Suns-Spurs Game Preview
The San Antonio Spurs recently sat comfortably atop the Western Conference but have seen that lead dwindle due to their worst funk of the Tim Duncan era.
The Spurs will look to get back on track in their pursuit of the conference's top seed when they host the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.
As of March 21, San Antonio (57-19) sat seven games in front of the Los Angeles Lakers for the top spot in the West.
The Spurs, however, have gone on to lose six straight, including a 119-114 overtime defeat at Houston on Friday night. That loss combined with another Lakers win dropped San Antonio's conference lead to 1 1/2 games over the two-time defending champions.
"They are all tough losses now," Tony Parker said. "We are not making plays at the end of games. We have to stay positive and hope it turns our way. We'll see what we're made of."
Poor health can no longer be used as an excuse, either. The losing streak began when Duncan went down with a sprained ankle, and injuries also kept Parker and Manu Ginobili out of action Monday in a loss to Portland. All three returned Thursday for a loss to Boston, and each member of the trio had at least 23 points Friday.
Duncan has averaged 21.5 points and 13.0 rebounds in the last two games while Parker has averaged 27.0 points, but defense has been the team's biggest problem. San Antonio has allowed averages of 50.3 percent shooting and 108.3 points -- 10.3 more than its season mark -- during the losing streak.
The Spurs had never lost more than four straight since Duncan joined the team in 1997-98. They had five losing streaks of six or more the previous season.
"We're going to see what we are made out of, if we can dig down deeper," coach Gregg Popovich said. "We'll see if we are worth the way we played this season or not."
The Suns (37-38), who rank fourth in the league with 105.1 points per game, averaged just 98.5 during a four-game skid before defeating the Clippers 111-98 on Friday night.
Phoenix is 10th in the West and unlikely to return to the postseason, a year after sweeping San Antonio in the second round of the playoffs.
The Spurs have won both meetings this season -- only by a combined 10 points -- and each team scored at least 110 points in each. Duncan averaged 22.5 points on 70.0 percent shooting and 16.0 boards.
The Suns have lost five of six on the road and are beginning a five-game trip Sunday.
It's unclear if Steve Nash will play after sitting out Friday with flu-like symptoms. Phoenix had been 0-4 without him before beating the Clippers as Aaron Brooks, acquired from Houston prior to the trade deadline, started at point guard in place of Nash and was one of six Suns to score in double figures.
"Obviously you are not going to replace Steve, but I thought they did a good job of running the team, being aggressive offensively and then making plays," coach Alvin Gentry said.
Phoenix is just 15 of 65 (23.1 percent) from 3-point range over the last four games, but San Antonio hasn't been much better lately at 26.0 percent in its last three.
The Spurs, shooting a league-high 39.6 percent from 3-point range, have lost 10 of 16 when shooting under 31.0 percent from beyond the arc.
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