Spurs vs. Suns Preview: 1/26/13
The Southwest Division-leading San Antonio Spurs own the best home record in the NBA, and that doesn't seem likely to change against their next opponent.
The Phoenix Suns, however, are finding a spark under new coach Lindsey Hunter.
While it's unclear if coach Gregg Popovich and forward Tim Duncan will return, the Spurs go for a 16th straight home win Saturday night when they face the Suns for the first time this season.
San Antonio (35-11) is a league-best 19-2 at home, winning 15 in a row since a 92-87 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 19. It's the Spurs' longest winning streak at AT&T Center since reeling off a franchise-record 22 straight in 2010-11.
Their current dominance includes averaging 107.1 points while limiting opponents to 42.9 percent from the floor - 30.9 from behind the arc.
Lately, the venue hasn't mattered with San Antonio putting together a season high-tying seven-game winning streak following Friday's 113-107 victory at Dallas. It was the second consecutive game the Spurs played without Popovich (illness) and Duncan (knee).
The Spurs were also down Tony Parker for nearly a quarter Friday after he required three stitches to close a cut above his eye. He returned to finish with 23 points and 10 assists.
"I think this group has shown that ability to if somebody is down then somebody else is going to step up," said Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer. "They all have a lot of confidence, and they know we have confidence in them."
DeJuan Blair should have plenty of confidence after scoring a season-high 22 points against the Mavericks, picking up the slack in Duncan's absence again.
Duncan, though, averages 23.0 points and 12.1 rebounds in 28 career home meetings with Phoenix (15-28).
A visit from the Suns would only appear to help keep the Spurs rolling. They've averaged 109.2 points during six straight regular-season home wins in the series since a loss on Oct. 29, 2008.
Phoenix, though, is entering this meeting in search of a third straight victory since Hunter surprisingly replaced Alvin Gentry on the bench Sunday following a woeful 2-13 stretch.
"When you change a coach, you always get a little bit of a reaction from everybody," forward Luis Scola said. "Everybody wants to play a little bit harder and everybody wants to do a little bit more. This is just a critical situation and everybody gives a little bit more of themselves."
Hunter's insistence on improved defensive play seems to be partly responsible. The Suns won his debut 106-96 at Sacramento on Wednesday, and followed that up the next day by holding the Pacific Division-leading Clippers to 39.8 percent shooting in a 93-88 victory.
"Our focus is to create a defensive mentality, to create a defensive presence," Hunter said. "Our guys are working hard to do it. It's a difficult thing to just change like that. To see every last guy really buying into it and realizing that regardless of how you shoot the ball, if you can defend you always have a chance to win a game, and our guys have been phenomenal in that area."
Goran Dragic, Phoenix's leader with 14.2 points and 6.2 assists per game, seems to be adjusting just fine under Hunter. He had 24 points and eight assists Thursday after dishing out 11 against the Kings.
The guard, though, is averaging 3.3 points and 2.8 assists in six visits to San Antonio.
Sebastian Telfair had no points in 14 minutes against Los Angeles, but he may see an increased role since he's totaled 41 in the past two meetings with the Spurs.
While the Spurs rank near the top of the NBA in scoring (104.0) and 3-point percentage (38.2), they've averaged just 95.3 points and shot 16 for 59 (27.1 percent) from beyond the arc against the Hornets.
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