Newsroom Notes: Suns Can't Slip by Spurs

By Aaron Seidlitz,
Posted: March 27, 2012

The Phoenix Suns couldn’t quite live up to NBA Commissioner David Stern’s lofty pregame words Tuesday night at US Airways Center.

When Stern presented his list of the best storylines surrounding the league during this 2011-12 season, the second-half surge the Suns have used to get right back into the Western Conference playoff picture was at the forefront of the commissioner’s mind.

“Phoenix was out of the hunt at the All-Star break, and all of a sudden look at them. This is spectacular,” Stern said.

But the good feelings didn’t last throughout the Suns’ contest with the Spurs, as the rivals pulled away from a tightly-contested matchup in the fourth quarter for a 107-100 win.

Few teams have been able to match the Suns in terms of fourth-quarter effectiveness and overall depth during this second half of the season, but San Antonio is one team that has been able to put together the whole package recently.

While Phoenix could have crept to within one game of the seventh and eighth spots in the Western Conference on the back of an 11-win month of March, the Spurs stayed even hotter by winning their ninth game in 10 attempts.

Not even Shannon Brown’s heroics could turn the tide in the Suns favor.

Starting in place of the injured Grant Hill, who sat out the game due to inflammation in his knee, Brown never hesitated offensively.

The shooting guard warmed up quickly with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first quarter alone. By the end of the game, Brown had poured in a career-high 32 points thanks in part to a career-high five 3-pointers.

“I wanted to come out and be aggressive. I didn’t know I was going to start until during the pregame, when I was told Grant wasn’t going to go, so I had to prepare myself mentally,” Brown said.

But Head Coach Alvin Gentry pointed to the little things, such as a few rebounds allowed and a few missed defensive rotations at inopportune moments, as the reason why the fourth quarter, and the game, went to the Spurs.

In all, Phoenix was outrebounded by San Antonio by 10, which turned into enough opportunities for the Spurs’ big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

Duncan finished the game as the Spurs leading scorer with 26 points and 11 rebounds, while Parker had 24 points and seven assists.

That combination helped San Antonio to a 10-0 run that provided a little distance to what had been one-point game with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

“We let them get a little separation there, and then we started playing uphill,” Gentry said. “We had a couple crucial turnovers and (allowed) a couple crucial offensive rebounds.

“That’s kind of what they do to people, you know. They’ve been doing that for a long time.”

Suns center Marcin Gortat did what he could against Duncan and DeJuan Blair by posting 21 points and 14 rebounds. Channing Frye, however, was the only other Sun with more than five rebounds.

The point guard duo of Steve Nash and Sebastian Telfair was effective, as the former had 16 points and eight assists and the latter had 11 points off the bench.

Phoenix now stands even at 25-25 on the season, and missed an opportunity to close the gap with the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets - who were both idle Tuesday night.

The Suns will now have to finish their most recent back-to-back set on the road against another playoff team, the Los Angeles Clippers, during a 7:30 p.m. game on Wednesday.

Brown's Career Night

One indication of how good Brown felt during his dazzling performance Tuesday night was when he actually missed a shot in the first half.

After he had to switch hands and use a burst of speed just to get into the open court, Brown’s running right-handed layup that was squeezed up and over a defender who fouled him only narrowly missed falling through for a potential three-point play.

Still, Brown wore his frustration on his face and let out a yell as if he completely believed that shot was destined to go in as well.

It’s easy to see why he would’ve felt that way at the time. In the first half Brown only missed three of his 10 shot attempts and one of his four 3-point attempts.

He was well on his way past a former career-best 27 points – actually finishing the game with 32– and, early on, the guard felt that a special night could ensue. Brown just wanted to balance that feeling within the team’s offensive structure and what the team needed from him.

“You just have to let (that feeling) go, have to let it flow,” Brown said. “I definitely thought about it after my first couple shots didn’t touch the rim, so I felt like every time I had an open look I had to take it.

“I couldn’t be passive. I had to be aggressive and help the team.”

Tuesday night’s game was also an indication of the trend that has been growing for the Suns in terms of bench production.

Brown, just one game ago, finished with 16 points in the team’s rout of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and his offensive effectiveness has become something the team consistently looks for.

“I mean, he’s been scoring the ball really well for a while now,” Nash said. “Since the All-Star break he’s been consistent with his shooting and getting baskets for us – very timely baskets for us – and, you know, we’ve come to expect that offense from him.”

State of the NBA

In town on NBA business, Commissioner Stern briefed assembled members of the media before Tuesday’s game at US Airways Center.

He touched on numerous subjects that have dominated discussions regarding the current season.

Stern spoke about television ratings, revenue sharing, the season’s schedule and the current state of several teams’ playoff hopes.

Overall, though, the commissioner seemed pleased with how this season has played out, with a positive indication being the excitement before this Suns and Spurs game.

“We’re delighted to be here, taking in a good game in a conference that is having an incredible run,” Stern said of the West. “Every game is like a Game 7, as teams fight to make the playoffs.”

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