Tim Duncan spent the summer trying to improve his jump shots.
It showed Sunday night as the two-time MVP and 13-time All-Star scored 24 points, many on jumpers, to lead the Spurs to a 102-91 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, keeping the Spurs perfect at home.
”Especially this summer, I worked on it a lot trying to extend my range a little bit,” Duncan said. ”Be a little more consistent. It’s been up and down so far but great tonight.”
Tony Parker had 17 points and nine assists for the Spurs, who have won three straight and improved to 9-0 at home – their best opening since they won their first 13 at home to begin the 2007-08 season. San Antonio is also 0-4 on the road.
DeJuan Blair added 14 points and rookie Kawhi Leonard had 12 for San Antonio.
”It was a good night for us,” Duncan said. ”We made some shots down the stretch for us, which was big. Tony’s been great this season, especially in the fourth quarter for us.”
Marcin Gortat had 24 points and 15 rebounds to lead Phoenix. Markieff Morris added 14 points, Jared Dudley had 12 points, and Shannon Brown had 10 as the Suns, beginning a five-game road trip, have lost four straight.
Suns veterans Steve Nash and Grant Hill returned after missing Friday’s loss to New Jersey. Nash was out with a right quadriceps contusion and Hill missed the game with a right quadriceps tendon strain. Nash had 20 points and 10 assists, while Hill had just four points.
After the Suns closed what had been a 19-point game in the first half to five in the fourth quarter, San Antonio scored six straight, capped by Duncan’s 17-foot jumper. to remain in control.
One spot that was consistent for much of the game was the Spurs’ defense, which has been a sore spot for coach Gregg Popovich at times this season. San Antonio entered the game ranked ranked 26th in opponents’ field goal percentage. Duncan sees things improving, though.
”It’s progressing,” Duncan said. ”Yeah, it’s progressing. It’s been way too high for the first couple of games of the season here. It’s been up and down. We’re not at the consistency where we need to be at. All in all we’re getting there. It’s a work in progress. We know it’s a long season. We use the season to get where we want to be. But defensively we have to be a lot better.”
Phoenix’s problems were easy to pinpoint: the second quarter, when San Antonio held the Suns to 6-of-23 shooting in building a 19-point lead.
”You just can’t spot them 19, especially playing at home,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. ”It was an uphill battle from there. We gave ourselves an opportunity to make it interesting at the end but, you know, once again, we dug a hole and spent a whole lot of time trying to dig ourselves out of it.”
Phoenix finished 38 of 91 from the field, while the Spurs hit 40 of 81 shots.
”We just didn’t quit,” Hill said. ”We fought hard. The problem was we gave them a big lead. When you’re down 19 against a good team, you spend so much energy trying to get back in the game. We fought hard, we’re playing hard, we’re not playing to our fullest potential. But we’re certainly playing hard. There’s never any quit.”
Notes: Duncan’s jumper with 1:29 left in the second quarter moved him past Gary Payton into 26th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 21,829. Clyde Drexler is 25th with 22,195. … Neal sustained a right quad contusion in the second quarter and didn’t return. … Spurs F Malcolm Thomas missed the game with gastroenteritis. … Suns F Hakim Warrick received a technical foul with 2:50 remaining in the second quarter for arguing with referees. … Hill said after the game he’s OK physically. ”I felt fine. My legs felt good. My knee feels real good.”