After Gregg Popovich experimented with things by giving his players some rest early on, the San Antonio Spurs went back to an old and known formula: Just give the ball to Tony Parker, turned out quite well as their point guard completely took over in the final minutes of the game, leading them to a 99-96 win over the Phoenix Suns.
Parker finished with 20 points and 6 assists, but it was his late heroics that meant the most, scoring 15 of the Spurs’ last 16 points, including a layup in the final seconds that stunned the Suns, who thought the Spurs were going to try and hold up the ball in order to send the game into a free throw contest.
The Spurs looked bad, disjointed in the first half. Popovich kept taking out and putting in players that don’t usually fit together, making it quite difficult for the Spurs to create any kind of rhythm. The fear of fatigue and injury is greater than ever for San Antonio, who know there isn’t too much time left for this group to put on another late postseason run, hoping that last year’s Finals weren’t the last for the Parker-Ginobili-Duncan trio.
They might have a better support cast than before. Duncan finished with 17 points and 5 rebounds, but he wasn’t on the floor for the decisive play, probably in order to fool the Suns. Danny Green had a strong performance with 19 points (3-of-6 from beyond the arc) and Boris Diaw, who started in the lineup instead of Tiago Splitter, added 11 points.
The Suns still have them plenty of problems. The Spurs weren’t fast enough on defense to stop the Morris twins, who combined to score 34 points and grab 18 rebounds, while Eric Bledsoe, intially at least, gave them a lot of problems through the pick and rolls, scoring 14 points.
So is speed the big issue for the Spurs? Possibly, at least on some nights. San Antonio is a team that has changed its style on defense and offense so many times over the last few years, returning to being something of a strong defensive side last year, which helped them move back to the finals. This year? Not clear yet. Against the Nuggets they played Denver-style basketball and ran them off the floor. Against the Suns it was a confused performance, that only showed how much Tony Parker means to this team, and how important it is to keep him healthy and fresh not just for the later stages of the season, but the later moments in games as well.
It was just one of those games. It was weird. In the first half coach Pop was trying to rest everybody; back-to-back, and so we just got a weird rhythm. In the fourth quarter, we finally got it. We were struggling to score. We looked a little slow and tired and he must made every shot. He did an unbelievable job down the stretch.