In a game of runs, the Spurs run to close the game made the difference, as they scored 41 points in the fourth quarter after tallying a season-low 10 in the third. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich stuck with his bench players and sat Tim Duncan and Tony Parker for most of the second half after the Suns athleticism overwhelmed the Spurs in the third quarter.
Danny Green and Patty Mills led the way for the Spurs, as Green scored 20 in going 4-7 from 3, and Mills 15 including 3-5 from 3. The Spurs won the critical battle from behind the arc by making 11-25 to only 7-26 for the Suns.
Markieff Morris struggled through a poor shooting night at 1-13, but P.J. Tucker picked up the slack with 19 points. Tucker was a key player in the Suns third quarter run, as he got out on the break for 15 in the period.
Unfortunately, Tucker lost his cool with 1:57 to go and the Suns trailing by 3, and drew the Suns' first technical foul of the night after he was upset that a foul he expected wasn't called for him. It was a key part of a Suns fourth quarter meltdown, as they were never able to regain the lead they last held at 80-79 with 4:40 to play.
The Suns overcame another slow start to the game, and rallied from a second quarter deficit that grew as large as 14 to narrow the lead to 6 at the half. Bledsoe tallied 9 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds in the quarter, Gerald Green chipped in 6, and Len had 3 rebounds and 2 steals as the Suns clawed their way back into the game by getting their transition game rolling.
As the second half started, the Suns were ready to run again. Turnovers and rebounds fueled fast breaks, the Spurs started to look like the slower, older team they are, and the Suns took their first lead of the game 52-51 with 8:41 to go in the third on a Tucker runner.
The barrage continued as the Suns were a step faster than the elderly Spurs, holding the Spurs to a season-low 10 point third quarter through applying pressure on both sides of the floor. Third quarter closed with the Suns leading 69-59, but of course the Spurs weren't dead yet.
They tied it up with 6:05 to go on a Patty Mills layup, then took the lead on a Cory Joseph shot in the paint after the Suns went cold for 3 minutes and 56 seconds of the quarter, stuck at 77 before a Gerald Green 3-pointer broke the run temporarily.
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker sat out all of the fourth quarter as the Spurs bench brought more speed and energy, opening the door for Green, Mills and Joseph to shine. The trio scored 31 of the Spurs 41 fourth quarter points as San Antonio brought home the win to hold on to their 7th position in the Western Conference.
How the Suns fared in the game preview's Keys to the Game:
Pace - No problem here. Even when the Suns' shots weren't falling in the first, they were certainly getting plenty of them off. Once the defense started getting stops and forcing live ball turnovers, the Suns got out on the open floor to turn a 14 point deficit into a 10 point lead.
Len vs. Duncan and Splitter - Duncan outscored Len, and Splitter outrebounded him, but Len made his presence felt on the boards, and blocking and changing shots, finishing with 12 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocked shots, and only 3 personal fouls in 29 minutes. He also did this:
Avoid a slow start - The Suns shot only 9-24 and 0-3 from behind the arc in the first quarter, closing the period down 29-18. Mission very much not accomplished, as Keef was the biggest culprit in shooting only 1-6. Ball movement wasn't especially bad, but shots simply weren't falling. Phoenix wasn't able to make a 3-pointer until 0:30 left in the first half, after missing their first 8.
No more foolishness of technical fouls - Sigh. None until 1:57 to go in the game when the Suns surrendered two costly points on consecutive technical fouls on Tucker and Keef. The lead expanded to 87-82 with the Spurs converted free throws. WHY, P.J.? And, even worse, WHY, KEEF with the follow up tech??
The Suns certainly had their chances tonight, but poor shooting and some dumb plays down the stretch cost them a very winnable game.
If you include the great deal in acquiring Brandan Wright, it was still a good day, right?