The Spurs’ “Big Three” were back together for the first time since March 21.
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were ready like so many times in the past, ready to torment the Phoenix Suns.
Tuesday’s game was really no different. The trio combined for 63 points as the Spurs cruised to a 107-100 victory over the Suns.
All of the players received from at least one rest day during the recent back-to-back-to-back.
Duncan said he benefited from his rest after sitting out Sunday’s victory over Philadelphia.
“I want to say, ‘no, not really,’ but I honestly do feel better,” Duncan told reporters after the game. “I don’t want to say so, so Pop can start resting me more. But I felt good out there, got some shots early and started the game rolling.”
Their production enabled them to beat back a challenge from a pesky Phoenix team that had won 11 of its last 15 before Tuesday’s game.
Parker told the Express-News’ Jeff McDonald that he could tell Duncan was ready from the beginning of the game.
“You saw it from the get-go,” Parker said. “He was very aggressive, didn’t hesitate on his shot.”
Their big efforts are the major reason the Spurs guaranteed their 15th consecutive winning season.
Here’s how they did it.
The game, simply stated: After struggling on defense in the first half, the Spurs’ veterans made crticial plays down the stretch to clamp down on Phoenix and wrap up a tough victory against one of the Western Conference’s hottest teams.
Where the game was won: After Robin Lopez had pulled the Suns within 88-87 with 10:08 left, the Spurs’ “French Connection” combined for 10 straight points to boost the lead to double figures. Tony Parker scored six straight points, Boris Diaw added a 20-foot jumper and Parker added a 10-footer to culminate a 10-0 run that gave them an 11-point lead with 5:59 left and effectively put the game away.
A little too close for comfort?: Duncan’s layup boosted the Spurs to a seemingly safe 103-91 lead with 4:18 left;. But Phoenix, tied for second in comeback victories from double-digit deficits, had a charge left in them. Three free throws from Shannon Brown, Jared Dudley’s layup and another layup from Brown pulled the Suns within 103-98 with 33.9 seconds left. But Parker iced the victory with four clutch free throws.
Early second-half Phoenix flurry: After the Spurs led nearly the entire first half, Phoenix jumped ahead in the first four minutes of the third quarter. The Suns erupted on a 10-0 run keyed by a basket and 3-pointer from Brown, a 3-pointer from Channing Frye and Marcin Gortat’s hoop that matched their largest lead of the game at 69-64 with 8:04 left in the third quarter.
Player of the game I: Duncan took advantage of his rest day by producing 26 points and 11 rebounds for his 17th double-double of the season.
Player of the game II: Parker came up big down the stretch, tallying 12 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. He also added four rebounds and a team-high seven assists.
Player of the game III: Shannon Brown produced a career-high 32 points to serve as the Suns’ primary offensive weapon. Included in his binge were five 3-pointers and three assists.
Most unsung: Matt Bonner stepped up with a couple of big defensive plays, along with 10 points and five rebounds, including a critical offensive rebound with 1:01 left that enabled the Spurs to bleed more time as they iced the victory.
Attendance: Remember when the Suns were one of the NBA’s model franchises in terms of fan support? Tuesday’s game at US Airways Center drew a crowd of 16,573. It was about 1,100 above average for the Suns, but was still far from a sellout. Phoenix hasn’t had a sellout all season long after 26 home games.
Did you notice I: With Grant Hill out with an injury, Brown was forced into his role as a starter. Brown had a huge night, but his absence into the starting lineup robbed the Suns of their best bench player. It enabled the Spurs to claim a 34-22 edge in bench points.
Did you notice II: The Spurs did a masterful job on Phoenix outside threat Jared Dudley, who has been on a recent surge averaging 15.7 points in the the highest scoring month of his career. Dudley was limited to four shots and finished with two points — his lowest scoring game since Jan. 18.
Stat of the game I:The Spurs claimed their fifth straight victory and their 12th road game in their last 14. Before that stretch, the Spurs had lost eight of their first 10 road games of the season.
Stat of the game II: Duncan notched his 17th double-double in 45 games this season. He had 27 double-doubles in 76 games last season.
Stat of the game III: Spurs opponents continue to struggle shooting against them late in games. Dallas was limited to 31 percent shooting in the second half on Friday. New Orleans hit 38.5 percent in the second half, including 27.8 percent in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia hit 31.6 percent in the second half with 14 turnovers the Spurs turned into 19 points. And Phoenix was limited to 33.3 percent shooting in the fourth quarter.
Stat of the game IV: Phoenix was limited to 17 points in the fourth quarter, the third straight opponent to score less than 17 fourth-quarter points. In those three games, the Spurs have allowed an average of 14 fourth-quarter points.
Stat of the game V: The Suns lost for only the fifth time in their last 16 games since the All-Star break and the third time in their last 13 home games.
Stat of the game VI: The Spurs rang up a 50-46 edge in points in the paint. It marked the seventh straight game for the Spurs with at least 50 paint points and ninth in their last 11 games. The only time the Spurs have failed to post 50 in that span, they notched 44 and 48 paint points.
Stat of the game VII: The Spurs guaranteed their franchise-record 15th straight winning season. Their next longest streak of consecutive winning seasons is seven from 1989-96.
Weird stat of the night I: The Spurs failed to block a shot in the game, matching a franchise low last accomplished Jan. 22, 2011 at New Orleans. It’s a statistical feat that has been accomplished 18 times since 1986 and only nine times in the Popovich era.
Weird stat of the night II: Brown produced a career-high 32 points, but was limited to only five points in the fourth quarter as he missed both 3-pointers and went 1 for 3 from the field.
Weird stat of the night III: Phoenix G Sebastian Telfair erupted for 11 points during a span of 7:54 in the second quarter and failed to score during the rest of the game.
Weird stat of the night IV: The Spurs’ victory gave them a 73-72 edge in the all-time series against the Suns.
Not a good sign: Maybe it’s tired legs, but the Spurs’ league-leading 3-point shooting again took a hit Tuesday night. The Spur hit 6 of 27 behind the arc for 22.2 percent. It marked the third consecutive game the Spurs have hit 25 percent or less of their 3-pointers — a first this season. They are 15 for 74 during that three-game span for 20.3 percent.
Best plus/minus scores: Diaw was plus-14, Bonner was plus-6 and Green and Parker were plus-5.
Worst plus/minus scores: DeJuan Blair was minus-6 and James Anderson was minus-1. They were the only Spurs with negative scores.
Quote of the game: “Tony is probably playing like an MVP more than at any time since he’s been in the league. People should start talking about him more for the MVP,” Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry about the legitimacy of Parker’s qualifications as an MVP candidate.
How the schedule stacks up: The Spurs play the back end of a back-to-back Wednesday at Sacramento before returning home Saturday against Indiana and an approaching back-to-back Tuesday in Cleveland and Wednesday in Boston. The Suns have games Wednesday at the Los Angeles Clippers, Sunday against New Orleans and Tuesday at Sacramento.
Injuries: For the Spurs, Stephen Jackson (rest) and Tiago Splitter (mid-back sprain) did not play. Phoenix played without F Grant Hill (right knee inflammation).