The night before it was a heartbreaking game, this was like a game the San Antonio Spurs were about to throw out when they announced they would rest DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and Patty Mills against the next best team in the West. Unfortunately for the Phoenix Suns, who were perhaps a little complacent, the “resting” Spurs of yesteryear came to play, controlling the game from the middle of the first quarter with a full team effort for the 111-85 victory.
Rudy Gay led six Spurs in double digits with 19 points, while Devin Vassell scored 18 points in his career. The Spurs held Chris Paul and Devin Booker in check with just a combined 21 points on 9-28 shooting.
- Gregg Popovich gave a very Popovichian answer before the game when asked why Vassell has not played the last two games: “We played against other people”. Thanks, Pop, never would have guessed, although ‘person’ would make more sense as it was basically Lonnie Walker who replaced him as soon as he came back from an injury, not several people. In all seriousness, Pop has never been one to give away what he thinks when it comes to his team, frustrating as it can be at times, so I guess we shouldn’t expect anything else.
- On the other hand, Pop finally admitted that some of his players hit a wall thanks to the schedule, hence his reasoning for putting players to rest tonight. The first two of that group don’t seem to have hit a wall, but Mills has definitely been driving to a wall in recent weeks, and his goose egg against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday was the clash. Hopefully the extra day off will get him going again, as the Spurs need his three-point shooting and scoring off the bench.
- Drew Eubanks and Luka Samanic replaced the two resting starters, neither of which seemed out of place as they showed high energy levels and provided some degree of interchangeability on defense that was sometimes lacking. (Eubanks had another great game this week with his second double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds.) However, it was the bench that stole the show in the first quarter. Gorgui Dieng made his return from a shoulder injury and immediately made his presence felt on both sides with five quick points, and Devin Vassell also contributed five points and his usual superior defense. (Maybe Pop should play against him more than just ‘other people’?) Overall, Spurs’ bench outperformed their Suns counterpart 14-4 in the quarter to see the team ahead 28-19 .
- Spurs remained red hot in the second quarter, rising a whopping 23, not least thanks to three-point shooting. In fact, they’d hit eight before the Suns even hit their first (and only) three half way through the second quarter. They also had an unusual lead on second chance points, 12-3, despite the Suns having significantly more offensive rebounds. Phoenix finally got more aggressive for a spell, with Chris Paul hitting a few buckets to rouse their attack, but they never got closer than 17 in the quarter, and Spurs would take a 64-45 at half time.
- This is closer to the kind of achievement that led Spurs to success in the first half of the season: the starters play pretty much even (if not slightly below their opponent) to open the game, and then the bank comes in and puts it on the other team, which led to that dominant team in the second quarter that we got to know. The cushion they created often left just enough room for Spurs to absorb a slow period in the second half and still win.
- Luka Samanic didn’t do much in the box score – he was the only Spurs not to score alongside Kieta Bates-Diop – but he continues to draw well when he gets the minutes. He took the shots given him, didn’t force anything, and for the most part was solid on the defensive. Once he showed that he was still learning during the third quarter, twice in the same possession he was forced to make a foul with Jae Crowder after closing too hard to the bow, allowing Crowder to easily bypass him and go to a open rim could drive. The funny thing is, the Spurs were called for three total errors on that one possession, but the Suns still failed to score.
- The Spurs may have gotten a little complacent after getting a whopping 27 lead in the third quarter, when the Suns made a 12-0 run in the third and fourth quarters when the threes started to fall short in front of them, which Monty Williams gave enough reason. to bring Chris Paul back in. The Spurs responded quickly with five quick runs and later a 9-0 run to clear things up and avoid a collapse against a Suns team that can be especially dangerous on attack.
- Not to dwell on this, but Vassell (admittedly well equipped) had a career night of his own, which included 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals to go along with his with 18 points. Referring to Pop’s pregame commentary, it will be interesting to see if he continues to “play other people” and not his rising rookie for the rest of the season.
- It remains extremely satisfying to beat the Suns on “rest” games. After two previous incidents where Phoenix owner Robert Sarver clucked like a chicken at Pop from the sidelines to let players rest, and another time threatened to pay the fans back – and the Spurs still won both times – it’s just fun to put it on that guy, especially when looking at potential championship ambitions as the Spurs fight to stay in the play-in.
- Heading into Spurs’ most difficult week of the season, fans would likely have accepted a 3-2 result with open arms based on the schedule. The process of getting there was unexpected (beating the Mavs and Suns on the road but losing the Raptors), and it’s easy to look back and say it should have been 5-0 if they weren’t double digits had lost in the two losses. , but again, given the FIGASENI, they will take what they can get.
Visit Bright Side of the Sun for the perspective of the Suns fans.
The Spurs are now heading to Indianapolis to take on the Indiana Pacers on Monday. Tip-off takes place at 7:00 p.m. CT on BSSW.