San Antonio Spurs News

Spurs vs. Suns reactions: Kawhi Leonard enters his comfort zone

By Rob Wolkenbrod
SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 5: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Phoenix Suns on January 5, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 5: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Phoenix Suns on January 5, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
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NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 02: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs in action against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 2, 2018 in New York City. The Spurs defeated the Knicks 100-91. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 02: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs in action against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 2, 2018 in New York City. The Spurs defeated the Knicks 100-91. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Reactions to the San Antonio Spurs win over the Phoenix Suns, 103-89.

On Friday night, the San Antonio Spurs returned home, only for one night, to face the Phoenix Suns. For the third time in the 2017-18 season, the Silver and Black defeated them, 103-89, behind the performances of Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili.

Afterward, the Spurs will travel to the West Coast, with a three-game road trip set. It’s positive momentum to enter this stretch, which extends through the second week of January.

Before this, let’s look at the latest reactions to the Spurs’ performance. Who looked sharp? Did someone deliver a surprise performance? Let’s take a look:

Kawhi Leonard’s most comfortable game yet

From the start of the game, Kawhi Leonard appeared comfortable. He looked better with each passing game, but on Friday night, the Spurs star delivered a smooth performance on both ends of the floor.

With 4 blocks and 3 steals, Leonard was all over the defensive end. He wreaked havoc, with deflections to start fast-break opportunities or throw the Suns off their game. It worked plenty, as he looked like his old self. That included the offensive end, too, with 21 points on 9-for-19 shooting.

After the game, head coach Gregg Popovich told Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News that “Kawhi is looking more and more like himself every game.”

In addition to his 21 points in 29 minutes, Leonard had 4 steals and 3 of the #Spurs' season-best 15 steals. “Kawhi is looking more and more like himself every game,” Pop said. “Hopefully, we are going in the right direction.”

— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) January 6, 2018

If Popovich realizes this, that’s all that matters, right? Let’s see if that means Leonard plays on Sunday, which will only be one day between games. The Spurs have rested the Klaw since his mid-December return if the team had one or zero days between games.

Next: Grandpa Juice

SAN ANTONIO,TX – JANUARY 05 : Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs tries to steal the ball from Marquese Chriss #0 of the Phoenix Suns but is instead called for a foul at AT&T Center on January 05, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO,TX – JANUARY 05 : Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs tries to steal the ball from Marquese Chriss #0 of the Phoenix Suns but is instead called for a foul at AT&T Center on January 05, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

Grandpa Juice was flowing

It’s 2018 and still amazing that Manu Ginobili plays basketball, as he’s 40-years-old and one of the NBA’s oldest players. Yet, he produces in a supporting role and still displays that old “Manu Magic.” This was the case vs. Phoenix.

Ginobili delivered a strong second half, working his way to 21 points in just 19 minutes. It was among his best performances of the season, with shades of his old self coming through. Even Popovich was impressed by this ageless wonder:

“He’s something else. Whatever he’s drinking, I want some of that … there’s got to be a fountain of youth some place.”

– Coach Pop on Manu pic.twitter.com/wOrerM7BUA

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) January 6, 2018

Ginobili’s work remains eye-popping for those who have watched him these past 16 years. Enjoy it while it lasts, because it could be his final season in the Alamo City.

Bryn Forbes produces in starter’s minutes

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Before Friday’s game, we noted how Bryn Forbes made the most of his opportunity, one that won’t go away, unlike other players that filled in for injured players. He jumped from a DNP-Coach’s Decision in 2016-17 to a full-time role player in 2017-18. That includes stepping up for an injured Danny Green, who missed the Suns game, due to a groin injury.

Forbes stayed quiet in the second half, with most of his points being scored in the first and second quarters. He finished with 16 points on 7-for-16 shooting, which wasn’t a dominant performance but enough to open eyes as he knocked down open shots. Credit that to a poor Suns defense that left him alone.

Games like this will continue to earn Popovich’s trust. Expect the Michigan State product’s minutes to slip to its normal range of 15-20, but to remain consistent for the foreseeable future.

Next: Davis Bertans shoots more than 3's

PHILADELPHIA, PA – JANUARY 3: Davis Bertans #42 of the San Antonio Spurs puts up a shot over Dario Saric #9 of the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on January 3, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA – JANUARY 3: Davis Bertans #42 of the San Antonio Spurs puts up a shot over Dario Saric #9 of the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on January 3, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Davis Bertans displays more than just 3-pointers

To say Davis Bertans often shoots 3-pointers would be an understatement. 266 of his 355 shot attempts have come from long distance, which designates him as a 3-point specialist, along with the occasional rebound and blocked shot. Otherwise, the Latvian forward is a one-dimensional player.

While this remains the case, even after Friday’s game, Bertans showed he can do more than just linger from behind the arc. Three of his five made shots were inside. It could be a one-off performance, as he played 27 minutes and was able to do more on the offensive end (12 shot attempts).

When LaMarcus Aldridge returns, Bertans likely reverts to a sporadic role player, who gets a few opportunities at 3 points. But, Friday was a change and a positive one toward his development.

Back to the West Coast

If it feels like the Spurs were just on the West Coast, it’s because they were. From Dec. 20 to 23, the Silver and Black played three games, in Portland, Salt Lake City and Sacramento. Around two weeks later, they will make a similar trip.

Sunday’s matchup will be in Portland, where the Spurs will challenge the Blazers. These teams already went head-to-head in 2017-18, with San Antonio winning.

The following day, the Spurs will go to the Golden 1 Center, for a game vs. the Sacramento Kings. Their previous meeting resulted in a win for the former, too.

Finally, there will be the season’s first matchup vs. the Los Angeles Lakers. It takes place at the Staples Center.

Next: Top 25 players in Spurs history

Will the Spurs capitalize on this win, before heading to the West Coast? Or could there be issues along the way?

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