The Suns capped off a perfect back-to-back in San Antonio with a 123-121 victory to finish the season 51-21 and head into the postseason with a ton of momentum.
Without Chris Paul or Devin Booker, the Suns had to rely far more on their point-five system and ball and player movement to create good shots. The Suns assisted 17 of their first 22 made field goals, led by Jevon Carter (five assists) and Dario Saric (four assists) in the first half.
We also got an extended look at Jalen Smith, who played a whopping 22 minutes in the first half. Statistically, his line was a pretty routine five and five in the half, but his defense awareness and mobility are improving, and his corner three is starting to look pretty consistent when he’s open.
Playing time in 2022 is right there for him to grab if he wants it.
Yet in the third quarter, San Antonio spanked the Suns, outscoring them 38-25. With Mikal Bridges on a minutes limit (likely playing only to keep his games played streak intact), DeMar DeRozan had his way, getting open inside the arc and putting up free throw after free throw.
In a game the Suns were not trying very hard to win, it was predictable to see veterans like DeRozan, Rudy Gay and Jakob Poeltl play well against them.
But the Suns turned up the volume in the third and responded with a run of their own, courtesy of seven quick points and one assist from... Torrey Craig?! Guess he wanted to show San Antonio the Suns had vets of their own.
Torrey Craig goes behind-the-back! pic.twitter.com/qp20GX43EC— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) May 16, 2021
But really the second half was just more of a highlight reel from Smith. We are all going to remember (and look, probably overreact) to this game come next season.
Part of it was Smith playing insane minutes (34 through the first three quarters), but he didn’t make many mistakes and flashed a lot of the athleticism, energy and versatility that made him a first-round guy in the first place out of Maryland.
Poetry in motion - the Bulldog finds Stix for a sweet oop! pic.twitter.com/yUTmmGX2g1— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) May 16, 2021
Most impressively, the Suns actually out-executed the Spurs down the stretch to complete the victory. San Antonio did put together a nice 9-0 run late, then took a 121-120 lead after a pair of Tre Jones free throws. The next time down, E’Twaun Moore got a good look from the top of the key for three and knocked it down with 2.2 seconds left.
E'Twaun Moore hits it! pic.twitter.com/GMaroa2tHQ— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) May 16, 2021
Overall, the Suns found easy shots in the flow of the offense, defended confidently and aggressively, and put together simple strings of possessions that capped off a strong game and a brilliant season.
Onto the playoffs.