Jefferson, Spurs halt Suns’ winning streak at 5
With nothing but the rim between Richardson and a game-tying basket with 41.8 seconds left, he blew a one-handed dunk on a breakaway as the rest of the Phoenix Suns watched in disbelief, while the San Antonio Spurs savored their good luck in a 113-110 win on Sunday.
“I don’t like to miss dunks, especially in crunch time like that, but it’s one of those things that happens,” Richardson said. “You can’t do anything about it.”
Amare Stoudemire had a season-high 41 points and 12 rebounds, but thanks to Richardson’s gaffe and the Suns letting the final buzzer sound before getting a final shot off, the Spurs ended Phoenix’s five-game winning streak.
Tim Duncan(notes) and Manu Ginobili(notes) had 21 points apiece, and Richard Jefferson(notes) scored 20 points off the bench in his best game since the disappointing addition to the Spurs lineup lost his starting job two weeks ago.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called it a good win against the NBA’s hottest team since the All-Star break. Phoenix arrived in San Antonio having won 11 of 13, and were 14 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2007-08 season.
“It was also a little good fortune,” Popovich said of Richardson’s miss.
The Spurs will take wins however they can get them. San Antonio won for just the second time in five games, trying merely to hang onto a playoff spot rather than compete for the Western Conference title as many predicted.
Jefferson was a big reason for those expectations. But the expensive acquisition has disappointed instead of revitalizing the aging Spurs, and was averaging 12 points entering Sunday, the lowest since his rookie year.
Jefferson has come off the bench in five of his last six games. Popovich indicated before the game that he’ll likely stay there, saying Jefferson has more “focus” in that role.
Jefferson eclipsed 20 points for the first time since he had 24 in a win over Milwaukee on Dec. 29. He was 7 of 11 from the field and hit two 3-pointers.
Jefferson chalked up some of his struggles to playing out of position.
“There was a good month and a half where I was playing more power forward when we were trying to go with a small lineup,” Jefferson said. “I struggled quite a bit at that position.”
Stoudemire had 14 points in the fourth and Richardson half of his 20 points in the quarter, missing only one shot in the fourth—but it was a big one.
His blown dunk turned out to be Phoenix’s best chance to tie the game. Steve Nash(notes) heaved a long 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds left to get Phoenix within one, and the Suns had one more shot left after Ginobili sank two free throws.
Nash, who had 18 points and 11 assists, said he lost his balance and couldn’t get a shot off.
Suns coach Alvin Gentry said the game didn’t come down to just one play. That included the missed dunk by Richardson, who won the NBA’s slam dunk contest in 2002 and 2003.
“That’s a tough play to swallow, but it’s not the play that determines the game,” Gentry said. “There were other plays over the course of 48 minutes that if we would have made, maybe that play doesn’t count so much.”
Frye added 11 for the Suns. Stoudemire was 15 of 28 from the floor and eclipsed 30 points for the fifth time in the past 13 games.
“We had a chance to win down the stretch. It’s tough,” Stoudemire said. “Every time we play the Spurs, it’s always a close game. Small mistakes sometimes bite you in the end.”
Notes: The Spurs will see plenty of Suns-caliber opponents the rest of the way. Sixteen of their remaining 26 games are against teams with winning records. … Spurs F Antonio McDyess(notes) had 12 points and nine rebounds, and returned to the game after being helped to the locker room in the third quarter with a hyperextended left knee.