Spurs Fall Short In Phoenix
PHOENIX -- No how many points the Suns score against everybody else, there's one opponent they struggle against in trying to put the ball in the basket - the San Antonio Spurs.
So the Suns' 116-104 dismantling of the Spurs in Phoenix Tuesday night, a game in which the Suns rained in points from all over the floor, brought a prolonged roar from a near sellout crowd.
The Suns (17-8) now are 9-0 at home; they're the NBA's only undefeated home team. Dating to last season, they've won 18 straight in Phoenix , the league's longest such streak.
"THAT was a great win," said Alvin Gentry, the Suns' jubilant coach. "The Spurs are such a smart team. They know how to push a button here and there. They'll bait you into doing something you're not accustomed to doing."
Though the Spurs now are modest 12-10, "Check back in April," Gentry said. "They won't be two games over .500."
The Suns got contributions that were both notable and surprising.
Amar'e Stoudemire, continuing his comeback from offseason eye surgery, had his best game of the season, going for 28 points, 14 boards, three steals and just one turnover while spending most of the night going head-to-head against superstar Tim Duncan.
Duncan had a terrific game of his own, with 34 points and 14 rebounds, as he bothered the Suns by scooping up offensive rebounds and scoring. But Stoudemire put the game away when he knocked the ball away from Duncan with 3:00 left.
The Suns' Goran Dragic picked it up and made a spectacular end-to-end drive to give the Suns a decisive 110-97 lead.
"Amar'e did a good job on Tim," said Gentry, who often left Stoudemire to fend for himself against the Spurs big man.
Dragic had a terrific game for Phoenix, getting minutes at the off-guard in place of Jason Richardson, who started but played just 22 minutes due to a sore wrist.
Normally Steve Nash's backup at the point, Dragic played alongside Nash and enjoyed the best game of his two-year career.
The Serbian had a career-high 18 points (he hit 4-for-5 on 3-pointers) and zero turnovers in 25 minutes.
Duncan said, "I don't even know how many 3's he hit. I think that shocked us a little bit."
"It's a little different for me at the off guard," Dragic conceded. "But Steve finds all the open players."
Dragic said his coach from Serbia has been in town, so the two have worked on his shooting.
"The arch on my shot was higher," Dragic said.
Nash had 25 points and 13 assists though he also committed six turnovers.
The Suns rolled up a 67-52 halftime lead in part because the Spurs left big man Channing Frye and Dragic open at the 3-point line.
Both hit a trio of 3-pointers; Frye was 3-for-4, while Dragic hit all three of his bombs.
But in the third quarter, the Suns had ball-handling problems and struggled to defend Spurs reserves George Hill and Roger Mason as the Spurs cut the lead to 89-84.
Dragic, Stoudemire and Grant Hill (17 points, zero turnovers) made the key plays down the stretch as the Suns pulled away. Besides Duncan, the Spurs didn't get nearly enough on offense.
Mason scored 19 while Tony Parker added 15 points (but just three assists). DeJuan Blair had 12 points and six boards.
But two players under the microscope, Manu Ginobili and Richard Jefferson, had pedestrian games.
Beforehand, coach Gregg Popovich suggested that Ginobili is coming around after a slow start.
"His shot selection has been better. He's not forcing them like he was a while back."
Also, Popovich said, "He's getting into shape. I think the last week and a half, he's started to feel more bouncy and rhythmic."
But in this game, Ginobili shot 2-for-8 and finished with seven points, six assists and five rebounds.
A key for the Spurs is continuing to integrate Jefferson into the team's mix.
"I think he's figuring out where his place is in the offense and what we need to do," Popovich said.
"He's getting used to players that he hasn't played with before and a system he's not used to.
"His progress has been steady. He's starting to feel more comfortable."
In this game, though, Jefferson had just four points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.
With the loss, Popovich still needs two more wins to become the 16th coach in NBA history to win 700 regular-season games.
"We had too many pathetic games from too many people," he said afterward. "We can't do that against a good team."