The Phoenix Suns have to be happy with their decision to make Robin Lopez(notes) a starter. The 7-footers’ play against the San Antonio Spurs, however, hardly suggested he was even an option to assume that role.
After getting a career game from the big man, the Suns look extend a five-game winning streak in a matchup with the struggling Spurs on Sunday.
Phoenix (37-23) matched its longest winning streak of the season with a 125-112 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night. The Suns are 14 games above .500 for the first time since finishing the 2007-08 season at 55-27.
With 12 wins in its last 14 games, Phoenix is in fifth place in the Western Conference following a tough two months. One of the catalysts for the Suns’ resurgence has been Lopez’s strong play since replacing Channing Frye(notes) in the starting lineup.
Phoenix put its trust in Lopez even though he had never done much to distinguish himself.
He averaged 3.2 points as a rookie in 2008-09 and 4.0 points in 20 games off the bench this season. In three games versus the Spurs (32-24), Lopez has a total of four points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.
Lopez, though, is averaging 13.1 points and 6.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks while shooting 63.9 percent in 19 games as a starter. He’s coming off an outstanding game, setting career highs with 30 points and 12 rebounds against the Clippers.
Lopez’s previous career high was 20 points on Jan. 20 against New Jersey and his twin brother, Brook, who still owns the highest-scoring mark in the fraternal competition with a 32-point game. Robin Lopez made 13-of-16 shots and is shooting 70.6 percent (24 for 34) over his last four games.
“To shoot that efficiently tells me I’m doing my job out there,” he said. “That shows how much faith my teammates have in me and my coaches have in me.”
With Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash(notes) and Jason Richardson(notes), Phoenix doesn’t necessarily need another go-to scorer. Still, Lopez’s emergence gives the Suns a player who can help them match up some of the West’s top big men, such as San Antonio’s Tim Duncan(notes).
The Spurs, though, have been having trouble without Tony Parker(notes) on the perimeter to complement Duncan. Parker missed San Antonio’s 109-104 loss to Houston on Friday night due to a stomach ailment after sitting out two of his previous four contests due to a mild hip strain.
Parker’s status is uncertain.
San Antonio has lost three of four games and is now contending with Portland for the West’s final two playoff spots.
Duncan had a game-high 34 points against the Suns on Dec. 15, but the Spurs lost 116-104. Phoenix shot 51.6 percent (49 for 95) from the field and 61.1 percent (11 for 18) from 3-point range, getting 28 points and 14 rebounds from Stoudemire.
Stoudemire is averaging 27.0 points and 12.3 rebounds in his last three games against San Antonio.