Suns clinch playoff berth with win over Spurs

AP Photo/Matt York

Starters on the bench to end the fourth quarter – exactly what Suns fans should want to see at this stage of the season.

That was the case Tuesday night as the Suns trounced the Spurs 115-94 to lock in the West’s fourth seed (per Suns) in the playoffs. 

“The most important basketball of the year is here,” Devin Booker said. “We, in the past, watched the play-in games together. Once we realize who our matchup is, dive into that, and move forward from there…it’s a great time of year.”

It was the 65th straight sellout at Footprint Center as fans and players alike can feel the postseason atmosphere start to take over the Valley.

“We’re learning a lot about our team.” head coach Monty Williams said. “This is our way of trying to find a rhythm, because we don’t have 30 or 40 games to do it…You just try to figure out the combinations, what looks good from the eye-test, and what looks good when we watch film…and then the numbers.”

The contest was also another chance for Williams to square off against his mentor in legendary Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.

“I’m grateful for the history I have with him,” Williams said. “His impact on me and my family is something I don’t have enough time to talk about… he rarely sees my kids but they know Coach Pop is granddad.”

The mentee got the best of the mentor in this case – the vast difference in talent between their squads helped too.

Phoenix is especially difficult to stop when Chris Paul gets going offensively the way he did tonight.

Paul put up 18 points on 7/8 shooting in the first half alone.

“Book and Kevin Durant are going nuts cause they all want him [Paul] to shoot,” Williams said. “He understands that for us to be effective when Kevin gets doubled or he’s on the backside when Book is in pick n’ roll, he’s gonna get that shot…never thought I’d have to tell a Hall of Fame player to shoot the ball.”

“We want him as aggressive as possible,” Booker said. “I think it’s just something he’s not completely used to… You’re always in a good spot if you’re looking for a Hall of Famer to be more aggressive.”

PHX’s ‘Big 4’ delivered on both ends, behind Booker’s 27 points and seven boards.

To make a deep playoff run, they’re gonna need more than just the ‘Big 4’ to step up.

Torrey Craig (15 PTS, 10 REB) was that extra boost Phoenix needed when the Spurs climbed back into the game in the third quarter.

“His energy and effort tonight bailed us out of it,” Williams said. “The way he played, the defense that he played…it gave us a lot of juice.”

“It’s all just part of being a pro,” Craig said. “I’m blessed enough to be in this league, to be on a team like this. I’ll take any role I can get.”

With the fourth seed in hand, it’s a matter of minute management and developing chemistry in these last three games.

“We’re trying to build their capacity to handle those minutes right now,” Williams said. “Allowing Kevin to have longer stretches. Book is pretty much where he’s gonna be… and Chris, we gotta get him to 32-36 [minutes]. This game was good because they had longer stretches. That’s what builds the endurance and capacity to handle it without getting to that exhaustion limit.”

The Suns’ next game is on Thursday at 7:00pm as they play host to the West’s No. 1 seed in the Denver Nuggets.

Here are extra sights and sounds from Suns vs Spurs: