Losing to the Spurs sucks. I don't really have anything to say that is a whole lot more clever than that. But I will admit that the Jason Richardson missed dunk with 40 seconds to go (and a chance to tie) was certainly a new one on me.
These aren't exactly the same Spurs we all remember from their repeated abuse of the Suns during the previous decade. In fact, San Antonio came into the game having lost 3 of their last 4 including road losses to Detroit and Philadelphia. They may have been without Parker for both games but I doubt even Spurs fans would use that as an excuse. But does anyone really think the previous week matters when it comes to playing the Suns? They still have Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Gregg Popovich - a group that's been pure poison for Phoenix.
The game itself can be broken down into the styles represented in the first and second halves. The first half of the game was pretty standard Suns-Spurs. Both teams were right around 50 points (52-49) and did so on less than 45% shooting from the field. Then there was a second half. And in that second half the Spurs outscored the Suns 64-58 and hit 58.5% of their field goal attempts, including a stretch of 8 made shots in a row in the third quarter. The Suns were no slouch from the field either, joining San Antonio in hitting over 60 percent of their shots in an electric and uncharacteristic 4th period for a Suns-Spurs game with the teams putting up 36 and 34 points respectively.
In that 4th quarter the Spurs looked to be creating some separation, extending their lead to as many as 8 on a number of occasions. Each time the Suns looked to close the deficit a bit they seemed to turn the ball over - doing so three times with the ball and down 4. However the culmination of the Suns inability to draw even happened with just 40 seconds left when after a Jared Dudley steal, Jason Richardson missed an open dunk on a run-out. After a series of made free throws from San Antonio, the Suns did actually have the ball with 3.2 seconds left and a chance to tie, yet what I would assume was confusion on the part of both Steve Nash and Channing Frye resulted in Nash passing to Frye - who was below the three point line - for a shot he wouldn't have had enough time to attempt anyhow. Game. Set. Match.
- Amar'e Stoudemire - STAT put up a season-high 41 points on 15/28 shooting, including 26 in the second half and his first three pointer of the season, and flat out kept the Suns in the game. These are the types of performances from Amar'e that make you believe, if only for a minute, that he's worth absolutely every penny he wants. Sure he's not going to put up 41 every night, but when he has games like that the Suns are going to win quite a bit more often than they lose. His slam on Richard Jefferson in the 4th quarter is a certain YouTube classic. He also had 12 rebounds, 6 of which were offensive.
- Shooting overall - They may not have been hot in the first half, but everyone looked good in the second. Although he missed a dunk, J-Rich still put up 20 points on 8/13 from the field and made sure to take Tony Parker down into the post when he had the matchup
- Life for Channing Frye - After struggling in the first several games following the All-Star break, hitting just 2/14 three point attempts, Frye has made 6 of 8 in the last 2 games. Having him going is vital for a bench that can tend to go stale.
- Robin Lopez. No he's not going to go 30/12 every night, but he came out and caused trouble for the Spurs on the defensive end and finished with 5 blocks to go with his 8 points and 8 rebounds. Sure Tim Duncan took him to school in the 4th quarter but progress was made. The biggest difference I noticed was that while Tony Parker can still get to the basket at will - Robin was there waiting for him.
Less than Good Things:
- Bench points. The Spurs subs outscored the Suns 55-17. I realize they have guys on their bench who have obvious starter talent (Manu and Richard Jefferson) but their bench/starter balance gave them a big edge today. 14/7 from DeJuan Blair in his limited minutes was damaging.
- Offensive rebounds. The final tally was 10-10 so you're probably saying to yourself - gee Scott you're just dead wrong. But I'm more specifically referring to the offensive rebounding in the 4th quarter and the way in which the Spurs converted their opportunities. San Antonio came up with 4 offensive boards in the 4th to the Suns 2 - but turned that into 7 points as opposed to the Suns 2.
- Missed dunk. That was definitely less than good. I bet we don't see anything like that for another 5 seasons (let's hope).
As a bottom line I'll go with the group and say this really wasn't a bad loss per se. The Western Conference is certainly tightly contested and every game matters but one loss for this team that had won 11 of their last 13 shouldn't derail the season. Obviously it's a bit more bitter since it's the Spurs but if you want to focus on anything think about how both Denver and Utah are coming to town this week.
It'll be interesting to see how the Suns, particularly Jason Richardson, respond to this afternoon's loss. February is now over and with 21 games left in the Suns season it's time for some mental toughness. We'll see how that works out.
I'll leave you with a quote from J-Rich:
"It happens, I went up and just missed it" Richardson said.
Word J-Rich. Word.
Stream of Consciousness Notes:
1st quarter -
- Parker is getting to the basket like usual...but now RoLo is there waiting for him. Swat.
- Amar'e just tried a running hook shot. My feelings on that are "hm."
