Even without one of the five best players in the world and their starting point guard the San Antonio Spurs are still better than the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns bucked a recent trend by not digging a huge early hole, but still trailed by eight at the end of one (28-20) after an ill-advised travel by Troy Daniels led to a three pointer by Pau Gasol right before the buzzer.
It was a combination of 9-23 shooting (39.1%), five turnovers and some overall disjointed play by the Suns in the early going.
Daniels provided an early lift for the Suns off the bench, though, and put the Suns back on top 38-37 after hitting his third three pointer off the bench. Daniels led all Suns with 11 points at halftime.
The entire second quarter was an about face for the Suns, as they outscored the Spurs 35-23 and went into the locker room up 55-51 after T.J. Warren hit a contested jumper with less than a second remaining.
The bench provided a lift and the starters came back in rolling.
The Suns were 13-19 from the field with 0 turnovers in the period.
LaMarcus Aldridge was the lone Spurs player in double figures with 13 at the half.
The Suns seemed to forget they were still playing a game when they stepped back on the court to start the third quarter.
A 9-0 run over the period’s first two minutes prompted a quick timeout from head coach Jay Triano. The bench had basically gotten the Suns going in the first half, so it wasn’t encouraging to see the starters scuffling again.
Patty Mills stretched the Spurs lead to 63-55 before Warren finally stopped the bleeding with a runner and a putback tip. Following a pair of free throws moment later T.J. suddenly had 15.
After T.J.’s free throws cut the lead to four, however, the Spurs went on another 15-2 run and the gap ballooned to 17 (80-63). Patty Mills scored 11 in the quarter as the Suns seemed pretty disinterested in fighting through screens, giving him wide open looks at the top of the key.
The Suns actually didn’t look very inspired in any aspect, getting outscored 34-13 in the quarter, and trailed 85-68 heading into the final period.
Brandon Paul hit a three with 8:43 left in the fourth quarter that stretched the lead to a game high 23 (96-73).
The Spurs got nice contributions off the bench from both Paul (11 points) and Bryn Forbes (10 points), a pair of undrafted players who may not even be in your NBA lexicon. San Antonio just seems to be able to plug guys into the Spurs methodology.
Remember when it was speculated Popovich might leave when Duncan did?
The benches cleared at some point, I wasn’t really paying attention anymore... but at suddenly I looked up and saw Jared Dudley was actually playing.
Then I thought, I wonder why Dudley hasn’t been playing more?
And then I thought, I wonder why Dudley is playing now?
The Spurs brought in some guy from Latvia (Davis Bertans)... so of course he nailed a three.
The Suns managed not to lose by 40, but the Spurs did roll off a 55-24 run to start the second half. The biggest margin was 27, when the Spurs led 106-79 en route to their 112-95 victory.
Warren led the way for the Suns with 17 points, but was only 7-18 from the field.
Daniels was the only Sun who actually played well, finishing with 14 points while hitting 4-5 from three point range. The rest ranged from average to pretty bad.
Seven Spurs scored in double figures, led by 21 points (9-13 fg) and nine rebounds from Aldridge.
Hopefully this was just the effects of the end of a long road trip against a superior team... and not a harbinger of things to come as the new coach smell wears off of the Jay Triano era.
These last two losses weren’t really very close.
The Suns start a six game home stand against the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow (Monday 11/6) at 7:00 PM MST. The Suns beat the Nets 122-114 in Brooklyn last Tuesday.
In all, the Suns play 9 of their next 10 at home. If the Suns aren’t going to be near the NBA cellar they are going to have to take advantage of this stretch.