The Suns rallied, but just couldn't overcome an early double-digit Spurs lead in San Antonio.
The Suns-Spurs rivalry, as any Jon Barry will tell you, isn't what it used to be. The principals of those storied playoff series are either decaying or elsewhere, and the match-up has lost much of its luster. Most of that is on Phoenix's end, of course, as the Spurs have remained competitive while Steve Nash's supporting cast has crumbled around him. On Sunday night, Nash and friends did what they could to hang with the rejuvenated Tim Duncan and his persistent Spurs, but could never quite recover from a big deficit, falling 102-91 in San Antonio.
The two teams traded buckets in the first quarter, mostly on the backs of their aging stars. Nash ran his signature pick-and-roll with repeated success, either feeding a rim-rolling Marcin Gortat or pulling up and kicking his feet for a dead-eye mid-range jumper. In the other direction, the Spurs had a bit of an inside-outside game going. DeJuan Blair battered the Phoenix "bigs" (if we're talking about sheer mass, nothing in Blair's realm, relatively speaking, is "big") under the basket while Duncan chilled out on the perimeter, splashing jumpers and probably sipping tomato juice when we weren't looking.
In the second quarter, the second units came to play and the game got decided for good. The Suns' shot-makers failed to do just that, converting very few of their ample long jumper attempts. Were it not for a fine run by Gortat to end the half, Phoenix might have flirted with a single-digit point total in the second period. Meanwhile, the San Antonio bench promptly lost Gary Neal to a thigh injury, but pushed off Phoenix misses and turnovers to get easy looks for Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner. By the early third quarter, the lead was 18 and the Spurs appeared to have the game in hand.
Phoenix rallied, though. Gortat continued to roll and guys like Ronnie Price and Markieff Morris made savvy, hustle-y plays off the bench to shave the difference to as little as four. Even then, the game just didn't feel within reach for the plucky but ill-equipped Suns. Duncan and Tony Parker responded, moving the ball for open shots and capitalizing on some untimely misses and miscues by Nash to push the lead back to double digits and seal the victory.
Duncan's 24-point outing (coming off a seven-point night against the Blazers) was a season-high, and moved him past Gary Payton to No. 26 on the all-time scoring charts. The Spurs moved to a remarkable 9-0 at home (and yet they're 0-4 on the road. FISHY), while Phoenix fell to 4-8 overall.