- Sloppy game so far. Lots of bad passes/passes hitting the ground.
- Lopez continues his block party on Tim Duncan.
- Grant Hill misses a layup. Suns are 3/12 so far but down just 1.
- A road game isn't a road game without my "bags fly free" commercials.
- Duncan just missed his angle jumper. Strange sight.
- Manu hits a jumper to put SA up 3. Gentry gets a TO. Lopez has three blocks but Suns down 3.
- Jared Dudley and J-Rich just ran the worst 3 on 1 break I've ever seen. Turnover city.
- Dragic threads the needle to Dudley to put the Suns up 20-18.
- D looks strong early. Suns up 25-21 after 1.
2nd quarter -
- Channing has hit 2 straight from three. Maybe he's finally getting past the slump?
- DeJuan Blair abuses Frye for an And 1.
- Parker still getting to the rim, except now Lopez isn't there to stop him.
- Frye can't take advantage of Parker in the post. Could Frye take advantage of me in the post?
- Lou Amundson just hit a 12 footer. Do I need to add anything there?
- Frye just left DeJuan Blair for Grant Hill. Grant didn't rotate...Mr. No Knees gets a dunk.
- The Suns are in a zone and the Spurs are getting dunks almost at will. 34-32 bad guys.
- Blair tries the bully crap on Lopez...didn't work quite as well as it did on Channing.
- Amar'e isn't hitting jumpers. Just 2/7 from the field so far.
- I'm now eating waffles. You should care.
- The in-arena music at AT&T seems brutal. They were playing the Macarena early and now they've moved on to I Don't Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith. When does Who Let the Dogs Out come on?
- Dudley just fouled Manu 94 feet from the basket. Manu gets FTs out of the deal. Bad way to give up points. 45 a piece.
- Amar'e hits a three at the buzzer for the first half! Suns up 3 at half.
- D is solid in the first. Spurs shot 43.1%. Nash tells Heather Cox "that's what you get when you play the Suns...a lot of defense" - she didn't laugh. Come on sideline reporters.
3rd quarter -
- Amar'e misses a jumper. He's 5/15 right now. If he was hitting his jumpers the Suns would be up BIG.
- STAT misses a pair of FTs. He's now 21/36 in his last 5 games. That's 58.3%. Ugh.
- Crap. Duncan has gone into lesson mode on Robin Lopez.
- J-Rich has taken advantage of Parker a few times. Time somebody did.
- At the 5:54 point of the third the Spurs have ended one possession without points. SA up 5 after a Ginobili three.
- Spurs have hit 8 straight shots.
- Goran with a sweet little baseline move on Blair. Reverse layup puts Suns up 70-67.
- Jefferson is left open and strokes a three. Hill looked to be guarding him for the drive.
- STAT is in full BEAST mode. 25/11 so far.
- Lead changes left and right in this one. Not even worth recapping. Amar'e throw down closes the Spurs lead to one at the end of the third.
4th quarter -
- Blair continues to abuse Channing Frye like the whispy big man he is.
- Manu hits a three that was a 2nd chance basket. Never should have happened. Lou tried to block Jefferson's 17 footer and didn't close him out. RJ got the board and...yea. Spurs up 4.
- J-Rich heating up with a three. Keeps the Suns within 1.
- Blair is tougher than Frye. Back up 4. Frye hits a three. Back down 1. Jefferson hits a 3. It's 4 again. Nobody is missing.
- Uh-oh. Suns now down by 6 and Nash is back in @ the 8:45 mark of the quarter. This seems to be slipping away. I've arbitrarily decided the Suns will lose by 5.
- San Antonio is making their run with Duncan on the bench. McDyess hits a jumper to put them up 8.
- PHX has put this thing down to 4 twice with the ball. First result was a Lopez travel, second was a Nash turnover. Capitalization!
- Every time the Suns need a stop San Antonio feeds the ball to Professor Duncan. And it's working.
- Dice jumper gets SA back up 8 with 3:04 to go.
- Amar'e is just killing it. Someone play defense. Please?
- Holy shit. I mean holy mother f-ing shit. Amar'e just teabagged Richard Jefferson and got fouled. That was better than the one over Dante Cunningham. Still need stops.
- Well the Suns got a stop....and Jason Richardson MISSED A DUNK. MISSED A DUNK THAT WOULD HAVE TIED THE GAME. I cannot sigh loudly enough.
- SA gets more 2nd chance points. Suns down 4 with 9.9 left.
- Nash hits a long three. The dude can shoot. 4.6 left. Suns down 1.
- Grant Hill ALMOST picked off the inbounds pass. Soooooo close. Manu hits both FTs. Spurs up 3 with 3.2 seconds left.
- What in the hell was that? Channing definitely should have been behind the three point line but Nash should have taken that shot. Frye didn't even have enough time to get the shot off. Suns lose 113-110.