No Duncan. No Parker. No Knight. No Morris, Teletovic or Leuer. But hey it's a nationally televised game! It's gonna be a good one right?
The Phoenix Suns played with a rotation loaded with youth (four 22 or younger) and 10-day contracts, along with Sonny Weems and Tyson Chandler. The Spurs had most of their regular rotation, but gave a lot of minutes to their bench.
Still, the game was never in doubt.
Devin Booker produced a really solid 24 points and 5 assists against some good defenders, including Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green for at least half of his time. Tyson Chandler had a season-high 20 rebounds, and Alex Len nearly got a double-double (13 and 8, along with 4 assists). Even T.J. Warren loaded up with 18 big points and Archie Goodwin got 20 of his own.
But they petered out in the 4th quarter, getting blasted by the Spurs' deep (but rested) bench.
Let's see if the Suns can exceed their 24 first half points last year at home against the Spurs. Hey it's 90s night, so maybe the Suns can harken back to their high scoring roots for a night?
Archie starts with a pair of missed shots AND a pair of missed free throws while the Spurs start with three missed jumpers.
Then the Spurs remembered how to score.
The only Suns player who remembered what scoring is? You guessed it: Devin Booker.
Most of the Suns played hard, tried hard, but just didn't have it together. Twice they had a chance at a loose ball after good defense (a block in play, then a forced layup miss) and both times the Spurs got the ball back and scored.
Also, twice the Suns tried to feed Tyson Chandler on a pick-and-roll dive, only to see the play end up awful. I thought this Chandler dude was supposed to be good at that kind of thing?
The only good news was the kids Devin Booker (8 points), Alex Len (8 points, including a posterizing of Boban Marjanovic) and T.J. Warren (4 points) holding down the fort as the Suns pulled to within 25-22 before the Spurs put on a drive/slash passing clinic to create an open three for Bobby Simmons.
And then the Spurs just worked their way smartly into an 18-point lead by playing smart defense and smart offense. It helped them that they were largely playing a team of misfits.
At most times during their stretch, the Suns were playing some combination of youth (Booker, Len, Goodwin, Warren), Weems and 10-day contracts (Lorenzo Brown, Cory Jefferson). Oh yeah, and the ghost of Tyson Chandler. That's not a winning combination against any team, let alone the 36-6 Spurs.
The Suns were down 51-39 at halftime, thanks to the Spurs invoking a mercy lineup of deep bench players for the end of the half.
Good news: The kids had good showings, with Devin Booker (11 points, 3 assists), Alex Len (8 points, 6 rebounds), T.J. Warren (10 points, 1 rebound) and Archie Goodwin (4 points, 1 assist).
Okay, this could get ugly. Suns just don't have any team discipline when they're healthy, let alone when they're down to a handful of kids and 10-day contracts.
After P.J. Tucker went down on a knee to the chest/midsection, T.J. Warren got even more minutes and shots. He started the second half with Booker, Goodwin and Len, making it a really really young lineup.
Luckily the Spurs played like they were facing a rookie team, and allowed the young Suns to scrap their way down to a 7-point deficit before Warren collected his fifth foul and had to sit (replaced by Sonny Weems).
Kawhi Leonard scored 8 of the Spurs first 14 points of the second half to keep the Spurs in front comfortably.
The best thing that's happened in the last few weeks for the Suns is that Devin Booker is now unabashedly a player for the future. He plays smart no matter whether he's a 9th man off the bench or the primary scorer in a starting lineup. He took Danny Green's tight defense and worked himself into a 3/5 shooting start anyway.
It was nice to see Archie Goodwin go off for 11 points in that third quarter (8-8 on free throws), while T.J. Warren had 5 and Devin Booker had 6.
The Suns had cut the Spurs lead to 10 at the end of three before the Spurs opened the 4th quarter with 9 points on their first 3 possessions of the 4th (and-one on 3, and-on on 2, then Boban layup).
Boban is an Ent. And he has awoken. By early fourth, Boban Marjanovic had 12 points and 9 rebounds in 16 minutes of play. Alex Len had 12 and 8 of his own.
By mid-fourth, Boban had his double double. By then the Suns were down 19, and the game was never again in the balance.