Spurs-Suns Preview

With a young team, Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek has had to

do some mixing and matching to find the right roles for various

players to fill.

The first-year coach seems to be on the right path, as the Suns

look to win six straight for the first time since late in the

2009-10 season when they host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday

night.

The Suns (14-9) are winning with a variety of different players

doing their jobs in the roles Hornacek has given them. The

backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic has been among the NBA’s

best, combining for 38.6 points and 12.5 assists per game. Six

other Suns average at least 9.3 points, and the team’s bench ranks

among the league’s top units with 35.5 points per game.

“Some nights, some shots aren’t going to fall for everybody,”

reserve forward Marcus Morris told the team’s official website.

“We’re just trying to find the hot man. Whoever that is coming off

the bench, that’s who we’re going to ride with.”

Morris and his twin brother Markieff are two of the key players

Hornacek relies on to bring energy and scoring off the bench.

Markieff ranks among the league leaders with 12.5 points and 6.0

rebounds per game as a reserve, while Marcus isn’t far behind with

averages of 10.9 and 4.7.

“Guys will go through good times and they’ll go through bad

times,” Hornacek said. “They’ve just got to stick with it and not

let their confidence get down. It gives us options to come off the

bench when one of those guys does get hot.”

The philosophy has Phoenix on the verge of its longest win

streak since a 10-game run March 14-April 2, 2010.

“We definitely feel good about ourselves,” Bledsoe said after

having 24 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals in

a 106-102 win against Golden State on Sunday.

The Spurs (19-5) have an even better second unit that averages

46.1 points, though it is hardly the young group that Phoenix trots

out. San Antonio’s reserves are led by 36-year-old Manu Ginobili,

whose 11.0 points and 4.6 assists per game rank among the tops in

the NBA for bench players.

Ginobili scored 16 points Monday against the Los Angeles

Clippers, but sloppy all-around play in the fourth quarter did the

Spurs in. They were outscored 37-22 in the final 12 minutes, thanks

in large part to an inability to protect the ball.

San Antonio turned it over a season-high 22 times overall, which

led to 37 points for the Clippers in a 115-92 loss that ended the

Spurs’ four-game win streak.

“We were in control in the first half, up by 10. Both teams went

small and we just started the turnover spree at that point,” coach

Gregg Popovich said. “If you give up (37) points off turnovers, you

can’t beat anybody.”

The Spurs defeated the visiting Suns 99-96 on Nov. 6 for their

10th win in 12 meetings.