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T.J. Warren not enough as Suns fall to Kawhi Leonard-lacking Spurs

Phoenix Suns forward T.J. Warren, left, and San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) scramble for a loose ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs relied on experience and the surprisingly spry legs of Manu Ginobili to overcome the energy of the Phoenix Suns.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points and San Antonio rallied to win without leading scorer Kawhi Leonard, beating Phoenix 119-98 on Wednesday night.

“They really got into us physically and did a great job denying passing lanes and really gave themselves a chance to win,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I just think our experience kind of took over in the end.”

After trailing by as many as 10 points, San Antonio forced seven turnovers while outscoring Phoenix 30-16 in the final quarter to capture its sixth straight win at home. The Suns were held to 34 points in the second half after scoring 64 in a blistering first half.

After being held scoreless in the first half, Ginobili responded with 12 points, including a dunk, and three blocked shots in the second half.

“I try to bring it every game,” Ginobili said. “Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes things don’t go your way. At halftime, we were frustrated with the way we were playing. So, we all brought it in the second half. We played a lot better.”

The 39-year-old veteran’s energy drew praise, as well as some teasing, from teammates.

“I hope he can walk tomorrow,” Aldridge said, laughing afterward.

The Spurs’ needed the lift while playing without Leonard for the first time this season. The 6-foot-7 forward, who has a stomach virus, was replaced in the lineup by Kyle Anderson.

“Yeah, we missed him for sure,” Ginobili said. “I think we should have played much better anyway. The ball should have moved faster, but they are physical, strong, young (team).”

T.J. Warren led Phoenix with 23 points, going 10 for 10 on free throws. Brandon Knight added 14 points and Marquese Chriss and Eric Bledsoe each had 13.

The Spurs had trouble slowing the Suns, who are second in the league at 103.8 possessions per game and averaging 107.3 points.

“We’re a fast-break team,” Chriss said. “I think that is what our strengths are.”

Although Anderson finished 0 for 6 from the field, San Antonio missed Leonard’s defense more than his team-high 24.4 points per game.

Aldridge and Pau Gasol combined for 29 points in the opening half, but the Suns countered with 34 points in the paint. The Suns attacked the rim, earning 11 free throws against a Spurs defense that was allowing only 20 per game.

Phoenix limited Aldridge to three field goal attempts in the first 19 minutes. He finished the game 10 for 12 from the field and 7 for 9 on free throws.

“We’re not surprised,” Watson said. “LaMarcus has always been an All-Star in this league. He was my teammate in Portland. To me, he’s the best power forward in the game.”


Suns: Phoenix is 1-5 in back-to-back games entering Thursday’s home game against Toronto. … The Suns’ last win in San Antonio was Feb. 27, 2013, snapping the Spurs’ 18-game winning streak at the AT&T Center in their first home game following their annual rodeo road trip. . The Suns are just the 11th opponent to outscore the Spurs’ bench this season. . Phoenix F Jared Dudley was healthy, but did not play due to coach’s decision.

Spurs: Leonard has missed four games in his career due to a stomach ailment. “He just couldn’t keep anything down today,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “So, he just stayed home.” . Every Spurs player with the exception of David Lee, Patty Mills and Jonathan Simmons has missed at least one game this season due to injury or for rest. San Antonio has 32 games missed as a team. . Anderson made his seventh start of the season, but his first at small forward. The 6-9 wing started six games at shooting guard in place of Danny Green to open the season.


The Suns host Toronto on Thursday night.

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