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