Mills, Leonard lead balanced Spurs past Suns 97-87

BOB BAUM (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) -- Tony Parker took the night off with a sore right triceps. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were far from their best.

Yet, even at the end of a long, long road trip, the San Antonio Spurs still had plenty to handle the Phoenix Suns in a 97-87 victory on Sunday night.

Patty Mills and Kawhi Leonard scored 16 points apiece to lead six players in double figures and the Spurs had a successful finish to their nine-game trip - a long annual journey caused by a rodeo back home - to boost their NBA-best record to 45-13.

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''It was a great trip,'' coach Gregg Popovich said. ''We were 7-2, you have to be happy with that. I thought the guys kept good focus on the road here in the last game. You know they all want to go home and I thought they did a fine job.''

Tiago Splitter scored nine of his 14 in San Antonio's 35-point second quarter.

The Spurs have developed the kind of depth that they still win when one of their Big 3 is out.

''We've had to do it quite a bit this year as far as having one, two or three of those guys out,'' Popovich said. ''So the bench has gotten a good look and I think they have gained some good confidence through all that.''

Marcin Gortat scored 21 for Phoenix, 16 in the first half. Luis Scola added 15, and Goran Dragic had 10 points and 11 assists.

San Antonio beat the Suns for the sixth straight time and ninth in their last 10 meetings.

''There's always some mental lapse from wanting to get home, but this is what makes this team so professional and how we carry ourselves on and off the court through the entire season,'' Mills said. ''It's pretty impressive just as a player on the team watching how we carry ourselves.''

The Spurs scored the first 14 points of the second quarter, taking a 33-21 lead on Stephen Jackson's 3-pointer from the corner. The outburst reached 25-4 with Splitter scoring seven straight points, punctuated by his three-point play that put the Spurs up 44-25 with 4:53 left in the half.

Phoenix cut the lead to 13 three times the rest of the quarter with San Antonio leading 54-40 at the break.

The Suns never got it to single digits in the second half.

''We just have to be smarter and just continue to get better execution-wise at both ends of the floor,'' Phoenix interim coach Lindsey Hunter said. ''You play so hard and then you make one mistake against those guys and they make you pay. That's what they do. We'll continue to chip away at getting better.''

Danny Green sank a 3 to start the third quarter and make it 57-40. The Suns crawled back to cut it to 72-61 on a pair of free throws by Markieff Morris with 1:22 to go in the third quarter, but the Spurs scored the last six points of the period, capped by a breakaway layup from Mills, to lead 78-61 entering the fourth.

After San Antonio took its biggest lead at 84-63, the Suns scored eight in a row to cut it to 84-71 on Gortat's three-point play with 6:42 to go. But Green made another 3 and it was 87-71 with 6 1/2 minutes remaining. The final 10-point margin was as close as it got after that.

Gortat scored 16 in the first half on 8-of-12 shooting but no other Phoenix player had more than four in the first two quarters.

Mills had 12 points and Splitter 11 to lead first-half scoring for San Antonio.

Parker probably shouldn't have played in Friday night's overtime loss to Golden State, Popovich said, and there was no doubt he would sit this one out at the end of such a long trip and facing the worst team in the Western Conference.

''We're asking everybody to step up and pick up the slack again,'' Duncan said. ''Tony has been our best player all year long and our most consistent player all year long. He's got a little injury so it's great to give him some time off and let him get healed. It was just great to get a win for him.''

The Spurs play their next six at home, starting with a rematch against Phoenix on Wednesday night.

Notes: The Spurs' long road trip, which was separated by the All-Star break, is an annual affair due to the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. ... San Antonio last played at home Feb. 2 against Washington. ... Phoenix has lost three straight at home by 28 to Oklahoma City, 30 to Boston and 11 to San Antonio. ... Suns G Shannon Brown sat for the fourth straight game by coach's decision. ... Markieff Morris, in his second game since being reunited with twin brother Marcus, fouled out in 18 minutes on the court.

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