That's not a surprising result. The surprises started with Brandan Wright being a late scratch, leaving the Suns with Markieff Morris and Earl Barron manning the center position. Yet another surprise awaited the Suns at the beginning of the second quarter when Jerel McNeal, who had played in the first quarter, was ejected and ruled ineligible because he was not on the Suns' active roster prior to tip-off.
That's right. A team with 6 injuries had listed one of their actual healthy players as inactive. The Suns' active roster dropped from 9 to 8 just like that. And yet...
If you didn't watch this game, you actually missed one of the better Suns' efforts of the last month or so. Outgunned, outmanned and outclassed, Phoenix managed to make it a competitive game. Not a pretty game or an exciting game, but close enough that outcome wasn't entirely a foregone conclusion for 3 quarters. And even when the Spurs took over in the 4th quarter, it looked like the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.
Phoenix hurt their cause with slow starts to the first and second quarters, but helped it by taking good care of the ball, managing only 6 turnovers through the first 3 quarters before the wheels came off in the fourth.
Gerald Green carried the offensive load for Phoenix, finishing with 23 points. Eric Bledsoe had a very quiet 20 points and 10 assists. Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris had mediocre outings, scoring 8 and 12 points each, while P.J. Tucker had a very P.J. Tucker game with 3 steals to go along with 8 points and 8 rebounds.
The most intriguing player of the game was Archie Goodwin. His frustration with his own play was not only palpable, but emblematic of a Suns' team that feels they should be better than they are. His 5-15 shooting performance belies a solid effort at both ends of the floor, despite the lackluster decision-making that has been the hallmark of his young career. Both Archie and the Suns will have to outgrow those mistakes and mature if they want to take the next step in the NBA.
The game started as disappointingly as I had hoped it wouldn't. Phoenix missed 6 of their first 8 shots. San Antonio took advantage and jumped out to a 17-6 lead in the first 7 minutes. That is not a typo. Phoenix mustered a meager 6 points in 8 minutes. It looked like the rout was on.
But Gerald Green drank some of last season's Kool-Aid and scored 8 points in 6 minutes as Phoenix when on a 10-1 run to pull within 2 points at the end of the quarter. Spurs lead, 20-18.
The second quarter got off to a weird start with the Phoenix Suns' being assessed a technical foul and Jerel McNeal's ejection. McNeal was not apparently not listed on the active roster prior to tip-off and was therefore not eligible to play in tonight's game. How does that even happen? I don't know.
What I do know is that Phoenix again started a quarter poorly, missing 8 of their first 10 shots. On the Spurs' side of things Marco Belinelli and Danny Green hit back-to-back 3-pointers to key a 13-2 run by San Antonio. Once again, Phoenix found themselves down by double digits, 36-22.
Phoenix and San Antonio more or less traded buckets for the remainder of the quarter. Spurs go into the half with a 51-39 lead. Gerald Green and Eric Bledsoe led Phoenix in scoring with 13 and 10 respectively. Marco Belinelli led the Spurs with 10.
Third time's the charm? The Suns didn't exactly come out swinging to start the third, but they did make some shots to hang with the Spurs for most of the quarter. Green and Bledsoe finally got some help from both the Morris twins in the scoring department. They couldn't make a dent in the Spurs' lead, but they didn't fall further behind either. Spurs continue to lead, 76-65.
The combination of fatigue and a far superior opponent caught up to Phoenix in the fourth quarter. San Antonio's precision offense proved too much for a gassed Phoenix defense and their lead ballooned to 22 with five minutes left in the game.