, Suns coach Jeff Hornacek seemed worried about lapses in focus.

“I want this team to develop a killer instinct,” he said. “We always want to put the foot to the pedal. You get a team down eight, you want to get it to 12, 13, and when you get it there, you want to get it to 18, 19.”

The players seemingly listened, although it was easy to put the foot to the pedal against a San Antonio Spurs team in its ninth and final game of its annual Rodeo Road Trip — and without Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. The Suns pulled away in the first half and further away in the second to win 106-85 Friday at U.S. Airways Center.

Phoenix went on a 19-0 run at the start the second quarter to open up a 38-25 lead. During San Antonio’s scoring goal drought of six and a half minutes, the Suns forced 10 missed field goals, had three blocks and forced the Spurs into four turnovers.

The most impressive part was how they did it. It was quite Spurs-like.

Goran Dragic played 29 minutes in one of his worst games in a while. He scored eight points, the first time since Dec. 27 he had less than 15. He had five assists, four turnovers and despite all that had the best plus-minus score of plus-29.

Meanwhile, Gerald Green struggled with his shot and hit 5-of-14 attempts, missing all five three-point tries.

Markieff Morris led Phoenix with 21 points and filled in the box score with five rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. Ish Smith set a career-high with 15 points, and Channing Frye added 17 points and eight boards.

On to Dave Dulberg’s pregame queries.

Can Goran Dragic play the opportunist?

Goran Dragic took a backseat in the first half and then found himself in foul trouble, but that was fine thanks to how well backup point guard Ish Smith was playing. Smith entered with less than four minutes to play in the first quarter, earlier than normal with the absence of Leandro Barbosa, who was out with a sprained toe.

Hornacek couldn’t pull him.

Smith hit all five shots in the first half and kicked up dust in the Spurs’ faces in the fullcourt. He also added two blocks, two steals, three assists and five rebounds.

By the end of the game, Smith had accounted for 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Meanwhile, Dragic sat the entire fourth after an underwhelming performance relative to what we’re used to.

Will the Plumlee slide finally subside?

Miles Plumlee didn’t stuff the box score or really get the chance to do so offensively. But he did continue his success against Tim Duncan, who could only muster 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting and five rebounds with Plumlee on the defensive assignment.

Can the Suns killer be silenced for a night?

Manu Ginobili made an appearance for 13 minute despite coming into Friday questionable to earn playing time.

“He wants to play, we’re going to argue and see what happens,” Popovich said before the game. “When him and Timmy, we’ve each won a few. Sometimes I win, sometimes they win. I won last night with Timmy.”

In the end, Ginobili looked sluggish playing against the Phoenix second unit captained by Smith. He finished with six points and aside from a potentially phantom charge drawn on P.J. Tucker went relatively unnoticed.

5 doses of Pop

5. The Spurs finished out their nine-game Rodeo Road Trip Friday against Phoenix. Going into the game, it already seemed like it could be too much for Gregg Popovich.

“Nine in a row is a bit much,” he said. “We always look forward to the Rodeo trip to come together, bunker mentality, all that happy … whatever. But by this time, I think that’s a challenge to convince them there’s a game left.”

4. Popovich pointed straight to Hornacek when asked about what’s made the Suns so successful this year.

“A lot of credit goes to Jeff,” the Spurs coach said. “He’ll try to deflect it all because of who he is but, you know, he sets the tone. He’s got a lot of credibility the way he’s carried himself throughout his career. He’s a persistent individual who played a hard-nosed brand of basketball. He’s set a tone. His players obviously have character to respond, they’ve adjusted and bought into his system the way they want to play.”

3. To open pregame questioning, San Antonio Express News beat writer Mike Monroe jokingly asked Popovich which Spurs would be missing the game because of injury, but he was wondering aloud how he could phrase the question.

“Mike, you just say, ‘Who’s out?’” Popovich quipped. “It’s easy. It’s not like you have to be Henry James or something.”

2. Popovich, on if Jeff Hornacek was the type of player that would have fit well with the Spurs: “I know it’s a sin, but I coveted him – often,” Popovich said. “Sounds a little strange I guess. Pop covets Jeff. It’s OK, I’m proud of it. He was a hell of a player, now he’s a hell of a coach.”

1. Popovich doesn’t have grand plans for San Antonio’s trade deadline swap of Nando De Colo for Austin Daye — not yet anyway. The Spurs coach said he doesn’t even know what he’ll do with Daye.

“He’ll show up. I haven’t thought about him much,” Popovich said. “I don’t think he’s exactly in my thinking. I know there’s a lot of publicity on the TV about the trade. Huge, momentous sort of thing. Could change the balance of the West. It’ll take a day or two for me to figure out what I want to do with him.”

And 1

Pop struggles with the catch-and-shoot like he’s been infected by Shannon Brown.

  • vtsunrise

    When does the regular season begin? That felt a bit like an exhibition game. Wild!

  • EBJM

    Oh come on Pops! you knew exactly who you were getting when you traded your 4th string PG Nando De Colo. I guess having three French players were a bit much.

    Actually though, De Colo simply couldn’t play Pop’s brand of defense and he was shipped out.

  • vtsunrise

    Hilarious Pop-cycles. He cracks me up.

