Ginobili, Spurs slip past Suns

Jerry Brown, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- During their five-game winning streak, the Phoenix Suns closed out some tight games, adding confidence to a team off to a surprising start.
However, finishing off San Antonio is a different matter, and the veteran Spurs taught the young Suns a lesson Wednesday on how to complete a game.
Guard Manu Ginobili scored 11 of his 24 points in the final four minutes, and the Spurs used an 11-1 run down the stretch to snap the Suns' winning streak with a 108-101 decision.
Forward Tim Duncan contributed 17 points and 13 rebounds, and forward Kawhi Leonard had 14 points as San Antonio beat the Suns for the seventh time in the past eight meetings. Playing without point guard Tony Parker, sidelined due to a shin contusion, the Spurs committed 18 turnovers but got 58 points from their bench and closed out the game with a 15-6 run.
The Spurs improved to 20-5, but they know they have improvements to make.
"That's the team we want to be from the start, but we haven't been starting well," Duncan said of the team's fourth-quarter form. "It's good to end that way, figure out what's going on and adjust to play much better down the stretch."
Forward Channing Frye scored 15 of his 22 points in the first quarter for the Suns, who had five players finish in double figures but scored only 20 points in the fourth quarter.
"We let them shoot too many 3s in the first half, which is something they do, and they scored (58 points)," Ginobili said. "In the second half, we adjusted, we were way more aggressive, we followed the game plan better and they scored (43)."
Phoenix reeled off 10 straight points and took 95-93 lead on a put-back by center Miles Plumlee with 5:10 left. Ginobili tied the game on tip-in and then put San Antonio ahead to stay on a 3-pointer with 2:58 to go. He hit a 10-foot baseline jumper and made two free throws to give San Antonio a 104-97 lead with 47.5 to go.
"They're not (20-5) for no reason," Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. "It doesn't matter if guys are out of the lineup. They turned it up defensively, limited us to certain things, and we weren't aggressive at that point. And they made all the plays in the fourth quarter."
The Spurs held down the Suns guard tandem of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, who combined for 33 points but needed 33 shots to reach that total.
"They are a great team," said Dragic, who scored 18 points. "We didn't execute well, and they were good defensively at the end of the game.
"Ginobili is getting older, but he has that killer instinct. He's really tough to guard, and he plays with so much energy. ... He knows with Tony out that he would have to step in, but he did it.
"They are like a winning machine. When they need a play to score, they get it. And when they get a lead, they bear down on defense and run another perfect play to get the shot they want."
The Suns (14-10) shot 60 percent from the field in the first quarter, hitting eight of their first 11 shots, including three 3-pointers by Frye. The power forward made his first six shots, and Phoenix hit its first five 3-pointers as a team.
Without Parker, the Spurs committed seven first-quarter turnovers but shot well (52.2 percent). San Antonio shaved a 10-point Phoenix lead to 34-29 at the quarter thanks to back-to-back Patty Mills 3-pointers in the final 1:09.
The Spurs kept coming and took their first lead at 47-46 on a Leonard 3-pointer with 4:23 left. Ginobili had 11 points for the Spurs and Leonard had 10 as San Antonio led 59-58 at the half. The Spurs trailed only once after that.
NOTES: San Antonio's Gregg Popovich is the only NBA coach who was guiding his current team when Suns coach Jeff Hornacek was still playing. Popovich is in his 18th season. Hornacek and the Utah Jazz were 9-6 against Popovich's Spurs from 1996-2000. ... During their five-game winning streak, the Suns trailed for a total of 27 minutes. They led in 198 of the 240 minutes, and they were tied for 15. ... Hornacek on the Spurs without G Tony Parker: "These guys play the same way. They've had games when he, (Tim) Duncan and (Manu) Ginobili have missed, and guys come in off the bench and the speed doesn't change. They execute the game plays." ... Entering Wednesday's game, Spurs F Tim Duncan had played 37 more career minutes (42,064) than the all 13 members of the entire Suns roster (42,027). ... The Suns made at least seven 3-pointers for a 16th consecutive game, tying the longest such streak in team history (Nov. 3-Dec. 8, 2006).

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