Spurs Overcome Suns' Hot Start, Snap Win Streak
In an effort to measure up against one of the best teams in the league, the Suns came up frustratingly short after the first quarter that seemed to predict otherwise.
Phoenix led by 10 early before San Antonio’s precision offense and aggressive defense wrestled away control, which they kept throughout the rest of the game. The result was a 108-101 loss that snapped the Suns’ five-game winning streak.
After seeing his team put themselves in the early playoff conversation this season, Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek dismissed the idea of lessons found in losses.
“I think we’re past that point of moral victories,” Hornacek said. “Yeah we made a run, but there’s runs throughout the game. We didn’t finish very well. That’s the way we look at it.”
Channing Frye led a scorching-hot Suns offense in the first quarter, scoring 15 points in the period on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting, including a trio of three-pointers. The Spurs countered with a small lineup was able to limit Phoenix’s pick-and-roll offense, an adjustment that kept Frye (22 points, 8-of-11 shooting) covered and didn’t result in severe mismatches on Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe.
“Our pick and rolls, which had been great the last whole bunch of games, they handled them pretty well,” Hornacek said. “There were guys, Patty Mills and then when [Manu] Ginobili was on them and Corey Joseph, those guys all fought through those picks.”
When Phoenix threatened to go on a big run, the Spurs made sure to cut off any chance of momentum by speedily inbounding the ball and scoring or getting fouled on the other end.
“I was surprised that they played really fast,” Dragic said. “As soon as we scored a basket on them, they’d pass the ball to the point guard and run back on us. They changed the momentum that we had.”
Phoenix’s star backcourt struggled to a combined 12-of-33 shooting effort, but the Suns appeared poised to ignore the night’s setbacks in the fourth quarter.
Markieff Morris sparked an effort-driven run that saw Phoenix turn an eight-point deficit into a two-point lead with 5:10 remaining. The Suns’ sixth man logged eight points and four rebounds in the quarter, an effort which proved contagious.
Miles Plumlee also battled well down low, turning in 13 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks and two steals while battling Tim Duncan (17 points, 13 rebounds).
Again, the Spurs answered Phoenix’s fiery effort with cold execution. Manu Ginobili freed himself on several down screens en route to scoring 13 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter.
After the Suns cut another deficit to three with 1:59 remaining, San Antonio responded with a 6-0 run on a Ginobili jumper, two free throws and a Duncan layup to put the game away.
“They execute very well,” Hornacek said. “We had a couple defensive breakdowns that hurt us. They turned it up defensively and limited us to certain things. They made plays in the fourth quarter, which is why they’re a top team.”
Phoenix will look to rebound on Friday when they travel to Denver for the first half of a back-to-back set.