Still-depleted Suns visit red-hot Spurs
By BRETT HUSTON
STATS Senior Writer
The short-handed Phoenix Suns managed to pull out one surprising road win over a division leader Sunday night, and it's doubtful the reinforcements from their blockbuster trade will arrive in time to play Monday.
They could use all the help they can get against the league's hottest club.
The NBA-leading San Antonio Spurs seek their ninth straight win and 22nd in 24 games when they host the Suns in a series recently defined by Phoenix's close losses.
The Suns (13-13) made a move Saturday designed to keep them competitive this season while providing some long-term salary relief, but they certainly figured to miss the departed trio of Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark on Sunday in Oklahoma City.
New acquisitions Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat weren't available after the previous day's blockbuster trade with Orlando, but Phoenix's remaining roster made sure it wouldn't matter. Steve Nash returned with 20 points and 10 assists after suffering a neck stinger in his previous game, while Grant Hill had 30 points and 11 rebounds in a 113-110 win over the Northwest Division-leading Thunder.
"I think guys are going to come out and play, obviously, anytime that happens," said Hill, who's scored more than 20 points in seven of his last 15 games after doing so once in his first 11. "Sometimes when you're on the other side and you see that a team's not at full strength, there's a little bit of a letdown."
The Suns likely won't be able to sneak up on the Spurs (23-3) the same way, and it again appears unlikely they'll have any of their three additions. Carter, Pietrus and Gortat are set to take their physicals in Phoenix on Monday afternoon, likely delaying their debuts until Thursday against Miami.
That's good news for San Antonio, which has won five of seven in the series -- four of which have been decided by five points or fewer. Richard Jefferson had 28 points and Tim Duncan added 25 with 17 rebounds in a 112-110 win at Phoenix on Nov. 3.
San Antonio extended its current winning streak to eight with Saturday's 112-106 overtime win against Memphis. The past three victories have come by a total of nine points, but Tony Parker -- who had 37 against the Grizzlies -- doesn't mind having to sweat it out.
"As long as we're winning, I'm okay with it," he said.
Parker played 41 minutes Saturday and might be heavily worked again Monday. Backup point guard George Hill will likely miss a second straight game with a sprained right big toe.
Parker hasn't looked fatigued very often when Phoenix visits. He's averaging 24.8 points in his last nine regular-season home games against the Suns, and is looking forward to facing Nash and a Suns team that allows 109.9 points per game - tied for the most in the league.
"Everyone knows I love to play against Nash," Parker said. "He's one of the best point guards in the NBA and it's been like that for a long time. I've always had some success against them and hopefully that continues."
Nash has averaged 15.2 points and 11.0 assists in his last five visits to San Antonio -- three of which were Phoenix victories.
Tim Duncan has averaged 25.8 points in those games, but the Spurs are 0-3 this season when he scores 23 or more.