Preview: San Antonio Spurs (40-15) vs. Phoenix Suns (32-21)


Time: 7 p.m. MST

TV: FSA

Spurs

Spurs

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Suns

A late February home affair might not qualify as a measuring stick game for the Phoenix Suns anymore than the previous 53 they’ve played in have. Nonetheless, despite prior statement wins over the likes of the Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix’s rags-to-riches campaign has yet to include a win over Friday’s opponent, the San Antonio Spurs.

Like a character straight out of a fairy tale, it seems age has not withered but rather empowered the Spurs’ title aspirations. ‘Various maladies’ continue to creep up on the reigning Western Conference championships, like those that currently have All-Star point guard Tony Parker reduced to a spectator, but as winter rolls into spring, San Antonio is no less a title contender than its been throughout the last decade-and-a-half.

Beating the venerable Spurs this time of year will not make or break the Suns’ chances of going to the postseason for the first time since 2009-10, however with 30 games remaining, confidence and positioning in the standings often go hand-in-hand.

A win would add an extra notch on Phoenix’s already impressive belt. A loss, well, that could leave the door open for doubt to creep in should the two former rivals engage in yet another memorable playoff battle come April.

Here’s three questions that could go a long way towards determining the potential playoff preview:

Can Goran Dragic play the opportunist?

Going up against a short-handed Spurs squad is nothing new for the Suns this season. Back on Dec. 18, 2013, San Antonio strolled into the Valley minus Parker and managed to leave with a 108-101 victory. In that contest, Dragic drew the assignment of Cory Joseph and Patty Mills, and yet he failed to really take advantage of the favorable matchup. The Suns guard finished with 18 points but shot 6-of-18 from the field to go along with four assists. Dragic is unquestionably a better player now than he was then, but Friday would go a long way towards cushioning that argument with more empirical evidence. Great point guards recognize opposing teams’ weaknesses. For the Spurs, it’s currently their point guard play.

Will the Plumlee slide finally subside?

The Suns front office decided to stand pat at the NBA trade deadline, refusing to sell future assets for a short-term interior scorer. That decision should be met by applause, because the group has certainly earned the right to go down the stretch with the roster as it’s currently constituted. With that said, an upgrade inside might not have been the worst thing in the world. While Dragic has progressed as a player in recent weeks, Miles Plumlee has clearly regressed — whether because he’s no longer much of a secret or simply because he’s hit the wall. Defensively, the energy and effort is still very much present when it comes to the former Duke standout, but offensively Plumlee has become a shell of what he was back in November, December and the early part of January.

In his last 11 games, Plumlee has reached double figures on just two occasions. In that same span, the second-year center five points or less five times. The Suns can win without him putting up 15 to 20 points a night, but they still need him to be somewhat of an asset on the block and on the glass, rather than a liability. He’s averaging 14.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in two prior meetings with the Spurs this season, maybe a heavy dose of Tiago Splitter and Jeff Ayres will be just what the doctor ordered.

Can the Suns killer be silenced for a night?

Back in December, the Spurs didn’t need strong play from their point guard rotation, because sixth man extraordinare and resident Suns killer Manu Ginobili delivered a crunch time performance for the ages, scoring 11 of his team-high 24 points over the final four-plus minutes.

That performance came on a night when Phoenix had both Dragic and Eric Bledsoe at its disposal — a personnel option that obviously won’t be available Friday night.

The onus will largely fall on P.J. Tucker to thwart any one-man, game-changing runs, but Gerald Green and Dragic might get some run against Ginobili, as well.

Limit the Argentine’s production and the Spurs’ bench becomes an underwhelming unit at best. Allow him to get hot — be it early or late — and the Suns could be staring at a third straight loss against Gregg Popovich and Co.

Tags: Goran Dragic Manu Ginobili Miles Plumlee Phoenix Suns San Antonio Spurs

  • http://ultimatesimbaseball.com Brenton

    Im throwing a party for the ages when that floppy pos Ginobli finally retires.

  • http://ultimatesimbaseball.com Brenton

    I was getting a haircut a week before my wedding day, except that the only person available to cut my hair is this older man with a foreign accent. I dont usually trust men with anything style related, but Im also a lazy man and did not want to leave and go elsewhere. So this dude gets me into the chair and we talk about how I want my hair cut, and then we start talking sports. And thats when everything went downhill in a hurry. He starts telling me how his favorite player is Ginobli, how awesome he is and how much better than anyone else he plays. How Ginobli is his personal hero.

