With Aldridge struggling, Suns pound Spurs 116-96
PHOENIX — After watching his team lose by 30 to the Spurs last month, Phoenix Suns coach Igor Koskokov couldn’t believe coach Gregg Popovich’s crew lost to the young, upstart Sacramento Kings on Monday night.
“I don’t know if they went to Napa and had a little wine over there,” Koskokov said. “I don’t know what happened to San Antonio.”
Now he has his answer.
Playing even worse than they did in losing by five points in Sacramento, the Spurs fell 116-96 to the Suns on Wednesday night after beating them 120-90 on Oct. 31.
“We were embarrassed last game,” Koskokov said.
This time around it was the Spurs who left Talking Stick Resort Arena with their faces red after losing to the lowly Suns.
The Spurs, who fell to 7-6 overall and 2-4 on the road with their second straight loss, never led against the Suns on Wednesday and trailed by as many as 19 points in the first quarter.
“They did a great job tonight,” Popovich said of the Suns, who improved to 3-11. “Igor and his staff had them ready. The players were ready. They were physical. They moved the ball. They moved bodies. They were really aggressive, really confident in their shot making, and they shared the ball well.”
The Suns shot 56 percent from the field (47 of 84) and 48.1 percent from 3-point range (15 of 31) two nights after the Kings shot 50 percent from the field (43 of 86) and 45.8 percent from distance (11 of 24).
“(The Suns) penetrated on us consistently and found open people and deserved to win the game,” Popovich said. “They were great.”
LaMarcus Aldridge had a horrible night, finishing with six points on 3-of-12 shooting in 29 minutes. It was one of the worst nights of his Spurs tenure and his worst game since he shot 2 of 14 in the 95-88 loss to the Heat in Miami on Nov. 7.
Down 52-48 at halftime, the Spurs came within a point of tying the Suns in the third quarter, only to watch them end the frame with a 25-10 run that gave them an 84-70 cushion heading into the fourth.
The Spurs started poorly thanks in large part to stumbling starts by their two leading scorers, DeMar DeRozan and Aldridge.
DeRozan started 0 for 4 and didn’t get his first field goal until 5:26 was left in the first half. Aldridge was even worse, missing his first eight shots before scoring on a tip with 9.5 seconds left before the break.
Making matters worse, the Spurs didn’t have Rudy Gay to fill the gap. With the Spurs set to play the Clippers in Los Angeles tonight and Gay having missed three games recently with a sore right heel, Popovich gave the team’s third-leading scorer the night off.
The Suns were without starting small forward Trevor Ariza, who missed the game for personal reasons.
The Suns had five double-figure scorers, with T.J. Warren’s 27 points leading the way.
DeRozan led the Spurs with 24 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Derrick White added 16, and Bryn Forbes had 13.
A possible contributing factor to Aldridge’s poor play was that he had his hands full with 7-foot-1 rookie center Deandre Ayton. The No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft went 8 of 11 for 17 points and added 10 rebounds after putting up just 13 and eight in his first meeting with the Spurs.
Kokoskov predicted before the game that Ayton would show improvement again the Spurs.
“Every next time he plays against the same opponent, he’s going to be better,” Kokoskov said. “That’s something we expect. I don’t want him to take it as personal challenge and say, ‘It’s me against Aldridge,’ He’s got a lot of responsibility when it comes to defense and rebounding and guarding the post. But he is definitely going to be better in tonight’s game, and that’s what is expected from a young guy.”