The Phoenix Suns were just two victories away from another six-game winning streak, but they can kiss those hopes goodbye after taking on the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.
After trailing the entire first half — by as much as 14 — the Suns came alive in the third quarter, spearheaded by defense and fast breaks.
Phoenix entered the fourth with a 10-point lead, but the home team worked its way back into the game, mostly with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili sitting out.
Instead of the Spurs’ big three, a cast of characters including Corey Joseph and Patty Mills made big plays down the stretch, and the Suns hung around but couldn’t get back ahead.
The Spurs held on for a 100-95 victory, which was much needed after losing at home Tuesday to Detroit by a buzzer-beating field goal. San Antonio improved to 22-15 with the win, while Phoenix fell to 22-17.
Here’s a look at Friday’s close contest, by the numbers:
The Spurs converged on Markieff Morris early and highly contested his shot attempts, and the Suns forward seemed rattled from then on. He finished the game just 1-for-13 from the field for three points, although he did contribute eight rebounds, two steals and one block in 29 minutes. Despite his ineffectiveness on offense, he was still a team-high plus-13 in the box score.
The Suns were technical-free until one of the worst possible times. Trailing by three with just under two minutes left in the fourth, P.J. Tucker and Morris picked up back-to-back techs. Mills went to the line and hit both of the attempts, and Phoenix would fail to recover from the five-point deficit.
Eric Bledsoe picked up his seventh double-double of the season (counting two triple-doubles), but the Suns fell to 4-3 when he records the feat. The 6-foot-1 guard scored 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and had 10 assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes. He was also a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point land in the defeat.
Despite the loss, all five Suns starters were positive in the plus-minus category Friday, while all five Spurs starters were in the negatives — not something you usually see from the team that wins the game.
The Spurs claimed sole possession of seventh place in the Western Conference with Friday’s win. They were just a few percentage points ahead of the Suns prior to tipoff, but they pushed Phoenix backed down to eighth in the playoff race.
The Suns suffered their 10th road loss of the season; they have 13 wins away from US Airways Center so far this year, and their record at home is 9-7. The team has one more road game — in Memphis on Sunday — before returning to the Valley for an eight-game home stand, which begins with a matchup against Cleveland on Tuesday.
A game after being benched for yelling at head coach Jeff Hornacek, all seemed to be OK with Suns forward Marcus Morris. The fourth-year pro received almost 17 minutes of playing time, and he made 3-of-6 field goals for six points, to go along with four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Tucker exploded in the third quarter for 15 points, and he finished with a season-high 19, making up for the lack of offense from starters Markieff Morris and Alex Len. Tucker also added six rebounds, two steals and a block in the loss.
San Antonio didn’t trail for the first 27 minutes and 20 seconds of the contest, and it got ahead by as much as 14 at one point. Tucker hit a runner with 8:40 left in the third quarter to give the Suns their first lead of the game.
The Suns had a strong third quarter, outscoring San Antonio 26-10, but the Spurs responded well in the fourth, pouring in a season-high 41 points while only allowing Phoenix to get 26.
Not known for their rebounding, the Suns actually beat San Antonio on the boards by a healthy margin, winning the battle 48-40. Len had a game-high 12 boards. However, the Suns were walloped in points in the paint, as the Spurs scored 50 down low, while Phoenix only had 32.
Phoenix didn’t get to the free throw line much until the third quarter, and the team didn’t shoot well even when it finally got some chances. The Suns shot just 14-of-21 (66.7 percent) from the charity stripe. San Antonio was slightly better, making 13-of-18 attempts (72.2 percent). Phoenix also had a poor shooting night from behind the three-point line, hitting just 7-of-26 attempts (26.9 percent). The Spurs were a strong 11-for-23 (47.8 percent) from behind the long line.