8:00 PM, December 18, 2013
US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
With a young team, Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek has had to do some mixing and matching to find the right roles for various players to fill.
The first-year coach seems to be on the right path, as the Suns look to win six straight for the first time since late in the 2009-10 season when they host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.
The Suns (14-9) are winning with a variety of different players doing their jobs in the roles Hornacek has given them. The backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic has been among the NBA's best, combining for 38.6 points and 12.5 assists per game. Six other Suns average at least 9.3 points, and the team's bench ranks among the league's top units with 35.5 points per game.
"Some nights, some shots aren't going to fall for everybody," reserve forward Marcus Morris told the team's official website. "We're just trying to find the hot man. Whoever that is coming off the bench, that's who we're going to ride with."
Morris and his twin brother Markieff are two of the key players Hornacek relies on to bring energy and scoring off the bench. Markieff ranks among the league leaders with 12.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game as a reserve, while Marcus isn't far behind with averages of 10.9 and 4.7.
"Guys will go through good times and they'll go through bad times," Hornacek said. "They've just got to stick with it and not let their confidence get down. It gives us options to come off the bench when one of those guys does get hot."
The philosophy has Phoenix on the verge of its longest win streak since a 10-game run March 14-April 2, 2010.
"We definitely feel good about ourselves," Bledsoe said after having 24 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals in a 106-102 win against Golden State on Sunday.
The Spurs (19-5) have an even better second unit that averages 46.1 points, though it is hardly the young group that Phoenix trots out. San Antonio's reserves are led by 36-year-old Manu Ginobili, whose 11.0 points and 4.6 assists per game rank among the tops in the NBA for bench players.
Ginobili scored 16 points Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers, but sloppy all-around play in the fourth quarter did the Spurs in. They were outscored 37-22 in the final 12 minutes, thanks in large part to an inability to protect the ball.
San Antonio turned it over a season-high 22 times overall, which led to 37 points for the Clippers in a 115-92 loss that ended the Spurs' four-game win streak.
"We were in control in the first half, up by 10. Both teams went small and we just started the turnover spree at that point," coach Gregg Popovich said. "If you give up (37) points off turnovers, you can't beat anybody."
The Spurs defeated the visiting Suns 99-96 on Nov. 6 for their 10th win in 12 meetings.
Parker has returned to San Antonio for
treatment. ... San Antonio has not lost two in a
row this season. ... Popovich is the only NBA
coach whose tenure dates to Hornacek's playing
days. ... Bledsoe was 1-for-8 shooting in the
fourth quarter. ... Entering the game, Duncan's
career minutes (42,064) were 37 more than the
13 players on Phoenix's active roster
combined. ... Phoenix has not won six in a row in
“ I’m honored to be on this team right now because he’s going to be great for years to come, and I’m going to hold on as long as I can.” -Tim Duncan on Kawhi Leonard.
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