Spurs clinch league’s best record with 112-104 win
SAN ANTONIO (AP) The San Antonio Spurs have said their goal this season was not to have the league’s best record.
But once it was in sight, they went for it.
Danny Green had a career-high 33 points and the San Antonio Spurs rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat the Phoenix Suns 112-104 on Friday and clinch home-court throughout the playoffs.
”It’s a big plus,” Green said. ”It’s not something we were focused on, but we know it will help us. We’ll be at home for most of the playoffs. The biggest thing for us is to stay healthy and to build chemistry. Winning games in the process helps and we get home-court advantage. That’s just the extra bonus for us.”
Eric Bledsoe had 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists to lead Phoenix (47-32), which fell into a tie with Memphis for the West’s eighth seed.
Kawhi Leonard scored 18 points for the Spurs and Tony Parker added 18 points and three assists in his return from a two-game absence due to a back injury.
Green was 7 for 10 on 3-pointers in pushing San Antonio (62-18) to victory without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, who both sat out the second game of a back-to-back for rest.
It appeared the remaining Spurs were taking the night off, too, as the Suns ran past them early.
Phoenix took a 35-14 lead with 2 minutes left in the first quarter and was shooting 60 percent from the field midway through the second quarter.
”(The Spurs) could have said, `Oh, it’s tough, three (games) in four nights, back-to-back, and we’re just going to take a blow tonight.”’
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. ”But they didn’t do it. Those guys have a lot of pride. I think some of the assistant coaches got on them; ’cause you know I didn’t, I just kind of watched a little bit.”
Popovich was able to jest about his demeanor, but the mood was somber in the Suns’ locker room.
Phoenix faces the seventh-seeded Mavericks in Dallas on Saturday night before hosting the Grizzlies on Monday and playing at Sacramento on Wednesday.
The Suns likely must win out for any chance to reach the postseason.
”We don’t have much choice; our season is on the line,” Bledsoe said.
Making matters worse is Phoenix appeared to have Friday’s game well in hand until it was outscored 37-19 in the third quarter.
”They do what they always do, they lock in in the second half,” Bledsoe said. ”When they’re down, they don’t panic. We had too many good shots and good looks early. We thought we were going to come in the second half and it was going to be easy like the first half and we just weren’t as aggressive or locked in.”
After a sluggish start, Parker took over offensively to spark a 29-14 run to close the third quarter.
Parker hit a 15-foot jumper, a 3-foot driving jumper and an 18-footer before Green hit a 3-pointer to pull San Antonio within 72-68 with 6:45 left in third.
”I was just trying to be aggressive,” Parker said. ”We were down 13; so I just tried to bring some energy to the team. It was a back-to-back for everybody. And I had four or five days off, so I was just trying to bring energy.”
Marco Belinelli’s 19-foot jumper put San Antonio up 79-78, its first lead since leading 9-8 with 8 minutes left in the first quarter.
Phoenix regained the lead in the fourth, taking a 98-97 advantage on Channing Frye’s 3 with 4:25 remaining but Leonard and Belinelli followed with 3s to give San Antonio a lead it didn’t relinquished.
”They’re a good team, it doesn’t matter who they put out there, they play hard,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. ”You know other guys want to step up and we let guys get going. Danny Green, we couldn’t stop him. Tony Parker in the third was great. They played better than we did.”
NOTES: NBA commissioner Adam Silver attended the game after sitting in on the Spurs’ quarterly meeting. It was Silver’s first game in San Antonio since taking over as commissioner Feb. 1 when David Stern retired. Suns G Goran Dragic (ankle) missed the game, but Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek expects him to play Saturday in Dallas. … Phoenix scored 37 points in the first quarter, coming within 3 points of matching the most points San Antonio has allowed in the quarter set by Houston on Dec. 25.