The San Antonio Spurs looked like they have all season, happy with yet another victory as the NBA’s winningest team.
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The Phoenix Suns won’t look like this again. That made them happy, too.
Tim Duncan had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and the Spurs won their won their ninth in a row, 118-110 over the Suns, who played undermanned again Monday night following their blockbuster trade with Orlando over the weekend.
The Suns are expected to debut Vince Carter, Martin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus on Thursday back home against Miami. In the meantime, coach Alvin Gentry used just eight players against the Spurs, a night after a draining upset at Oklahoma City.
”Grant (Hill), being the guy he is, said to me, ‘I’m really sorry. I just got tired,” Gentry said. ”I mean, I felt like an idiot with him saying that.”
Gary Neal scored 22 off the bench for the Spurs, who improved the NBA’s best record to 24-3 and are one victory from their second double-digit winning streak already this season.
The Spurs are again cruising after putting together 12 consecutive victories earlier this season. It has put the surprising Spurs atop the NBA in the midst of a historic franchise start for the four-time champions.
”We feel pretty good about ourselves right now. But I think we still have a lot to build on, honestly,” Duncan said. ”Our record is really good, and that’s a great situation to be in, but we got a lot of things we can clean up.”
Tony Parker scored 19 points, Richard Jefferson had 17 and Manu Ginobili had 15 as every starter for the Spurs was in double figures. DeJuan Blair had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Jared Dudley had 27 points for the Suns, whose halftime lead dissolved into a near-blowout. The Spurs outscored the Suns 40-24 in the third quarter, as Phoenix scored on just two of its first 14 possessions of the half.
In a span of just six minutes, a one-point lead evaporated into a 19-point deficit.
”They had nobody to stop Timmy,” Parker said. ”He was getting easy baskets and getting baskets for everybody.”
Steve Nash added 17 points and 10 assists for the Suns. Hill, who had 30 points and 11 rebounds in 37 minutes on Sunday against the Thunder, scored 19 points in 39 minutes.
The 38-year-old entered the game averaging around 30 minutes. But he didn’t make excuses afterward.
”It wasn’t so much tired. I think I was frustrated that we weren’t getting to the free throw line,” Hill said. ”I think I was trying to prove a point to the officials driving and we weren’t getting calls. I allowed that to get me frustrated and not read the situation.”
Phoenix returned to San Antonio for the first time since its stunning sweep in the West semifinals last May, but after the latest Suns shake-up, it wasn’t exactly a rematch.
Phoenix on Sunday completed a six-player trade with Orlando, sending Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark to the Magic. Carter and Gortat arrived in Phoenix on Monday while their new team was still in Texas.
Gentry – who joked before the game that he came back to San Antonio with the same team except for ”that Amare guy” – said he’s already thought about how he’ll use his newcomers.
For a few stretches against San Antonio, the short-handed Suns didn’t look desperate for their new trio just yet. Phoenix took a 54-53 halftime lead after finishing the second quarter on a 21-7 burst, holding the Spurs to just three field goals in the final seven minutes.
Josh Childress scored 15 points and Robin Lopez had 14 for the Suns. Channing Frye had just three points for the Suns on 1-of-10 shooting.
”We should be optimistic,” Nash said. ”We got a lot of guys coming in that give us size, depth and scoring, and defense. We should be a better team.”
Notes: Spurs G George Hill is expected to miss several more games while recovering from a sore right big toe. Hill, the top scorer for the Spurs off the bench, is wearing a boot on the foot. …The Suns have already used seven different starting lineups after using eight all of last season.