  • EBJM

    If the Suns can stay in 6th place they wouldn’t see the Thunder until the WCFs!

  • GoSuns

    Roll Suns Roll haha, keep getting some wins

  • EBJM

    I’m surprised he answered five questions.

  • sunsn7

    Archie Goodwin says


  • The real al

    Did I just hear by the commentators that this was a sell out game?????? I did notice On tv the arena was quite packed.

    Good sign that people here in the valley are starting to take notice of this exciting brand of basketball.

    Go SUNS!!! Let’s get it!!

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    Pop actually has been really good when there are no cameras and the San Antonio guys are leading the charge.

  • CART jeff

    First 2 attempts against Rockets have Plumlee shoot the ball from the elbow, then 3rd time down court pump fake Dewight Howard, 1 dribble drive and dunk it in his face. Rest of game let offense come naturally, watch him gather 15 rebounds and 3 blocks. He needs to square up and shoot from 15′ out. He is too good for this, coach him up! Go Suns!

  • foreveris2long

    I do not care if the Spurs played 30 games in 30 nights immediately before playing the Suns. When the Suns beat them by 20 after the Spurs beat both the Clippers and Trailblazers on the road, there is a lot to be proud of about this team’s heart.

    Ish, Goodwin and Morris twins put on a show. Barbosa is a veteran and can score but Ish and Goodwin both defend. Hopefully they continue to get some time. Keep it rolling Suns. You have to love this team.

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    Great game by Ish Smith he really set the tone

    another so so game by plumlee, i love Plumlee but Len needs more minutes

    Robin Lopez by the way had 12 points 18 rebounds and 4 blocks in a win tonight for Portland, playing without Lamarcus Aldridge

    yet another prospect the Suns didnt develop or got impatient with and shipped off

    Dont do that to Len!

  • hawki

    Ish…Kieff….Archie….great performances

  • vtsunrise

    It was a kick seeing Archie show his talent and intensity. Like a caged animal just waiting for his chance to pounce. We’ll be seeing a lot more of him.

    I liked the Barbosa signing but really, with what Ish and Archie are showing, you’ve got to go with the youth. This Suns team is going to be amazing for the next five or so years, I think.

    Gogi is just reaching his prime. Gerald Green is a keeper and fits like a glove. As long as they can keep a healthy Bledsoe, that means they’ll have the nest, most exciting and dynamic set of 5 guards in the league, including 3 PGs who can relentlessly take it to the other team.

    And the front court, big and young and talented…and all those draft picks. Plus an excellent coach.

    We’re just getting this party started.

  • vtsunrise

    oops – the “nest” = the “best” – let the Phoenix rise from the nest and take fright!

    Yes, fright. Scary daze ahead for all who step onto the court against these freaks.

  • Luka

    A win against the Spurs is a win against the Spurs. Other than a ragged first quarter, the Suns second unit really blew the game wide open. Ish was clearly the difference maker tonight.

    Archie got some productive minutes tonight. We need to see more of him. He’s probably the most athletic player on the team. If he can develop a jumper I think he’s got a real chance to be a future starter at 2 guard.

  • Eric

    I was there what a great performance and the SPurs couldn’t make a thing loved it

  • EBJM

    Frye and Archie read our comments and played to shut me up! I’m not mad, keep it up!

  • sunsn7

    The Phoenix Suns heart this website, and this website hearts the Phoenix Suns!

    Nice posts btw VT ;)

  • EBJM

    Suns7, this is a quote from Luka:

    “He’s probably the most athletic player on the team. If he can develop a jumper I think he’s got a real chance to be a future starter at 2 guard.”

    Are you seriously going to tell me that the same thing wasn’t being said about Alando Tucker?

    That’s all I was saying.

    Hey did I ever tell you that after a game in November 1984 I prepared an after-game meal for then head coach John MacLeod and his assistant John Wetzel?

  • vtsunrise

    Any word on Bledsoe? Suns are really in need of him!!!! (sarcasm, of course. Yes, he’ll be a great addition, but the ship keeps sailing miraculously…)

    Still, with Bledsoe-Dragic, AND Green-Ish… that’s a whole lot of fire power and explosion, 48-minutes worth! Non-stop!

    My guess is if it’s a judgment call on bringing him back sooner or later, it’ll be later the way this ball is rolling.

  • vtsunrise

    Thanks for the nod, 7. Back atcha. And Yes, Archie needs some of those 96 minutes allotted to the 1&2. Maybe play Green at the 3 some?

  • Eric

    While at the game last night I noticed some real effort and team work from the twins last night very impressive. It’s like they know where each other are at all times. Some nights the effort is just not their. ISh took advantage of some tired legs on the Spurs but hey no mercy for the Spurs. It was nice taking my girl to a game to see her Spurs and not giving her much to cheer about lol. Happy late Valentines day baby ha ha gO SUNS! Only negative last night was Len it was like he was stuck in cement on several plays he had easy chances for rebounds and couldn’t jump. Needs to work on jumping and coming down and that 2nd jump.

  • Scott

    I appreciate Hornacek defining “killer instinct” as the determination to keep increasing a lead. A lot of people define it as being able to hit a winning shot, but my impression has been that if you have it Hornacek’s way, you’re less likely to find yourself in the position where there’s a winning shot.