Suns Can’t Protect the Ball, Lose to the Spurs 98-84
After a loss on Sunday against the Pelicans in New Orleans, The Suns traveled to San Antonio to face the Spurs. Devin Booker got his first start of his career with Eric Bledsoe out with a sore knee. The Suns did catch a break on the other side of the ball, with LaMarcus Aldridge sitting out for the Spurs. The Suns couldn’t take advantage however, and ultimately lost to the Spurs, 98-84.
The first basket of the game was a dunk by Markieff Morris, looking to duplicate his scoring performance from the previous night. Brandon Knight starting at point guard for the Suns with Bledsoe out, was able to hit two shots from deep in the first. The first substitutions of the night were TJ Warren in for Devin Booker, and Ronnie Price for Brandon Knight. The Suns had a handful of turnovers in the first quarter, which has been a trend so far this season, but defense saved them from surrendering a ton of points off of those turnovers, with the lineup of Warren at shooting guard. The Suns shot 37% from the field and had nine turnovers, but they were able to force the Spurs to turn the ball over seven times, taking a 20-17 deficit into the second.
Teletovic shot a quick 3 in the second, continuing to look strong off the bench. The defensive rotations after offensive rebounds were sloppy for the Suns, losing guys out to the 3 point line. The Suns’ bench missed more rotations in the second, and a lot of shots were flat. A version of the small lineup with Knight-Price-Booker-Teletovic-Leuer got minutes about halfway through the second, looking to space the floor more than the bigger lineup with Warren at the 2 position. With 15 total turnovers at the half, the Spurs pushed their lead to ten points, with a score of 44-34
The third quarter started in a similar fashion as the previous two. The Suns continued to turn the ball over, and the defense continued to give the Spurs good looks from the floor, missing rotations and gravitating towards the paint instead of keeping on their man at the three point line. Morris kept a hot hand, and eventually was able to help kick start the other players on offense. After missing shots throughout the game, Warren was able to get it going, and Teletovic was able to hit another 3 off the bench. After being down 63-45, the Suns were able to push back on offense, going on a 15-4 run to end the quarter, making the score 67-60.
The same defensive woes that the Suns started the third quarter with continued in the final quarter of regulation. The Suns continued to turn the ball over, and left guys open at the 3 point line on rotations. With a lineup of Morris at center, the Suns tried to push the pace, forcing a clear path foul as well as a Teletovic 3. At the end of the game, those runs didn’t matter, and the Suns continued to give the Spurs open looks from deep. The Suns dropped the second night of the back to back with a score of 98-84.
Morris was the leading scorer of the game, with 28 points, shooting 12-15 from the field with 2-3 from deep, as well as recording eight rebounds and four assists. The Suns hope this will be the norm when it comes to his efficiency and scoring, as it will be needed throughout the season. With Bledsoe out, Knight had the main point guard duties, scoring 18 points, shooting 7-15 and recording eight assists, but turned it over the same amount of times. Warren was able to score 16 points, and Teletovic put in nine of his own, shooting 3-4 from the three point line. The Suns as a team shot 46.6% from the field, 36.8% from deep and 90% from the free throw line. But couldn’t overcome the 28 turnovers. The Suns will hope to turn it around on Wednesday against the Pelicans.
Morris was the bright spot for the Suns tonight, scoring 28 points on 12-15 shooting. Morris took smart shots, posting up as well as taking jumpers when they were there. He took similar shots throughout this season, but tonight they were falling. If Morris can become a go to guy in the post, he will be that third scoring option that the Suns need.
The small ball lineups with Morris or Leuer at center were the most effective tonight when it came to scoring. Similar to the three guard lineup of last year, the lineup had success with Warren in the lineup as well. This line up should continue to get minutes, and will look even better with Bledsoe back in the lineup.
Speaking of Bledsoe, he showed that he was the best player on this team tonight, by not playing. His aggressiveness on offense was missed, and his spark on defense down the stretch was noticeable. Bledsoe is the main creator for the offense, and deserved the rest, but will be needed to win games.
The offense was bad tonight all around. Chandler and Tucker couldn’t get going, scoring a single point between the two of them. The defensive effort was there, but when the Suns got down big, they needed the scoring more.
The defensive rotations continue to be an issue this season. It could be because of the back to back, but this seems to be a common occurrence. Through the couple games, it looked to be the plan to let a poor three point shooter make a shot, but Danny Green and Manu Ginobli were the ones getting those shots tonight. Switching on defense is what this team wants to do, but they need to stay committed and not try to go back to their original man after the switch.