Spurs open road trip against Suns

PHOENIX — San Antonio is beginning its annual rodeo trip with spurs jangling.

Coach Gregg Poppovich put the team through a full practice Monday for the first time in 55 days, according to the San Antonio Express-News, following a stretch in which it has lost two in a row, three of its last five home games and 10 of its last 19 dating from a 93-79 loss at Detroit on Dec. 30 in which it shot 36.9 percent.

A very un-Spurs stretch indeed.

The Phoenix Suns, meanwhile, would like to find something to get out of a recent funk, extended in an 112-93 loss at the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, when they played without leading scorer Devin Booker.

Home losses to Houston and Utah in a three-day span was the impetus to send the Spurs back to the practice floor.

“We did things today we have not practiced for a couple of months, very honestly,” Popovich told the paper, “and it’s shown in our last few games.

“Defense has dissipated. It was fun to have some time today to be able to do a little execution, a little muscle memory.”

The Spurs (34-21) will visit the Phoenix Suns (18-38) in the first game of a six-game trip on either side of the All-Star break as the rodeo and stock show occupies AT&T Center from Wednesday through Feb. 24.

San Antonio also will play at Golden State, Utah and Denver on the front side of the Feb. 20 All-Star Game and play at Denver and Cleveland on the other side.

“It was good to go over some things, especially for some of the young guys who weren’t able to go through it in detail early on,” Danny Green told the paper.

“Utah and Houston are obviously two really good offensive teams that have been playing well. We found some good mistakes to fix.”

The Jazz shot 56.5 percent from the field and made 12-of-23 3-point attempts in a 120-111 victory Saturday over the Spurs, who are not alone there. Utah shot 56.7 percent in a 129-97 victory over the Suns the night before.

The Spurs still are without two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard, who has missed the last 11 games while undergoing management of his quadriceps injury and has played only nine games this season. Rudy Gay (heel) has missed the last 19 games.

“It feels like we have played 10 games not 60 or whatever we played,” 16-year veteran Manu Ginobili told reporters after Saturday’s defeat.

“We’ve got a feeling that we’re still building, trying to find our identity, trying to get players back, rotations and who’s in and who’s out. It’s a very unusual situation. I don’t remember being in anything like this … and the crazy thing is, we’re still third (in the West).”

LaMarcus Aldridge is leading the Spurs in scoring (22.4 per game) and rebounds (8.4). Pau Gasol is the only other regular averaging double figures, and he was replaced in the starting lineup by Davis Bertans against Utah. Gasol had started in all of his previous 51 games.

The Suns, who have lost eight of nine and 11 of 13, will have another unwelcome change to their starting lineup inasmuch as Booker is expected to miss his second straight game.

Booker, averaging 24.1 points a game, did not play against the Lakers after suffering a hip injury late in a 115-110 loss to Charlotte on Sunday.

“I feel like I can’t catch a break right now,” Booker said on the Suns’ telecast Tuesday. “I’m just taking it a day at a time.”

Booker also missed one game after suffering a rib injury in a 113-102 loss at Houston on Jan. 24, and the injury appeared to affect his shooting. He was 19-of-52 from the floor in the three games he played between injuries.

Tyler Ulis, who had been displaced in the starting lineup while the Suns looked at Booker at point guard, returned to the starting lineup against the Lakers, the Suns’ 19th different starting group this season.

Josh Jackson, now the starting off guard, scored 16 against the Lakers after games of 23, 20, 21 and 20 points in the previous four games, with a career-high 23 against Charlotte.

“Picking and choosing his activity, where he can go to make plays,” Suns interim coach Jay Triano said of Jackson’s recent stretch. “Open court, he’s not playing 100 miles an hour all the time. He’s slowing it down at times and picking, and using his athleticism to get past slower defenders.”

“I think my confidence is a lot higher than it was at the beginning of the season,” Jackson said. “I think that I am a smarter player than I was. I’m taking better shots. I’m not hesitating. I think that’s where my offensive success is coming from.”