“We got knocked out of the box right from the start.”
These words came from Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry after the Suns were defeated 105-91 in San Antonio on Saturday evening.
“They took us out of the game early,” continued Gentry. The Spurs used a 21-4 start to jump on the Suns with a fast paced initiative on offense, along with team defense to take a 35-13 lead into the second quarter.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, “we were able to jump on them pretty quickly and we sustained it through the game.”
Though there were two former NBA MVP’s on the floor in the AT&T Center, the one wearing the silver and black made the biggest impact by leading his team. Tim Duncan was a monster in the first quarter as he scored 13 points. Duncan would finish the game with 19 points, but Gentry wasn’t pleased with his teams defense on Duncan.
“You have to actually guard him,” said Gentry, “he’s pretty good.”
Midway through the first quarter, Gentry pulled all of his starters due to the poor start, the rest of the team would eventually go back in, except the other former MVP on the floor. Phoenix point guard Steve Nash never returned to the game after just playing six minutes in the first quarter. Asked if he ever considered bringing Nash back into the game after the Spurs’ 22-point first quarter, Gentry said nothing was going to change his mind.
“Nothing,” said Gentry, “he was not going to go back in.” Nash did say that he’s been bothered by minor injuries over the last three games, and said it was for the best that he didn’t return.
“I was lucky to get out when I did,” said Nash.
In the second quarter, the Suns used a 9-0 run to cut the Spurs’ lead down to 18 points, but coach Popovich would put his starters back in and they would create their own 9-0 run to push their lead up to the highest of the night, 28 points (58-30). Going into the halftime, the Spurs held a 24-point lead and Duncan, Tony Parker (14 points), and Kawhi Leonard (14 points) had already scored in double figures.
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili started the game for guard Danny Green in the third quarter, as Ginobili lead the Spurs in the third with six of his seven points. When asked why he pulled Green for the second half of the game, coach Popovich said it was due to Green needing some rest.
“He has been playing a lot,” said Popovich, “it was a good opportunity to give him a little bit of rest.”
The Suns also would hold Grant Hill from returning from the game. Parker and Duncan were pulled first from the Spurs in the third quarter, then after DeJuan Blair scored his 10th point of the game, he, Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard were all pulled with 2:56 remaining in the third quarter. All Spurs starters never returned to the game.
Once the starters were gone, the Suns went on a 10-2 run toward the end of the third quarter to cut San Antonio’s lead to 16 points, then it took a Patty Mills buzzer beating three to send the Spurs into the fourth quarter with an 84-65 lead.
“Our transition defense wasn’t very good,” said Gentry after the Spurs outscored the Suns 29-to-17 in fastbreak points.
But Gentry was proud of his second unit in the fourth quarter, as they went on a late 15-2 run to bring the Spurs’ lead down to 13 points, with just three minutes remaining.
“They almost got us back in it,” said Gentry of his bench, “we weren’t able to weather the storm.” The Suns actually got the Spurs’ lead down to 12 points with 2:41 remaining in the game, but the Spurs’ second unit would respond by closing the game out with an 8-4 ending.
One reason the Suns almost made a comeback was because of the amount of turnovers the Spurs had in the game. The Spurs turned the ball over nine times alone in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 24 total.
With the win, the Spurs are now 42-16 with eight games remaining until the NBA playoffs begin. Three of those eight games will be played on three consecutive nights, as the Spurs will have Sunday off before flying to the West coast for a back-to-back-back against the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, and Sacramento Kings.