It was exactly one year ago Thursday that the Spurs erred on the side of caution and sat stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili with game-time-decision injuries against Phoenix, prompting Suns owner Robert Sarver to flap his arms in the direction of San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich and give birth to his infamous “Chicken Dance.”
Thursday night, the shoe was on the other chicken foot. The Suns, on an 11-game winning streak, decided to rest Steve Nash’s tender ankle. And after losing backup Leandro Barbosa to a freakish injury just before game time, they were woefully low on point guards against the powerful Spurs.
“Maybe Pop will give me the chicken dance tonight,” Sarver said before the game. “I guess he owes me one.”
Popovich kept his wings to himself, but the Spurs still danced all over the short-handed Suns, hitting 12 of their first 15 shots, shooting 60 percent in the first half and rolling to a 117-93 win that denied Phoenix its second-longest winning streak in franchise history.
Tony Parker, who normally gives Nash and Barbosa fits anyway, was unstoppable. He scored 18 of his 29 points in the first half, as the Spurs improved to 22-10 on the road this season and 11-2 following their 13 losses this season.
“No excuses, we lost. They just flat beat us,” said Suns forward Shawn Marion, who led Phoenix with 18 points and 11 rebounds despite fighting the flu. “We went into the game trying to get Tony Parker to shoot jumpers. He made them and they beat us by 20. Simple enough.”
The Suns, who hadn’t lost since Feb. 6 and had won the last 11 games by an average of 11.8 points, also got 16 points and nine assists from Boris Diaw but led only once and trailed by as many as 25. Phoenix also saw its streak of scoring at least 100 points stopped cold at 22 games.
“We just weren’t convinced we could do it tonight without Steve and L.B.,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We get them again (a week from today in San Antonio) and we’ll see how much improvement we can make.”
Nash, who turned his ankle Monday in Oklahoma City and sat out the last two days, gave it a try on the practice court about an hour before the game. But the ankle was still giving Nash trouble at top speed, and he decided to shut it down.
“It just wanted to be smart. I didn’t want to take a chance on being out two, three weeks by pushing it if I can just miss one game,” said Nash, who missed his first game of the year. “I’m not concerned. I don’t think I’ll be out long.”
The surprise was Barbosa, who was fine at the morning shootaround but showed up for the game complaining of a sharp groin pain. That pain became more extreme quickly and he was taken to the emergency room about 90 minutes before the game for a closer examination.
Doctors initially feared Barbosa had suffered a testicular torsion, a twisting of the testicle that results in a loss of blood flow. That would have meant an immediate surgery and a recovery time of four to six weeks. But hours later, doctors revised the diagnosis to an infection that could be treated by oral antibiotics and likely shorten recovery time to a week or less.
“The good news on Leandro is he’ll be back soon,” D’Antoni said. “Thank goodness for him.”
The Suns gave president and chief operating officer Rick Welts a three-year extension, keeping him with the organization through the 2008-09 season.
Welts joined the Suns in 2002 after spending 17 years with the NBA as an executive vice president, chief marketing officer and president of NBA Properties.
The Spurs are no strangers to snapping Suns winning streaks. San Antonio ended Phoenix’s franchise-record 14-game streak with a 114-113 overtime win on Jan. 3, 1993, and ended the last 11-game streak last season with a 115-94 blowout on Dec. 28, after the Suns had gotten off to a 24-3 start. . .
Andre Barrett’s 10-day contract with the team expires today and it is likely the Suns will sign him to another 10-day deal given the injuries to Nash and Barbosa. Barrett played 19 minutes Thursday, scoring nine points and handing out two assists. . . A win would have allowed D’Antoni to tie Cotton Fitzsimmons for the second-best winning percentage in Suns history (.621).