Suns must beat Spurs to have chance at top seed in West
The Phoenix Suns will still have plenty to play for when they square off against the host San Antonio Spurs on Sunday afternoon in the final regular-season game for both teams.
That’s because the Suns (50-21) took care of business and handily beat shorthanded San Antonio 140-103 on Saturday in the first game of a season-ending back-to-back.
Phoenix was able to stay within one game of Utah (51-20) in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference. If the Suns defeat San Antonio and Utah loses at Sacramento, Phoenix will win the conference because it owns the tiebreaker with the Jazz.
The win granted the Suns their first 50-win season since 2009-10, which was also the most recent time Phoenix played in the postseason. The Suns won the Pacific Division for the first time since 2007 when Houston upset the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.
“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 7-10 play-in tournament and cannot improve their standing. 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, which has not had back-to-back nights off in a month and a half, decided to rest two of its 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.
Devin Booker had 27 points — 23 of them in the first half — to lead Phoenix. 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 for Phoenix.
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), who lost their third straight game. 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 flew to Connecticut to be a part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony that included the induction of all-time Spurs’ star Tim Duncan.
Popovich is expected to be on the bench for Sunday’s game.
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