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Early Deficit Sinks Suns at San Antonio
San Antonio (AP)The San Antonio Spurs insist that being the No. 1 seed in the West isn't important to them. They still might wind up with it.
Simply making the playoffs is important to Phoenix. And this blowout won't help.
Tim Duncan had 19 points and 10 rebounds and Tony Parker scored 14 before calling it an early night, and the Spurs made the Suns' playoff pursuit that much harder with six games to go, coasting past Phoenix 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 remaining.
"It doesn't matter what we do. We're going to end up where we end up. There's no reason to sit there and study it," Duncan said. "We're going to play these games as best as we can. Win or lose, we're going to end up where. We're in a great position right now. Hopefully we can end on top. If we don't, hopefully we're number two and we're happy with that."
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. Nash said he irritated his right hip socket in a loss to Memphis on Wednesday, and despite fighting through it in Friday's win at Houston, he only lasted the first 6 minutes.
Yet even that early, it was clear it wasn't going to be the Suns' night.
"It was a situation where, one, I wasn't going to be effective and two, I didn't want to miss the last six games," Nash said. "Lucky to get out, I think, when I did."
Nash said he hopes to be OK for Monday's game against Portland.
The Spurs also didn't needlessly wear out their stars in this blowout. Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all sat out the fourth quarter and most of the second half, 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.
That's when Nash called it a night. The 38 year old 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.
"We've been on the road a lot. We get a chance to be at home and try to finish," Hill said. "It's a tough loss, it's embarrassing, but we're still in the hunt. "
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.
Newcomer Stephen Jackson, who the Spurs acquired at the trade deadline, isn't predicting how Popovich will manage minutes in the final two weeks.
"You never know what Obi-Wan is going to do," Jackson said.
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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