Just a week into a new season, the San Antonio Spurs were already drained mentally and physically by the second game of back-to-back.
San Antonio was lethargic defensively and lackluster offensively against the young and energetic Phoenix Suns. The player with the biggest cause for fatigue turned out to be the one who bolted to the rescue.
Tony Parker scored 15 of San Antonio’s final 16 points and the Spurs withstood a hectic finish to beat the Phoenix Suns 99-96 on Wednesday night.
Parker scored 20 overall, going 8 for 11 in the second half, and finished with six assists for San Antonio (4-1).
”Tony is someone we depend on,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ”He plays a lot of minutes. We expect him to be able to give us that offense, distribute the ball and play good `D’ night after night after night. He’s been doing it for a long time now.”
Parker did the same for France, spending the NBA offseason leading the country’s national team to its first Euroleague Championship.
Despite having little time to recuperate after leading San Antonio to the brink of its fifth championship, the 31-year-old point guard still carried the Spurs to victory after propelling them to a 115-105 winand area poiny am rebiundes. Tuesday night in Denver.
”Incredible,” San Antuns members Manu Ginobili said. ”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.”
Danny Green added 19 points, Tim Duncan had 17 points and Boris Diaw 11 points for San Antonio.
Markieff Morris tied a career high with 23 points and also had 11 rebounds for Phoenix (3-2). Morris’ twin brother, Marcus, added 11 points and Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee each had 15 points.
Plumlee’s reverse layup gave Phoenix a 96-95 lead with one minute remaining. The Suns had an opportunity to extend the lead following a miss by Duncan, but Ginobili drew a charge on Gerald Green.
”(The Spurs) know each other,” Phoenix first-year coach Jeff Hornacek said. ”They have been in these situations in the NBA finals. They know how to handle it. They know how to be tough and aggressive. When they make cuts, they make cuts. When they are doing that, you cannot float through things.”
Parker, who had a game-high 24 points against the Nuggets, followed with a short jumper to give San Antonio the lead for good with 31.9 seconds left.
”It was just one of those games,” Parker said. ”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.”
Gerald Green missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied the game.
Both teams went on runs during the first half, San Antonio and Phoenix exchanged leads seven times in the second half.
San Antonio’s big men were overwhelmed by the athleticism of the Morris twins, especially Markieff, who set up a series of dunks and drives to the basket with his outside jumper. Morris was 11 for 13 from the field.
”They created a lot of matchup problems,” Parker said. ”Both of the brothers (Marcus and Markieff Morris), they’re tough to guard and Bledsoe in the pick-and-roll, same thing; he’s super fast. He’s like a pit bull. They’re pretty good. A lot people, they really don’t believe in Phoenix. I think they’re a pretty good team.”
Ginobili, who entered the game averaging 12.3 points, gave San Antonio a burst of energy upon entering as the game’s first sub. He had five points and two assists in 3 minutes, making his first 3-point attempt to put San Antonio up 23-14 with 3 minutes left in the first quarter.
Ginobilli finished with nine points.
”They had a good game,” Ginobili said. ”The back-to-back, we knew we weren’t going to be that sharp or energetic, but they made a lot shots. (Markieff) Morris was incredible that first half. At one point, we were up 10 and it looked like we were going to break the game, but we stopped moving the ball and they started making shots and the game changed once you give a young team confidence.”
NOTES: Markieff Morris matched the career high he set against New Orleans on Nov. 23, 2012. . . . Diaw started for Tiago Splitter, who started San Antonio’s first four games. . . . With Popovich inches away screaming for a call, John Goble calmly took a step back after blowing his whistle, motioned for the Spurs coach to settle down and then called traveling on P.J. Tucker. . . . Spurs F Matt Bonner was a scratch after tweaking his ankle during the second half of San Antonio’s 102-94 victory at Denver. He is day to day. . . . Duncan was assessed his first technical of the season after apparently complaining to Danny Crawford away from the ball on a 3-pointer by Parker with 4 minutes left in the game.