Suns’ bid for top seed requires win Sunday in San Antonio

NBA Basketball

The Phoenix Suns still have plenty to play for when they square off against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday afternoon in the Alamo City in the regular-season finale for both teams.

That’s because the Suns (50-21) took care of business and handily beat undermanned San Antonio 140-103 on Saturday in the opener of a season-ending back-to-back.

With the victory, Phoenix kept pace with Utah (51-20) in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference. If the Suns defeat San Antonio on Sunday afternoon and Utah loses at Sacramento, Phoenix will win the conference as it owns the tiebreaker with the Jazz.

The win granted the Suns their first 50-win season since the 2009-10 campaign, which was also the most recent time Phoenix played in the postseason. The Suns won the Pacific Division for the first time since 2006-07.

“We are overjoyed about it,” Suns coach Monty Williams said of the division title. “Our guys understand the journey that we built. And so for us to be in this position, and to have won the division in the NBA is a huge accomplishment. Make no mistake about it. We look at it as a huge accomplishment and our guys deserve the right and should celebrate.”

The Spurs have already clinched the final spot in the play-in tournament and cannot improve their No. 10 seed. San Antonio will play either Memphis or Golden State on the road on Wednesday. Those teams square off on Sunday, with the winner earning the eighth spot in the play-in and the loser hosting the Spurs.

San Antonio, playing its fourth game in six days on Saturday, decided to rest starters DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl. Five other players, including Dejounte Murray (back) and Rudy Gay (heel), were reported as injured.

Understanding the sense of urgency, Phoenix jumped on the Spurs early, leading by 17 points at the end of the first quarter. San Antonio made a mini-run midway through the second period, cutting the deficit to 49-39, before the Suns picked up the pace again, heading to halftime up 68-47.

The Suns opened the third quarter with an 11-0 run that all but settled things. Phoenix emptied its bench in the fourth quarter to rest its starters for Sunday’s crucial game.

Devin Booker had 27 points, 23 of them in the first half, to lead Phoenix to the win Saturday. Mikal Bridges added 18 points for the Suns, with Chris Paul scoring 16 and dishing out 10 assists. Dario Saric hit for 13 points and Cameron Payne had 12.

Deandre Ayton (left knee soreness) was held out for the Suns.

Keldon Johnson and Gorgui Dieng scored 18 points each to lead the Spurs (33-38) in Saturday’s setback, which was San Antonio’s third consecutive loss. Drew Eubanks added 15 points and 11 rebounds, Devin Vassell hit for 14 points and Quinndary Weatherspoon scored a career-high 13 points for the Spurs.

“No matter what we were down, 10, 20, 30, at the end of the day, we were still trying to chip away,” Vassell said. “Never giving up on defense, making sure we were trying to get stops, playing with energy. That’s what we try to pride ourselves on.”

San Antonio also played Saturday without coach Gregg Popovich, who attended the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony that included the induction of Spurs legend Tim Duncan.

Popovich is expected to be back on the bench for Sunday’s game.

–Field Level Media

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