Road-tested Spurs visit salty Suns (Dec 15, 2016)
The New York Knicks angered the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.
Imagine how the Suns will feel when they see the San Antonio Spurs, who have thumped them seven consecutive times, on Thursday night.
The Suns scuffled with the visiting Knicks before edging them 113-111 in overtime.
The narrow win was Phoenix's third in five overtime games this season. No team in Suns history previously played as many as five extra-time contests among its first 25 games.
The matchup featured more than just 53 minutes of action. It also included a fracas between Suns rookie Marquese Chriss and Knicks second-year forward Kristaps Porzingis. Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe and the Knicks guard Brandon Jennings also drew technical fouls in the altercation.
"Marquese Chriss has become our Draymond Green," Suns coach Earl Watson said after seeing the rookie slam Porzingis to the ground after the New York big man ran over Bledsoe. "I think he gave you an example or a flash of what that can be, as far as getting a flagrant (foul), protecting his teammate. I have no problems with that. We need a presence on the court that brings fight to our team that is kind of contagious."
There is no backing down when it is comes to the Spurs on the road this season. They are 13-1 away from home despite often resting veteran players.
They gave LaMarcus Aldridge the night off Wednesday in a 108-101 home win over the Boston Celtics. Pau Gasol (35 minutes), Tony Parker (26) and Manu Ginobili (22) are all candidates to sit out the second half of the back-to-back in Phoenix.
Regardless of who played, the Spurs dominated the Suns in the past seven matchups. San Antonio ran up a 19-point average margin of victory in those games, which included a season-series sweep last year.
David Lee started in place of Aldridge and contributed eight points and 10 rebounds to the win over the Celtics. He might find himself starting Thursday night in place of Gasol, who was inactive for the second night of a back-to-back two weeks ago in Dallas.
The Spurs won that game 94-87, which began a run of four straight road contests in which they held the opposition to 96 points or fewer. For the season, San Antonio has allowed the third-fewest points per game in road games, 97.8.
The Spurs gave up 101 in their home victory Wednesday, but coach Gregg Popovich was impressed nonetheless.
"This was a really good win for us," he said. "We communicated well defensively. This was one of our better games on the defensive end of the court."
The Suns know that defense all too well. They were held to 84, 79 and 89 points the first three times they saw the Spurs last season.
If Phoenix is to turn that around, it probably will need more of what it got from Chriss when he wasn't throwing opponents around Tuesday night.
The rookie pulled down a season-best 12 rebounds to go with 14 points, giving him his first professional double-double.