San Antonio vs. Phoenix, Final Score: Spurs fall short of a comeback over the Suns, 111-115

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The Spurs traded blows with the reigning Western Conference champions as they gave Phoenix a run for their money down the stretch but came up just short, falling 111-115.

Despite a furious last-second comeback bid, San Antonio extended their losing streak to five games. Meanwhile, the scorching Suns notched their 12th victory in a row.

Dejounte Murray led the Silver and Black with an 18-points triple-double, closely followed by 19 points from Derrick White and 17 points from Devin Vassell. Deandre Ayton paced the Suns with 21 points and 14 boards.

Observations

  • Bryn Forbes sports a -15.4 net rating across his 15 appearances for the Spurs. That’s not to say he’s the reason for San Antonio’s 4-11 record. How could he impact the outcomes in a meaningful way when he only plays 12.4 minutes per game? At his best, the undersized combo guard provides much-needed long-range shooting off the pine. But opposing teams have run Forbes off the three-point line in recent games, daring him to make plays off the dribble, and it hasn’t been pretty. Pop again turned to Bryn as the first guard off the bench but swiftly replaced him with Tre Jones after seven minutes of unproductive basketball.
  • The Spurs owned a -36 point differential in the third quarter coming into this contest, and that period has plagued them all season long. With that said, the Silver and Black did a fantastic job of flipping the script as they closed a 13-point halftime deficit to a half dozen with only a few minutes remaining in the third quarter. Unfortunately, San Antonio fell back into bad habits, allowing the Suns to go on a huge run that saw them increase their cushion to 15 points by the end of the third frame.
  • Several talented big men have dominated the shorthanded Spurs over the last few weeks, including Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porzingis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Boban Marjanovic. Though Jakob Poeltl made his way back into the starting five, stopping Deandre Ayton was always going to be a challenge. San Antonio threw a handful of different looks at the former first overall pick, but Thaddeus Young, Drew Eubanks, and Jakob couldn’t find the answer to keeping him off both the glass and scoreboard. Ayton finished the evening with 21 points and 14 rebounds on an uber-efficient 10-of-15 shooting.
  • Keita Bates-Diop made his first of the season in place of the injured Doug McDermott. While some Spurs fans were probably hoping Devin Vassell would get the nod, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen head coach Gregg Popovich turn to a third-stringer to preserve the integrity of an already established second unit. The 25-year-old forward was spectacular by any means, though he chipped in six points and six rebounds, hitting all three of his shots.
  • Jakob Poeltl rejoined the starting lineup just one game after returning from a lengthy absence due to COVID-19 protocols and mandatory competition reconditioning. The towering Austrian struggled to find his footing against the Timberwolves and didn’t look quite like himself at the beginning of this one. But Poeltl settled in and recorded 15 points and nine rebounds in 31 minutes.
  • All it takes is one look at the stat sheet to see how much Dejounte Murray does for San Antonio. He leads the Spurs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, shots, deflections, minutes, touches, and one fascinating statistic. According to Dan Weiss of Bally Sports Southwest, the 25-year-old floor general travels a team-high 2.77 miles per game, the fifth-best mark in the NBA, which should come as no surprise given how active he is on both ends of the court.
  • The Silver and Black made the second-fewest three-pointers in the NBA this season, and their opponents had outscored them by 129 points from beyond the arc entering this matchup. To make matters worse, the good guys were without resident sharpshooter Doug McDermott who sat out this contest with right knee inflammation. His absence was noticeable as San Antonio drained a season-low five triples.
  • San Antonio has taken the fewest free throws per game (16.8) in the league this season, an issue that has only been compounded by them shooting the second-worst percentage (69.4%) at the line. While the Spurs took eight freebies in the first quarter, Jakob Poeltl and Keldon Johnson combining to go 0-of-6 from the charity stripe only magnified their shaky shooting. The Spurs shot 8-of-16 from the free-throw line by the end of the proceedings. Had they made two or three more, we might have seen overtime.
  • Devin Vassell continued his Most Improved Player of the Year campaign, registering 17 points, three rebounds, and two steals off the bench on 7-of-12 shooting. The second-year wing knocked down shots from virtually everywhere on the court while hitting a momentum-swinging triple that gave the Spurs hope in crunch time. Vassell has raised his scoring output by 7.3 points per game from a year ago, the fourth-highest increase in the NBA this season.
  • Derrick White showed encouraging signs of life versus Phoenix, scoring 19 points to go along with four boards, four assists, two steals, and two blocks. The 27-year-old combo guard has gotten off to another slow start this season, so hopefully, this strong performance helps get him back on the right foot. The defensive pedigree has been on display from day one. White should look to remain aggressive on the other end as he rediscovers his shooting stroke.

For the Suns fans’ perspective, please visit Bright Side of the Sun.

The San Antonio Spurs return to action on Wednesday as they play host to Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks inside the AT&T Center.

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