Spurs @ Suns Preview: 2/24/13
The San Antonio Spurs are poised not to look past the finale of their already successful season-high road stretch and on to an extended stay at home - particularly without Tony Parker.
Hoping to bounce back from their second loss in more than a month Sunday, the NBA-leading Spurs will be short-handed as they try for a sixth straight victory over the lowly Phoenix Suns in their first of consecutive meetings with the Western Conference's last-place team.
With the rodeo in town, San Antonio (44-13) is 6-2 on a road stretch that was broken up by the All-Star break. Before the Spurs can think about playing 13 of 15 at home following the trip, they head to Phoenix trying to rebound from Friday's 107-101 overtime loss at Golden State that snapped a five-game winning streak.
Danny Green had 20 points while Tim Duncan added 19 with 13 rebounds, but the Spurs shot 38.9 percent, including 4 of 22 (18.2 percent) from 3-point range. They blew a 13-point fourth quarter lead en route to their second defeat in 18 games.
"Move forward, re-focus, it's big one in Phoenix," said Parker, who had 18 points. "We want to finish on a good note before we go back home. If we win in Phoenix, it will be a very nice road (stretch). ... Let's not get ahead of ourselves."
Parker, as it turns out, was getting ahead of himself. The West's reigning player of the month will miss his fourth game this season due to a right triceps contusion, though it's unclear if he suffered the injury in Friday night's game or in practice Saturday.
Parker had 31 points and seven assists versus Phoenix in a 108-99 win Jan. 26, the Spurs' fifth straight in the series.
Phoenix (18-38), which opens San Antonio's home stretch Wednesday after hosting Minnesota the night before, has lost two straight and six of seven overall. The Spurs, however, won't take anything for granted - especially with Parker out.
Nando De Colo will start in Parker's place, while reserve Gary Neal (calf) may also be sidelined.
"Hopefully we go out and have a good game and don't start thinking the road trip is over before it is," said Manu Ginobili, who scored 20 against the Suns last month. "We have to be pros and be responsible."
Phoenix did not look much like a professional team during Friday's 113-88 loss to Boston. Minus stars Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett, the Celtics raced out to a 13-0 lead and shot 55.7 percent - the best against the Suns at home this season.
"This is one you just want to put behind you as fast as possible," Suns forward P.J. Tucker said.
Phoenix coach Lindsey Hunter wants to make sure there will not be a repeat performance.
"I guarantee you we're going to change or we're going to practice until they kick us out of the gym, because that puts a bad taste in my mouth," he said. "One of their Hall of Fame players didn't play and they still come in here and smack you around like a punching bag. You're at home and there is no resistance.
"That is just not who I am and that is not who this team will be. Whatever we have to do, whatever method, it will be done."
Hunter likely can't fault the effort of guard Goran Dragic, who is averaging 18.3 points and 12.7 assists in the last three games. He had 10 assists at San Antonio last month, but has averaged 8.2 points in the five games against the Spurs since the start of last season.
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