Defending G League champ Austin outlasts NAZ Suns, 99-88
NBA G League
CEDAR PARK, Texas — Minus their struggles with shooting, the Northern Arizona Suns looked good for most of their Western Conference showdown against the defending NBA G League champion Austin Spurs.
Not so in the waning minutes of regulation, however.
With the Suns leading 86-84 with 2:40 left on Friday, Nov. 9, at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, the Spurs outscored the visitors 15-2 in the last 2 minutes on their way to a 99-88 victory.
Jared Ledbetter drained a 3-pointer to regain the lead for Austin and subsequently converted 4 of 4 free throws to help the Spurs even their record at 1-1. The Suns dipped to 1-3, losing two of three games on their first road trip of the 2018-19 season.
But it was Spurs forward Jaron Blossomgame who made the biggest difference, registering a double-double of 23 points (10 of 15 field goals) and 10 rebounds. In the last 1:30 of regulation, Blossomgame scored four points, center Drew Eubanks hit 2 free throws, and Julian Washburn added a 2-pointer to seal it.
Suns starting shooting guard De’Anthony Melton was a bright spot, scoring a game-high 25 points with eight rebounds, three assists and a steal in 33 minutes. Melton, a Phoenix Suns assignee, converted the lone field goal for Northern Arizona in those last 2 minutes of regulation.
Austin committed 20 turnovers, but the Spurs’ defense sparkled — tallying eight blocked shots and limiting the Suns to a 34 percent clip from the field (33 for 97), including a dismal 6 of 32 (19 percent) from 3-point range.
Both of those shooting percentages were the lowest marks in team history (34.6 percent at Maine on Feb. 9, 2017; 19.4 percent at Austin on Jan. 18, 2018). The Suns’ 88 points in Friday’s game were the second fewest in team history (87 points at Oklahoma City on Dec. 19, 2017).
Meanwhile, the Spurs shot 53 percent from the floor (36 for 68) and 11 of 23 from beyond the arc, despite going 16 of 26 from the charity stripe.
In the first half, the Suns pieced together a 14-0 run to start the second quarter, while limiting the Spurs to four points through the first five minutes of the frame to carry a 47-40 lead into intermission. But the Spurs came out hot in the second half, as Eubanks scored six quick points and Blossomgame added a bucket to slice a 7-point Suns lead to 50-48 two minutes into the third period.
It was a see-saw battle from there, although the Spurs’ Corey Henderson drilled two 3-pointers to hand Austin a 61-56 lead as the third drew to a close. There were a few highlights for the Suns, though. Aaron Epps, seeing his first significant action of the season, threw down a monster jam from Derek Cooke Jr. in the final minute of the third. Cooke Jr. later converted 2 of 2 free throws to tie it at 64-64 to end the third.
Northern Arizona welcomes back the Santa Cruz Warriors (2-0 record going into Friday) to Prescott Valley Event Center at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13. The two teams met at PVEC in the 2018-19 season opener on Nov. 3, which the Suns lost, 118-108.
Austin visits the Memphis Hustle (1-2) at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11.
Doug Cook is a reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at email@example.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.