In what turned out to be an entertaining battle between third stringers, the Phoenix Suns edged the San Antonio Spurs, 123-121. A three-pointer by E’Twaun Moore with two seconds remaining proved to be the deciding shot.
All in all, the Spurs have to be happy with how things played out. Their starters got a good run. Many players on the bench performed well. Considering that San Antonio was locked into the tenth spot, even losing the game was a positive in terms of the big picture. A win against the Suns today could have dropped the Spurs a couple spots in the draft.
The Spurs trailed by eight points with four minutes remaining but San Antonio’s third stringers came roaring back to take the lead with a 9-0 run. After a Keita Bates-Diop gave the Spurs the lead, Moore hit a three-pointer for the Suns. With ten seconds remaining, Bates-Diop tipped in a missed free throw to again put the Spurs out in front. That’s when another three-pointer by Moore sealed the win for the Suns.
The good guys finished this season with a record of 33-39. Last season, the Spurs were 32-39. Improvement!
Spurs vs. Suns: Final Grades
The bad: Murray’s shot-selection was shaky once again. His effort on defense wasn’t there. The good: Murray took care of the ball, rebounded and authored a couple of crafty passes.
Good stuff from Poeltl. He took advantage of his size on offense and was extra active on defense. Rebounding was another plus.
Lonnie Walker IV
The good: Walker had a few slick forays to the rim and and a couple heady passes. The bad: Walker’s decision-making wasn’t consistent. He passed up shots sometimes and his slow decisions on drives led to turnovers.
DeRozan was able to loosen his joints. Scoring 23 points in 25 minutes? Yeah, that was a good warmup.
The good: Johnson passed the ball well and had some brawny drives to the hoop. The bad: His overall energy level and defensive intensity was lower than usual.
Vassell shot it poorly again. His confidence eventually evaporated. Defensively, he didn’t move the needle a whole lot.
Gay looked sharp. His jumper was smooth, his passing was smart and he flashed a surprising amount of athleticism on both ends.
Jones gave some glimpses of his potential. I like that he looked to score — that’ll ultimately determine how good he can be in the NBA. Jones’ passing, playmaking and running of the offense impressed.
Kmart Kyle Anderson helped lead the third stringers. Length, coordination and a high basketball IQ make Bates-Diop a reliable plug-and-play option. Like Jones, I’m glad he was more aggressive scoring-wise because that’s vital to his development.
Last game, Weatherspoon played well in most every aspect other than shooting the ball. Today, Weatherspoon added deadeye shooting to his equation. His touch was as feathery as I’ve ever seen it. Considering he’s a strong defensive player and has a powerfully built body that allows him to compete in the paint, if Weatherspoon can hit jumpers, he has a legitimate chance of sticking.
Eubanks was the first center off the bench. He went to the locker room after getting hit in the face. While he was out there, he was his typical physical, assertive self.
One thing that has become obvious about Dieng is that he’s a better than advertised passer. When he has the ball on the perimeter, he can effortlessly find open cutters and doesn’t hesitate to go from good to great. He might also be the best three-point shooter on the team, which obviously makes him valuable on this shooting starved squad.
I would have preferred if the starters had been given even more rest — but it seems like things worked out well. The Spurs technically lost the game but, weirdly enough, it feels like the team is entering the play-in tournament on a high note. Down the stretch, the energy and the happiness of the team was as palpable as it’s been all season.
The Spurs will face the Grizzlies in Memphis in the first game of the play-in tournament. If the Spurs win that game, they’ll have a chance to advance to the postseason with another victory on Friday.