The Suns play the San Antonio Spurs again tonight. The last time these two teams squared off, the Spurs blew out the Suns by 30 points. Coach Igor Kokoskov is looking for a different result this time.
“Number one thing is we have to bring the energy and compete,” Kokoskov said. “If we don’t compete, we have no chance. We made a couple adjustments when it comes to the game plan but nothing major. We have to come with the energy, focus and be ready to play.”
Kokoskov knows there’s not much he can do to stop a powerhouse like the Spurs. They’re going to do what they always do. The team is well-coached, deep and knows how to play together.
“The formula is if the ball movement is better and faster than our defensive body movement you always struggle,” Kokoskov said. “They don’t give you time to think, you have to react and that’s how they play.”
He added that the Spurs are one of a kind in changing the pace of the game in an instant, making it extremely difficult for the Suns to adjust and react quickly. At yesterday’s practice, Jamal Crawford talked a lot about the game being so fast that sometimes, decisions are split second decisions.
“I think whenever you play in thought you play a little bit slower because you’re thinking the game and the game happens so fast,” Crawford said at yesterday’s practice. “You can’t think through every play. ... Sometimes you have to make mistakes, learn from them in the game and make the adjustment later.”
Devin Booker played against the Spurs in his first NBA start a few years ago and said he always enjoys playing against this organization.
“I have so much respect for the organization,” Booker said. “Coach Popovich, (I) spent time with him at USA this summer. He’s a true basketball mind. They have it figured out. They’ve had the blueprint for countless numbers of years so they know what they’re going to do every night.”
Gregg Popovich has been coaching the San Antonio Spurs for 20 years. So far, he has a 1204-546 record and has been to the playoffs in nineteen of those 20 years and won five NBA Championships with the organization.
Booker has been watching and admiring Popovich since he was a little kid. Now, he’s blessed to have had the opportunity to be coached by him specifically this summer at USA.
“It was surprising for me,” Booker said. “He pulled me aside a couple times at USA and gave me little tidbits. Just things to think about. But I’m not going to say it with everybody but it was really important to me. Growing up and being a fan of the game, a fan of him and just how he portrays himself and how he carries himself.”
Another guy who looks at the Spurs as one of the best organizations to play against is rookie Deandre Ayton. Although LaMarcus Aldridge lit him up during their last matchup, he used that experience to his advantage.
“I learned a lot from Aldridge,” Ayton said. “He had his way down there. They kept on emphasizing giving him the ball down low until we had to stop it. Stuff like that. Just keep pushing that button and just keep teams on their heels and stay aggressive.”
Tonight is going to be a new test for Ayton on containing Aldridge. He already knows what he brings to the table so after a few weeks of letting that previous matchup sink in and looking at game film, coach Kokoskov knows Ayton will bring it tonight.
“Deandre is going to be better,” Kokoskov said. “Every next time we play against the same opponent, same matchup he’s going to be better. That’s something we expected with the new experience he is getting after playing these guys.”
Ayton will have a lot on his shoulders against the Spurs, having to compete against a guy who’s in his 12th season, averages 19 and 11 and outscored Ayton 24-13.
“He has a lot of responsibility,” Kokoskov said of Ayton. “When it comes to the defense, when it comes to the rim protection and other stuff so those are some of the things he has to get done tonight but he’s definitely going to be better tonight and that’s expected for all the young guys.”
The game plan for tonight is an emphasis on offensive execution and being more efficient when it comes to the offense because that leads to good defense. Kokoskov also wants to see the turnovers down and his guys to come out there with physicality for all four quarters. In their last matchup with the Spurs, they lost all four quarters.