Welp - my game prediction couldn’t have been more wayward. Jae Crowder’s turnover to begin play was the consummate omen of unfortunate events to come. Phoenix had been playing near-perfect basketball up to this point, but as I mentioned in the preview, Greg Popovich is a living, breathing, hoops savant, and possesses the cryptonite to suppress any Superman-esque display.
Keldon Johnson and Devin Booker traded baskets to open the game’s scoring, and the Suns showed a blatant effort to get Deandre Ayton touches in the post with Jakob Poeltl sidelined. Drew Eubanks and Luka Samanic started in place of Poeltl and Demar Derozan (who were both absent for rest), and it seemed like PHX was going to cruise through the game in the opening minutes. The squad took a 10-4 lead, outscoring San Antonio 6-0 in the paint. But sloppy play began to envelop into a full on disaster, and the Spurs quickly climbed back to take a 15-14 advantage, which swelled to 28-19 at the quarter’s close after a 12-2 run.
Booker led the forge with seven points, while Cam Payne posted a -13 +/-.
While the Spurs were lively and fruitful from deep, Phoenix absolutely flatlined. The Suns didn’t hit their first 3-ball until their ninth attempt, while San Antonio shot a marvelous 4/9 clip from beyond the arc.
Their scoring efficacy, and defensive fortitude continued, while the team’s bench unit comfortably took over the reigns and vaulted them to a new level. Devin Vassell began his on-court mastery with a 3/3 shooting mark, helping the Spurs ascend to a 46-25 edge. The Spurs bench dropped 29 points on six dimes through the midway point of the second quarter.
Meanwhile, frustration boiled over for the Valley Boyz, and Jae Crowder’s technical foul plummeted the team’s energy to a new low. The Spurs led 64-45 at the half, fueled by five Spurs with eight or more points. Payne had nine points of his own, while Book recorded 13.
Monty Williams’ halftime speech yielded no dividends for the ‘Boyz, and a pitiful second quarter transformed into a ghastly second half start.
San Antonio forced countless Suns’ possessions late into the shot clock, while they continued to prompt turnovers. The group held one of its biggest leads during the third, going up 83-58 guided by Johnson’s hustle and Eubanks’ surprise shooting deftness. The Spurs led 87-68 heading into the final period.
PHX held a 39% shooting percentage through three.
There isn’t much that needs to be said about the treacherous fourth. Phoenix tried to salvage bits and pieces of momentum, but was unable to close the deficit as San Antonio romped through the team’s home arena.
Jevon Carter’s doggedness closed the gap to 19 with about eight minutes remaining, but garbage time minutes proved profitless for the Suns as well, and their opponents opened a massive 30-point edge, guided by Tre Jones to close things out. Carter led all Suns scorers with 17, and Booker finished with 15. Rudy Gay posted 19, while Devin Vassell put up a career-high 18. Keldon Johnson finished with 17.
Final score: 111-85 - WAY off from my pregame forecast. But hey, every weather man has a bad day, right?
The good news (if there is any) about this: the Jazz lost as well. The true measure of a championship team is how they bounce back after setbacks. Phoenix surely isn’t used to pitfalls like these, but let’s see how this group responds to a blow-out with this magnitude.