Spurs rout Suns to dampen Phoenix's playoff chase
SAN ANTONIO (AP) Tim Duncan had 19 points and 10 rebounds, Tony Parker scored 14 and the San Antonio Spurs coasted past the Phoenix Suns 105-91 on Saturday night. The Spurs officially clinched the Southwest Division, but more importantly, stayed neck-and-neck with Oklahoma City for the No. 1 playoff seed in the Western Conference. San Antonio remains a game behind the Thunder with eight games to go.
Sebastian Telfair scored 21 points for Phoenix, which simply wants to make the postseason. Yet the Suns never looked ready to play from the start and slipped 1 1/2 games behind Denver and Houston for the West's eighth and final playoff spot. Phoenix trailed by 17 before the first quarter was even halfway finished, and Steve Nash and Grant Hill sat out the entire second half.
The Spurs also didn't needlessly wear out their stars in this blow out. Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all sat out the fourth quarter, giving coach Gregg Popovich some bonus rest for his Big Three after he began the week by not even letting them on the plane to Utah. Duncan got the rout going by hitting his first five shots, and quickly racked up 11 points and five rebounds by the time the stunned Suns found themselves down 21-4 just 6 minutes into the game.
Nash, who had two points in six minutes, called it a night after that.
He winced and grabbed his hip before permanently taking a seat on the bench, though with the game already out of hand, the Suns may have just been playing it safe. The 38-year-old Nash had played 34 minutes the night before in Houston, where the Suns squeaked out a big road win against one of the teams in front of them for the No. 8 seed.
Hill was coming off a long night, too. Houston was the 39-year-old veteran's first game since undergoing surgery March 30 to repair a medial meniscus tear in his right knee, and Suns coach Alvin Gentry admitted the 25 minutes Hill played was probably more than ideal. Hill wound up playing eight minutes against the Spurs, scoring four points.
Rookie Kawhi Leonard added 14 points for the Spurs and DeJuan Blair had 10. Phoenix's starters combined for just 20 points. Michael Redd scored 13 and Markieff Morris had 10 in a game that was hardly as close as the final score indicated. Phoenix trailed by as much as 28.
Phoenix has six games left and the good news is that five of them are at home - where the Suns are 10-2 since the All-Star break - including hosting the Nuggets on Saturday. But the Suns must also face the Thunder and finish the season against the Spurs. Popovich, however, will give serious thought to playing his stars in the final game even if the No. 1 seed is still on the line, especially after Ginobili got hurt in that very same situation last season.
NOTES: Both the Spurs and Suns emptied their benches, using all 13 of their active players. Everyone scored. ... The 13 points that San Antonio held Phoenix to in the first quarter was a season-best for the Spurs.
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