Spurs at Suns Give and Go Preview

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The San Antonio Spurs wrap up the Rodeo Road Trip on Sunday night, and one can look back at the long slate of away games a deem it a success. The Spurs can finish 7-2 with a victory over the Phoenix Suns, having notched some good wins along the way, including Kawhi Leonard leading the team in a victory against the Chicago Bulls and the Spurs demolishing the Los Angeles Clippers on national television.

To preview what should be a comfortable win for the Spurs, Andrew Lynch joined us for a chat. Andrew writes for ESPN TrueHoop Network sites Hardwood Paroxysm and Valley of the Suns, and has some knowledge of the Spurs’ opponent on Sunday night, the Phoenix Suns.

[Update: According to the Spurs, Tony Parker will not play (right triceps contusion) and Gary Neal is questionable with tightness in his left calf.]

Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: Let’s talk Spurs-Suns. What’s it like having twins on the roster now?

Andrew Lynch, Hardwood Paroxysm: It’s so endearing! Marcus Morris got his first playing time as a Sun last time, in garbage time, and it was with Markieff Morris on the floor. It was for all of about three minutes, so there’s very little, if anything, to glean about the situation in a basketball sense. But they were so incredibly happy on the bench together. It was really a thing of beauty.

Going forward, I’m not really sure how they’ll fit together. The Suns could go super-small and play them at the 4 and 5, or they could go with a bigger lineup and play Marcin Gortat at the 5 and the Wonder Twins at the 4 and 3. There’s certainly some overlap in their skillsets, but they can complement each other to some extent as well.

AM: How good are those two, really? I was going to make a joke, then I realized I don’t actually know how good either of them are.

AL: They’re mid-round lottery picks playing for the Phoenix Suns; there’s not a whole lot there right now, but we hope they can reach their potential. They’re both big men who space the floor and enjoy shooting 3s, though Marcus is hitting at a better rate this year than Markieff.

Neither of them is going to be a mauler on the glass; they grab about 11 percent of available rebounds when they’re in the game. Markieff has had a bit of a rough season in Phoenix so far, so here’s hoping that the arrival of his brother might perk him up a little bit.

AM: The Suns are bottom-6 in offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency and defensive rebound percentage. How do they overcome that to play well against the Spurs?

AL: They’re going to have to flip the script on two other facets of the game other than rebounding, probably turnovers and free throw shooting. Unfortunately, securing a win in those categories is going to require an unusual performance from the Suns. Though Phoenix used to be synonymous with free throw accuracy, they’ve fallen to 18th in the league at 75.2 percent.

Of course, the Spurs don’t foul, so the odds of the Suns winning the game at the line are fairly slim. The other key will be to force turnovers, as it is for any David trying to slay a Goliath. Phoenix might have a faint glimmer of hope here — San Antonio turns the ball over at a roughly league average rate.

AM: Have there been any bright spots to this season in Phoenix?

AL: I’m sure different fans would give you different answers, and many of those answers would be a simple “no.” But for me, it’s P.J. Tucker. He was with the Suns at Summer League, and all he wanted was a chance to show what he could do in training camp. After receiving a camp invitation, he stuck with the team, earned his minutes off the bench and soon was put into the starting rotation.

He and Jared Dudley have combined for a rather effective — by Phoenician standards, anyway — defensive wing duo. When your favorite team’s best case scenario is winning the lottery, players like P.J. Tucker who rebound and defend like bulldogs make all the difference. It’s fantastic to see so much effort. (Go Texas connections!)

AM: Have the Suns been trending upward in any particular area lately? Anything Spurs fans should keep an eye on as the game unfolds?

AL: Well, the Suns have won 5 of their last 17, so they’ve definitely got that going for them. This team isn’t really trending upward in any way, but there have been some subtle changes of late for Spurs fans to watch. Sebastian Telfair got shipped out at the trade deadline, so Kendall Marshall is getting a lot more burn these days.

With Lindsey Hunter expressing some confidence in Diante Garrett, Phoenix’s new third-string point guard, expect some two-point guard lineups out of the Suns. The ball is moving fairly well when Goran Dragic and Marshall play together in said lineups, but Marshall’s lack of an NBA jumpshot can squeeze the floor for Phoenix.

AM: On paper, this looks like a significant win for the Spurs. If you were Gregg Popovich, would you rest some guys. And if so, which ones?

AL: Oh, absolutely, particularly after Saturday night’s overtime loss for San Antonio. Tony Parker and Timmy Duncan are the prime candidates for rest, obviously, but I think Pop might even be able to play Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green less than he typically does. This Suns team is awful at playing catch up; if the Spurs can build a double-digit lead in the first quarter, then San Antonio’s bench should be a Hall of Fame place before too long.

AM: Alright, before I let you go I need one random prediction from the game. Something that has nothing to do with the final score.

AL: Goran Dragic gets 30 and makes Spurs fans have flashbacks, until they look up at the scoreboard and realize that everything’s all right.