The San Antonio Spurs were finally able to get back into the win column today and ended their six-game losing streak with a convincing win over the Phoenix Suns in front of a sellout crowd at the AT&T Center.
George Hill was the difference-maker for the Spurs and he was key in getting the Spurs out to an early lead.
Hill entered the game midway through the first quarter with the Spurs down by one and went to work immediately, leading the Spurs on a 14-2 run by attacking the paint, getting to the line and knocking down a pair of three-pointers all for 16 points in the first quarter alone.
"When (Hill) comes off the bench and he gives what Manu used to give us coming off the bench, it really helps our group. I thought he did that very well today," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said
By the end of the quarter, the Spurs had built up a 15-point lead, 35-20, which forced the Suns to play catchup for the rest of the game.
The Spurs kept the same pace to start the second quarter by scoring the first five points. The threes started falling shortly after, with Gary Neal, Hill and Matt Bonner all hitting from beyond the arch. To add to the insult, Tiago Splitter finished off a mini-run with a dunk.
The Suns answered back with a 10-2 run of their own, but the tides turned in the Spurs favor when Hill re-entered the game for Richard Jefferson and immediately knocked down a three-pointer and then ended the quarter with a jumper at the buzzer, sending the Spurs into the locker room at the half up 70-46.
While the Suns tried to fight back the remainder of the game by outscoring the Spurs in the third and fourth quarter, it was too late and the Spurs secured the win with one more rally early in the fourth.
Hill lead both teams in scoring with 29 points, crucial in a game where the big three all failed to score in double digits.
In our most recent recording of the Spurscast, which will go up tomorrow, we addressed the need for Hill play as aggressively as he did when he was starting, likely a message he heard before today's game.
"(Hill) needs to be aggressive, especially coming off the bench," Spurs guard Tony Parker said. "Tonight he was great, being very aggressive, shooting the ball very well, playing great defense. He did everything tonight."
Popovich agrees with Parker's assessment of Hill and said he needs him to be selfish.
"We're trying to get him to the point where every time he steps on the floor he knows that he's a heck of a player, that we want him to be aggressive and that he has the green light to do that and be a scorer," Popovich said. "It's just a process, he's a young guy and a respectful guy who defers and he wants everybody to be happy. In an ironic sort of way, we're trying to get him to be more selfish."
Bonner, who was 12-of-50 on his outside shots his last 14 games, shot himself out of his slump with 10 points in the second quarter alone and 16 total on 3-of-4 on threes.
"I thought his activity on the offensive board was more impressive than him making a couple of threes," Popovich said. "He was very very active for us in that regard."
Gary Neal scored 15 points and connected on 3-of-4 on his outside shots, which made today's game his 36th scoring in double figures for the Spurs.
With the win today, the Spurs are now 58-19, have a two and a half game lead over the Los Angeles Lakers after the Lakers lost to the Denver Nuggets today and are now 34-5 at home.
Danny Green was recalled from the Toros for today's game but was on the inactive list against the Suns. Green finished his only game with the Toros with 19 points, seven rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot in 32 minutes.
Popovich is now within one win to tie Red Auerbach for second most wins with one team. With two more wins, he will surpass Auerbach for second place.
Hill is going to have to play like that in the playoffs. Maybe not scoring 29 points, but the Spurs' offense needs him to be aggressive.