    Let me tell you, that man did not get a tip and I have never been back to that place again. What an agonizing twenty minutes. I have had an unnatural fear of getting my hair cut ever since.

  • Al

    You should have sued him…That’s 20 minutes of agonizing torture…Anyone the Spurs will be the vain of Sun’s playoff hopes until Duncan and Pop retire, then they’ll be out of the playoffs for some time like the Pistons…and there will be peace.

  • Mike

    The Spurs weakness has been their point guard play? What is this guy watching? Might want to watch Patty Mills for the last 6-7 gms? Don’t come to Vegas with these opinions, you will leave with an empty wallet and bank account.

    • Dave Dulberg

      I don’t disagree with you at all that Patty Mills has been on a tear lately. And yes, I’ve been watching the same games you have. My point is simply this, without Parker, San Antonio lacks elite talent at the point guard position — the kind that will help them win come April or May. Mills has put up career numbers lately, but you failed to mention that he’s a very streaky shooter, whose also never been known to get his teammates involved. Instant offense? Sure. Outside of that, I’d take my chances letting him beat me as opposed to their perimeter scorers/slashers (Green, Ginobili and Leonard) or Duncan. He’s a very nice weapon to have off the bench/nice spot starter, but make no mistake with him on the court, the Spurs are weaker at point guard.

  • sunsn7

    Goran Dragic notches a TRIPLE DOUBLE tonight

  • Foreveris2long

    While Patty Mills is streaky they just beat the Clippers and Trailblazers on the road with Mills going off. I would not sleep on the Spurs just because Parker is MIA as Mills is a good player.

    Is it time for Goodwin to make an appearance? It seems what Barbosa is giving us on offense he is giving up on defense. I suspect Barbosa’s leash is going to be short the next few games. However the primary beneficiary will likely be Ish especially against Mills tonight. Should be a fun game.

  • Scott

    I’m fine with Goodwin getting some minutes. He may not have put up big numbers, but as far as I can tell, he never seemed to hurt the team much when he was on the court.

    However, on this particular occasion I’d like to see Dragic and Barbosa have a throwback game where they torch the Spurs again. :)

  • sunsn7

    PLAY ARCHIE GOODWIN

  • sunsn7

    GOOD-WIN!!

  • sunsn7

    ..and Archie with a highlight block at the rack!

  • sunsn7

    …and Archie with the dazzling spin move for the contested layup.

    And One!

  • sunsn7

    …and Archie with the offensive board, leads to the Morris WHAMO!

    Say “poster”

  • sunsn7

    …and ARCHIE with the tip dunk!

    “WHAM BAM SLAM”

  • sunsn7

    Thanks Jeff Hornacek for continuing bringing him along and instilling confidence in the kid!

  • EBJM

    Why isn’t Len playing?

  • sunsn7

    Archie Goodwin?

    An Alondo Tucker he is not! :)

  • EBJM

    Alando/Archie – Tomato/Tamato

  • EBJM

    Frye has been reading my comments, he has been playing like a PF the past week.

  • sunsn7

    Good question and there he is

  • EBJM

    Back to Len, what’s up? Is he hurt?

  • EBJM

    The difference between Archie and Alando is about the same as the difference between Chambers and Gugliotta.

  • sunsn7

    Still cant believe that comparison came from you…

    And woulda been nice to have seen Len in meaningful minutes but how bout that Goodwin kid? What is he, 20 yrs old?

    Personal favorite of mine

  • EBJM

    Alanchie!

  • Dave Dulberg

    Patty Mills – 2-of-14 with three turnovers. A few nice games does not a great point guard make.

  • EBJM

    19! So I never cease to amaze you?

  • EBJM

    Huh Dave, it was that lock-down defense of Dragic’s!

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  • sunsn7

    Suns crowd was weak and here is Leander saying “Suns fans were insane tonight” which is a weak sales job if I ever heard one.

    Even though game was a sellout, it’d be nice to have an intimidating atmosphere and true homecourt advantage. Maybe as this season progresses the crowds will get better

  • foreveris2long

    I could be wrong Dave but I don’t recall anyone calling Mills great.

  • Dave Dulberg

    Mike seemed to insinuate that I wasn’t recognizing Mills for his recent run, because I called the Spurs’ point guard rotation its weakest link without Parker. It’s really not a big deal.

  • foreveris2long

    I am with ya Dave.