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Game Preview: Suns will have their hands full against San Antonio Spurs

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Even without Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs offer a tough test for a young team

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (9-22) at San Antonio Spurs (25-6)

When: 6:30 PM AZ Time

Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas

Watch: FoxSports Arizona

Listen: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM


Today on the Burns and Gambo show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, Suns’ GM Ryan McDonough mentioned that this week’s schedule might be the worst of any team in the league all season. Indeed, Houston, San Antonio, Toronto, and Utah is a who’s who of the best second-tier teams in the league.

The Spurs are 9-4 at home, and represent the toughest challenge of this week’s slate. Against Houston, the Suns were at least in their element, playing quickly and centering things around their guards. San Antonio presents a different test, playing a much slower pace (26th in the league in possessions per game) centered around the frontcourt.

The Spurs

The clearest evidence of this is the fluidity of the Spurs’ backup guard spots behind Patty Mills, Tony Parker, and Danny Green. This morning, San Antonio released foreign backup Nicolas Laprovittola, paving the way for rookie Dejounte Murray to be the fourth guard in the rotation. However, Laprovittola had only played in half the Spurs’ games, and averaged ten minutes in each. It’s Mills, Parker, Green, and flotsam. The Spurs focus their team on both ends through the bigs.

That mostly means: LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol operating from the elbows, facing up and moving the ball; David Lee’s nimble scoring touch; Dewayne Dedmon’s surprising modernity. The Spurs feature an interesting cast of big men, capable of doing different things, but also many of the same things. As has always been true, any Spur has to be a capable distributor, intelligent in his movements, and focused on defense.

Overall, they’re wrecking the league. Winners of 20 of their last 23 games, the Spurs are one of the best teams in the NBA, again.

  • 6th in Offensive Efficiency (scoring 111.4 points per 100 possessions)
  • 4th in Defensive Efficiency (allowing 104.4 points per 100 possessions)
  • 6th in Point Differential per game (outscoring opponents by 6.7 points every night)

LaMarcus Aldridge is in the middle of a strange down season, perhaps struggling to find comfort next to newcomers across the board. With the departures of Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw over the summer, the second-year Spur is now the longest-tenured big man on the roster.

However, he put up 33 points and 9 rebounds on Sunday against the Bulls, so a rejuvenation might be coming.

The Suns

The team is still talking on Brandon Knight, so his playing time and overall performance are worth watching. He’ll have to do a lot better if he wants to prove himself to more than just the desperate teams.

Also noteworthy is the playing situation for Dragan Bender. In the same interview today with Arizona Sports, McDonough insisted that Bender having played 75% of the team’s games and averaging 12 minutes per game is on track with the team’s expectations. Fans seem to disagree, but McD also noted that if the team performs better with him on the court or sees improvement from him, those numbers will increase.

Of course, winning would make everything better.

Lineups

PG Tony Parker vs. Eric Bledsoe

SG Danny Green vs. Devin Booker

SF Kyle Anderson vs. P.J. Tucker

PF LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Marquese Chriss

C Pau Gasol vs. Tyson Chandler

KAWHI IS OUT!

Prediction

LaMarcus Aldridge will be a handful for the Suns, coming off a season-high 33 points. He’s much longer and stronger than most of P.J. Tucker’s recent assignments, and the Spurs have fun getting him open in space. It’s not just posting and toasting for Aldridge, which makes it likely that he’ll continue his good play at home against the Suns.

Especially with the rotation still in flux, it’ll be hard to count on the Suns to put forth the full team effort necessary to beat San Antonio.