The San Antonio Spurs-Phoenix Suns rivalry isn't quite as potent as it once was, but there are still enough familiar faces (one wearing the wrong jersey) to stir up old animosity. And even today, with San Antonio in the upper echelon of the Western Conference and Phoenix trying to sneak into the playoff picture, the two teams manage to play it close. The Suns kept pace with the Spurs pretty much all night, but the Spurs dominated their offensive glass and strode ahead in the fourth quarter to take a 107-100 victory.
Both offenses, if not the defenses, came out more than game ready. Tim Duncan, who'd skipped the previous game (the third of a back-to-back-to-back) looked invigorated right from tip-off. Duncan ran off 11 of his 26 points in the first quarter, trading spurts of mid-range jumpers with Tony Parker, who ended up with 24. The Spurs were firing at full force, but Phoenix stayed with them in the first (and thereafter) behind a career performance from Shannon Brown.
Brown, starting in place of the injured and scratched-at-the-last-second Grant Hill, exploded out of the gates. Fourteen of his career-high 32 points came in that first quarter, and his three-pointer helped trim an early San Antonio lead to just one point. The two teams alternated torrents of offense throughout the second and third quarters. The Spurs led by as much as nine before halftime, but the Suns chipped into the difference, put out a 12-2 run after the break, and held a lead through parts of the third quarter.
It was in the fourth quarter that San Antonio finally pulled away for good. With the Phoenix starters getting a rest, Parker and Manu Ginobili remained on the floor and keyed a 10-0 run early in the period to give the Spurs what ended up being their decisive lead. Phoenix, hot all night from the field, went ice cold and, as had been a problem all evening, couldn't keep the Spurs away from the offensive glass down the stretch. The loss was a noble effort, but still disappointing to Suns fans hoping for a playoff run. Bright Side of the Sun:
This was a solid punch to the gut. The Suns could not stop the Spurs tonight. They competed, which constitutes a very, very, very small victory, but the outcome was a loss, which is a very, very, very large blow to their playoff hopes, especially on a night when 9th seeded Houston lost.
Phoenix fell to 25-25 with the loss, remaining a game and a half behind Houston in the 10th seed. San Antonio, the second seed, reached 34-14 with their fifth straight victory.
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