Originally Published: November 6, 2017 6 a.m.
SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs overcame a slow start and a heavy heart to beat the Phoenix Suns.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 21 points and San Antonio rolled to a 112-95 victory on Sunday night following a dominant third quarter.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich earned his 1,156th victory, passing Phil Jackson for sixth all-time, but the veteran coach’s thoughts were on the victims of the mass shooting in nearby Sutherland Springs.
A lone gunman killed 26 people and injured 20 others at First Baptist Church, which is located 32 miles from the AT&T Center. The gunman was found dead in his vehicle following a brief chase.
“We won a basketball game. Considering what’s gone on today, it’s pretty meaningless,” Popovich said in his brief postgame remarks. “When you think about the tragedy those families are suffering, it’s inconceivable and impossible to put your head around. So, I think talking about basketball is probably pretty inappropriate. So, you guys have a good night.”
The Spurs were low on energy in the first half, falling behind 65-61 against the short-handed Suns.
Playing without four players and with T.J. Warren nursing a head injury, Phoenix shot 69 percent from the field in the second quarter. Warren scored a team-high 17 points.
“In the first half we were moving the ball, especially entering the second quarter,” Warren said. “Moving the ball, getting good shots, exploiting mismatches, but we know basketball is two halves not one. We’ve just got to put it all together.”
The Spurs turned things around in the third quarter by holding the Suns to 13 points, the lowest production by an opponent in any quarter this season. San Antonio won the period by 21 points, its largest point differential in the third quarter since 2012.
“The last couple games our third quarters have been kind of slow, and we just had to come out with intensity,” said Spurs forward Rudy Gay, who had 12 points. “We made a couple defensive changes, and offensively that’s going to come, but we just had to have the mindset of coming out there to win the game in the third quarter.”
Patty Mills had 11 points in the third, going 3 for 3 on 3-pointers, and Aldridge had eight.
Mills finished with 17 points and Danny Green added 14.
With Manu Ginobili sitting out for rest after playing in back-to-back games, San Antonio’s young reserves stepped forward.
Dejounte Murray had 13 points, Bryn Forbes added 12 and Brandon Paul scored 11.
Forbes scored in double figures in consecutive games for the first time in his two-year career.
Troy Daniels added 14 points for Phoenix and Devin Booker was held to a season-low nine points on 3-for-11 shooting.
Suns: Warren played after recovering from a head injury suffered against New York. Warren reported having a headache, but was cleared after participating in non-contact drills Saturday and completing pregame workouts. ... Phoenix was without guards Eric Bledsoe (not with team) Brandon Knight (left ACL tear) and Davon Reed (left meniscus repair) and forward Alan Williams (right meniscus repair). Bledsoe has not been with the team since Oct. 22 when he posted “I Don’t wanna be here,” on Twitter, the day the Suns fired coach Earl Watson.
Spurs: Gay came up hobbling after tumbling to the court with 10 minutes left in the game after Paul fell into him following a dunk. Popovich quickly rose from the bench with a look of concern, but Gay remained in the game after walking to the scorer’s table to recuperate. ... San Antonio has made a 3-pointer in 985 consecutive games. . The Spurs have held double-digit leads in seven of their 10 games this season.
Tony Parker, who like Kawhi Leonard has yet to play this season, participated in pregame warmups. Parker, who had surgery to repair a torn left quadriceps tendon, was moving with no noticeable limp or discomfort. Parker is scheduled to return in mid- to late-November, which is about the same time Leonard is expected to return.
Jay Triano is still getting accustomed to his new role in Phoenix.
Triano was puzzled when asked if he recalled playing a back-to-back in the final days of a 10-day road trip.
“We have a back-to-back?” asked Triano, who was named interim coach Oct. 23 after the Suns fired Earl Watson.
Reporters chuckled, “Yea, tomorrow.”
Triano laughed, “I told you that before, one at a time.”
PLAYING FOR THE BEST
Spurs center Pau Gasol said there are similarities between Jackson and Popovich, even though they have different coaching styles.
“Two of the greatest of all-time,” Gasol said. “I had the luxury and privilege to be coached by two of the greatest. I’m a lucky guy. Very different, in different ways, but ultimately, they love the game, they respect the game, they’re thorough (and) they’re incredible coaches. I’m glad for Pop. His dedication to the game, and how excellent and superb he’s been as a coach, and how successful his teams have been.”
Suns: Host Brooklyn on Monday night in their second back-to-back of the season.
Spurs: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night in the third of a six-game homestand.