Suns-Spurs Preview

The San Antonio Spurs continue to dominate at home, and their

next visiting foe could come into town short-handed.

The Spurs will try to improve to 9-0 at home Sunday night when

they meet the Phoenix Suns, who could be without Steve Nash and

Grant Hill.

San Antonio (8-4) is off to its best start at home since

beginning 13-0 in 2006-07. The Spurs cruised to a 99-83 victory

Friday over Portland by outscoring the Trail Blazers by 16 in the

fourth quarter.

“I thought we earned it,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “We

competed well. We had a lot of guys that competed defensively and

rebounding wise in the second half and it generated a lot for

us.”

The Spurs continue to play without star guard Manu Ginobili but

still should be favored against Phoenix (4-7), which is beginning a

five-game trip and is unsure when Nash and Hill will return. The

aging stars sat out Friday’s 110-103 loss to New Jersey.

According to Suns coach Alvin Gentry, the 37-year-old Nash has a

“charley horse” type injury – technically a right quad contusion –

and the 39-year-old Hill has a right quad tendon strain.

Those injuries occurred in Phoenix’s 101-90 loss to the

Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday. Nash also is bothered by a sore

back, a condition that has bothered him throughout his career.

The Suns dropped their third straight Friday as Ronnie Price

filled in for Nash with 18 points and eight assists.

“It’s kind of like Peyton Manning for the Colts,” said forward

Jared Dudley about playing without Nash. “This offense is

predicated on him and everything. Ronnie filled in nicely. He

played extremely well. But obviously there’s only one Nash and

obviously you need G-Hill out there.”

Price and the Suns guards had trouble with Deron Williams, who

had 35 points and 14 assists one night after Cavaliers rookie Kyrie

Irving had 26 and six against Phoenix.

That could be good news for Spurs top scorer Tony Parker, who

scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter Friday. Parker is

averaging 17.8 points on 47.0 percent shooting at home compared to

marks of 12.3 points on 38.5 percent on the road.

“They did a pretty good job on me the first three quarters,”

Parker said. “I was just trying to wait for my time.”

Rookie Kawhi Leonard scored 11 points for the second straight

game in his second consecutive start since replacing Gary Neal in

the lineup.

Another young player, Tiago Splitter, is starting to become more

effective. Splitter made all five shots for a season-high 14 points

Friday, and has made 16 of his last 21 field-goal attempts.

“He has been doing this for years in Europe and everywhere,”

Popovich said. “He is a blue collared guy who just does the basics

really, really well. He is a great competitor.”

San Antonio went 3-1 against Phoenix last season. The Spurs can

knot the all-time series at 72 wins apiece with a victory.