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Penultimate Game Preview: Suns vs. Spurs, with little to play for

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Both teams are fairly locked into their playoff/play-in positions

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (49-21, 2nd in West) at San Antonio Spurs (33-37, 10th in West)

When: 11:00 AM Saturday ***EARLY START***

Where: The Alamo

Watch: Bally Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


The Suns cannot fall lower than 2nd in the West, and are unlikely to climb higher either.

They could lose both weekend games, split the games or win both vs. Spurs and still finish 2nd. The only remaining variation: would need to go 2-0 vs Spurs AND have Jazz lose to Kings (who are out of playoffs for sure) for Suns to take 1st seed

The Spurs are locked into the 10th seed.

They could lose both weekend games, split the games or win both vs. Suns and still finish 10th. Then starting Monday, they are in a single-elimination playoff play-in tournament.

Basically, neither team has anything to play for. So why even play the games?

Spurs Update

Thanks to the play-in tournament, the Spurs season is still alive. Barely.

They get a play-in game against one of the Grizzlies or Warriors. If they win that game, they get to play the loser of the 7-vs-8 game. If they win THAT game, they grab the 8th spot for the right to play the top seed in the league in a 7-game series to stay alive.

The Spurs are 33-37 so far, guaranteed a losing record for the second straight year — something that hasn’t EVER happened to a Gregg Popovich team. In 24 full years at the helm, these are the first two losing records he’s ever had. In fact, he’s had more than twice as many NBA Championship seasons (5) as losing seasons (2).

At 72 years old, Popovich is the oldest coach in the history of the NBA. Given the two losing seasons and no sure-fire rebuild to the top, we may be seeing some of Pop’s last games on a sideline.

Suns Update

It’s fitting that just as Pop approaches retirement, the Suns are rising back to the top.

There’s still a chance the Suns finish with the top overall seed and best record in the NBA, but now they not only have to beat Pop twice, thay are counting on the Sacramento Kings — out of the playoff picture for a record-tying 15th straight year — to upset the Jazz on Sunday night. The Suns will have already played both weekend games before that Jazz-Kings game.

So, it’s possible the Suns will simply rest some starters this weekend to get them extra ready for the playoff opener next weekend.

Deandre Ayton is questionable (knee), and Cam Johnson is still out (wrist). Let’s see who else on the Suns suddenly becomes unavailable to play by game time.

Last Matchup

The Spurs rested a lot of their best players and somehow STILL walloped the Suns in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago. The Suns had just gotten through a juggernaut Jazz/Clips back to back and were about to embark on a tough road trip, so their focus was somewhere else. The Spurs blasted the Suns 111-85 and went on to win 5 of 6 games to get to 31-29 on the year.

But then have fallen completely off the rails in losing 8 of their last 10 games to drop to 10th in the West. And it’s not like they suffered any injuries. All of their regulars have been available, plus buy-out signee Gorgui Dieng, but they just can’t click anymore.

One of their two wins was over the Bucks though, a lot like their win over the Suns, so you cannot just expect a win here.

Prediction

I think the Suns rest at least Chris Paul (along with the injured Ayton and Cam Johnson), which kind of puts the Suns in a tough spot.

I guess the Spurs win this one. Pop will want to go out having beaten the Suns at least one more time, and he will want some momentum heading into the play-in tournament.