The Spurs set the pace relatively early. They began the game on a blistering 18-4 run — Phoenix shot 2-for-10 over this span — and the Suns, bereft of much offensive talent outside of Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat (coincidentally, they were the only ones who had score up until that point), were unable to make the game even remotely competitive.
We didn’t know it at the time but the last possession that Nash (two points on 1-for-4 shooting) would participate in was a possession that ended in a Kawhi Leonard 3-pointer. For some reason the 6’7″ Jared Dudley was matched up against Tim Duncan down low. Forced to compensate for his size, Dudley fronted Duncan with the high probability of weak side help collapsing to protect against an easy two points for Duncan. The help came, Duncan astutely kicked out to Leonard, who was spotting up behind the break, for an open 3-pointer.
Alvin Gentry quickly called a timeout to assuage the Spurs run. Gentry also made five substitutions — he inserted Telfair, Redd, Hill, Morris and Lopez — and Nash’s night was anticlimactically over.
With Nash out of the fold, there wasn’t a noticeable difference in the quality of basketball. Phoenix continued to clank shots, turn the ball over with impunity in a desperate attempt to lose all semblance of their playoff hope.
Phoenix finished with 13 points in the quarter. Tim Duncan, alone, matched that number.
The second quarter was slightly more palatable (if you are a Suns fan) albeit insufficient. The Spurs began the quarter on the same note that they left the first but they, like all teams, are susceptible to lapses. This lapse came in the second quarter. The Suns, behind Sebastian Telfair’s four point spurt, went on a 9-0 run that cut the Spurs to 16. I made a joke about this on Twitter but the fact remained that Phoenix was bringing the requisite amount of intensity to keep up with the offensive juggernaut that is the San Antonio Spurs.
Or so it seemed.
For three minutes of the second quarter, Phoenix was held scoreless and the Spurs’ lead ballooned to an irreparable 28 points before Shannon Brown broke the ice after a couple of jumpshots. At the conclusion of the first half, San Antonio dominated in every facet conducive to winning basketball. Phoenix, on the other hand, atoned for their lack of defense with an even worse performance offensively. They converted on 35.6 percent of their shots in the first half (including 0-for-6 behind the arc) and did so on only six assists.
Because of Nash’s indelible influence on the offense, it isn’t surprising that their starters struggled immensely. The Phoenix bench, by sheer attrition, accounted for 71 points, due in large part to Telfair’s surprising resurgence and Michael Redd’s effective forays to the rim. It’s not like that the Spurs didn’t receive any production from their bench, however, but our bench’s production paled in comparison to the Suns.
It speaks volumes to the Suns inability tonight when you realize that they attempted 20 more shots than the Spurs and still lost by 14 points. Phoenix created 24 Spurs turnovers but, remarkably, only scored 13 points off of those turnovers. The Spurs, dealing with a much smaller amount of possessions, scored 24 points off 12 Phoenix turnovers.
And there, in essence, was the story of the game. Gentry was unusually frugal with his minutes and the bench was able to make the game respectable especially towards the tail end of the fourth quarter. Jared Dudley led all starters with 22:24 of playing time and the savvy Gortat felt the pressure without his perspicacious point guard dealing him with pinpoint passes.
Gortat wasn’t the only one suffering without Steve Nash, though. Basketball fans everywhere looking forward to a pretty important game between two teams that both have something to play for missed out.
The Spurs, with their 42nd victory under their belts, will prepare for a daunting back-to-back-to-back next week. All three games are featured on the road, including one at the Staples Center to face the Lakers for the first time since Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol exposed our deficient frontline. Their first task will be begin against the Golden State Warriors this Monday. Tip time is 9:30 CST.
The Spurs had a true shooting percentage of 62.2 percent … Phoenix converted on 43.8 percent of all their shots (free throws included) … The Spurs outrebounded the Suns by five … The Suns, however, were very active on the offensive glass, grabbing eight more offensive boards than the Spurs … Phoenix’ 18 offensive rebounds tied the most that San Antonio allowed in a victory … Phoenix shot 2-for-16 on 3-pointers (12.5 percent) … They shot 45 percent on 2-pointers … The Suns bench outscored the Spurs bench by 26 points (71-45) … Phoenix’ bench accounted for 78 percent of their total points … Steve Nash totaled 5:54 of action, scoring two points on 1-for-4 shooting … The Suns were outscored by 17 points in that span … Danny Green’s plus-23 actually puts him last among Spurs starters in plus/minus … After scoring 17 points and grabbing six rebounds, Tim Duncan saw very little action in the second half; Duncan finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds on 9-of-14 shooting … Kawhi Leonard, at least temporarily, broke through his “rookie wall” by scoring 14 points, grabbing five rebounds and shooting a sparkling 3-for-3 from behind the arc … Sebastian Telfair was the leading scorer of the entire game … Telfair finished with 21 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and 9-of-21 shooting … The Spurs opened the game on a blistering 21-4 run … As a result, there was only one tie in the entire game …