Suns lose poise, late lead against Spurs
SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Spurs have learned to play with poised desperation when Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are all sitting out.
The Phoenix Suns are still learning to keep their poise, period.
Danny Green had 20 points and San Antonio fought through the second half without their Big Three, rallying to beat the Suns 100-95 on Friday night.
The seventh-place Spurs moved a game ahead of the eighth-place Suns in the Western Conference.
The Spurs scored a season-high 41 points in the final quarter after blowing a 14-point lead.
"It’s tough after playing so well in the first half," Duncan said. "And then we give it up in that third quarter and you get the feeling, ‘Here we go again.’ We’ve had some really tough ones, some really close ones, where one or two possessions changes the entire game. Good to grab this one tonight and trying to get our ship back on the right path."
The loss was as much about the Suns’ collapse as the Spurs’ rally.
Phoenix, which entered the game shooting 37 percent on 3-pointers, was 7 for 26 from long range.
Coupled with a pair of late technical fouls, the loss aggravated Suns coach Jeff Hornacek.
"You saw the times that we drove it in there, you get a shorter shot or you get fouled," Hornaceck said. "But they want to live by the jumper or die by the jumper, I guess. These guys think they can make every shot, but if you don’t, you lose."
While the Suns were struggling, the Spurs took flight in the fourth quarter thanks to Parker’s backups.
Patty Mills had 15 points, including two 3-pointers in the final 2 minutes, and Cory Joseph scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter to help San Antonio snap Phoenix’s four-game winning streak.
P.J. Tucker and Eric Bledsoe had 19 points each and Goran Dragic added 17 points for the Suns. They have lost five straight in San Antonio.
Duncan had 12 points and seven rebounds, but played less than a minute in the fourth quarter as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich chose to rest Duncan and Tony Parker. Parker left at the 4:24 mark of the third quarter with seven points in 21 minutes. Manu Ginobili sat out the second half because of back spasms.
Parker and Duncan sat on the bench and watched uncomfortably as San Antonio appeared headed for another tough loss at home.
Three days after blowing an 18-point lead to Detroit, the Spurs were again in danger of falling after gaining a sizable advantage.
"Definitely a good win for us," Joseph said. "To pull it through at the end was big for us. We executed, we played good defense, and it got us over the hump."
After Tiago Splitter scored the opening basket of the second half, Phoenix went on a 12-0 run for its first lead and a 55-51 advantage. The Spurs had two turnovers and missed five shots during the drought. Following San Antonio’s 13th turnover, Gerald Green slammed home an alley-oop pass from Isaiah Thomas for a 69-59 lead with 2 minutes left in the third quarter.
But Tucker and Markieff Morris picked up consecutive technical fouls after arguing with officials with 1:57 left and the Spurs leading 85-82.
"It wasn’t the reason we lost the game," Tucker said. "Definitely wasn’t the reason we lost the game. It was a bad technical and I apologize for the technical … but the tech didn’t lose the game."
Mills sank both free throws and later added the two 3-pointers to keep San Antonio from another heartbreaking loss.
It was Tucker’s fifth technical of the season and Morris’ ninth, which is tied for the most in the league with Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.
"We’re tired," Hornacek said. "The coaches have talked about that all year we’re just going to take them out when they get technical fouls."
Suns: Phoenix acquired forward Brandan Wright from Boston on Friday. Wright was traded to the Celtics by the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 18 as part of the deal that brought Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks. … C Alex Len was averaging 2.8 blocks in his previous 13 games since being inserted into the starting lineup on Dec. 15. … The Suns are averaging 113.4 points in their previous 12 games. … Phoenix has five players averaging at least 14 points. … Phoenix’s last victory in San Antonio was Jan. 11, 2009.
Spurs: Ginobili left with 6:45 remaining in the first half. Ginobili, who did not return to the bench, had four points and three assists in 10:19. … Mills landed in the third row on a failed attempt to save a long rebound midway through the second quarter. Mills leapt, clearing the heads of fans in the first two rows before landing in the lap of a male spectator. … Duncan tied former Mavericks and Lakers forward Sam Perkins for 17th in career games played at 1,286. He will tie former Spurs antagonist Derek Fisher for 16th in his next outing.
Suns: At Memphis on Sunday night.
Spurs: At Minnesota on Saturday night.