Season 51, Game 27
San Antonio 104, Phoenix 101
19-8, 3rd in the West

The Spurs got lucky in this one. Against about 26 other teams, this game likely would have been a loss. But against these young and rudderless Suns, they were able to squeak out the win.

Like the night before, a late 3-pointer from the wing secured the victory. But unlike the night before, the shot was less triumphant and more “oh thank God”. (This is to take nothing away from Bryn Forbes, who is having a wonderful season and proving himself to be an NBA player with one elite skill and a well-rounded game.)

The thing is: this game had all the markings of a loss. The Spurs were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, traveling West after a tough home win less than 24 hours prior. And six veteran and/or regular rotation players were not playing.

Generally, I love these “end of the bench” games. Against good teams (like the OKC game last week), it’s fun to watch the superior opponent squirm as “scrubs” take it to them. Against bad teams, it’s fun to see them spread their wings and grow and (hopefully) pick up valuable wins. 

In that regards, Saturday’s game was a blast. It was a pleasure to see Forbes get to hit a game winner; to see Brandon Paul get extended time of harassing defense; to see DeJounte Murray get more minutes to test and learn the limits of his game.

But one thing we don’t often think about during these games is how little time these line-ups get to play with each other. The lack of familiarity is obvious, and manifests itself in the lack of precision on offense, the careless turnovers and mistakes, and the missed assignments on defense.

The offense, in particular, was not sharp last night. Lots of miscues, turnovers, botched and bobbled passes, and hesitancy. For all his gifts, Patty is not a full-time starting PG, and can be harassed into careless mistakes. For all his potential, Murray is still very raw. He has an impressive skill set, but it’s not necessarily the skill set of a true PG yet. He’s not a great passer, and his passes often miss the mark or are just outside of the recipient’s shooting pocket, turning wide open shots into missed opportunities.

Phoenix played hard and made it a close game, outscoring the Spurs 62-52 in the second half. They just didn’t have the firepower to overcome LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Patty Mills, and the rest of the Spurs’ system.

Like I said, the Spurs got lucky. But they also got the win. And some rest for veterans. And some great learning experience for the youngsters. Mark it as a successful trip to Arizona.

The Spurs now get a few days off before heading to Dallas on Tuesday night.

Go Spurs Go.