It wasn’t always an easy road, but the San Antonio Spurs clinched home court advantage throughout the playoffs with a 112-104 win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday, April 11 at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs (62-18) were led by Danny Green, who scored a career-high 33 points on 12- of-17 shooting, 7-of-10 from 3-point range.
“It was good. Not every shot felt good, but for some reason they were dropping,” Green said about his performance. “We needed every bucket tonight.”
Tony Parker returned after missing the last two games with a back injury and added 18 points in just 24 minutes. Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard matched him with 18 of his own and three steals.
“He looked pretty sharp. His shot looked good and his speed,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said about Parker’s return. “I thought he did pretty well.”
With the Spurs trailing 62-49 at halftime, Parker and Green would set the pace for a come- back as they combined to score 25 of the Spurs’ 37 third quarter points.
Green would make good on a four-point play as he nailed a 3-pointer while being fouled in the process, cutting the lead to single digits early on.
With just over two minutes left in the third, Marco Belinelli hit a19-foot jumper that gave the Spurs their first lead since the 8:56 mark of the first quarter.
The Suns’ Gerald Green hit ajumpertotieitat81,buta
Danny Green layup and a Belinelli 3-pointer put the Spurs up 86-81 heading into the fourth quarter.
That’s where the intensity of the game began to mirror a playoff atmosphere.
The Suns and Spurs, who had only three lead changes through three quarters, traded the lead four different times, but a Leonard 3-pointer at the 4:07 mark that put the Spurs up for good.
Many Spurs players noted there was no movie-inspiring speech from Popovich at half- time that resulted in the comeback.
“His halftime speech was nothing out of the usual,” noted Patty Mills, who scored nine points off the bench. “It was back to basics and back to Spurs basketball.”
With only two games left and on the heels of the final back- to-back stretch of the season, Popovich gave Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili the night off to rest, while Matt Bonner had to sit because of food poisoning.
“I was really proud of them. It’s a 48-minute game and they could have said, ‘well it’s a tough three-to-four nights, it’s a back-to-back and we are just going to take a blow tonight,’” said Popovich. “Those guys have a lot of pride. Everyone contributed and did a great job under the circumstances.”
Eric Bledsoe matched a career-high with 30 points and nearly racked up a triple-double with 11 rebounds and nine assists to lead the Suns (47-33). Gerald Green added 27 points on 4-of-10 shooting from be- yond the arc.
As usual the Spurs’ bench contributed when needed the most. Boris Diaw played 34 minutes and scored 12 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out six assists, while Belinelli added 11 points.
The Suns looked one step ahead of the Spurs out of the gate. After a Bledsoe 3-pointer put the Suns up 5-2, Popovich called a timeout in just the first two minutes. The Spurs responded with a 7-2 run capped off by a Leonard jumper that gave them their first lead of the game at 9-7.
But that was the last time the Spurs would hold a lead in the first half. The Suns countered with an 11-0 run, and the Spurs
then found themselves down by double digits after a P.J. Tucker 3-pointer. The Suns pushed the lead to 20 points by the end of the first quarter.
There was no definitive answer as to whether the Spurs would rest their starters to end the season.
“Rest can be overrated. You have got to stay sharp and that sort of thing,” Popovich said on their approach to the next few games. “We will look at it, but I am sure the guys are going to want to play.”
The Spurs fell to the Houston
Rockets on Monday, April 14 104-98. The Rockets are now 4-0 against the Spurs this season.
Belinelli had 17 points and 4 assists in the loss, while Tim Duncan contributed 12 points and nine rebounds.
The Spurs will look to bounce back from the loss in the home and season finale on Wednesday, April 16 against the Los Angeles Lakers.