(The Sports Xchange) - Christmas might still be a month away but the San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns are already in a giving mood, or so it seems from the two teams’ combined 49 turnovers in the Spurs’ 98-84 win versus the Suns Monday.
Forward Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 24 points and 13 rebounds as one of four San Antonio players in double-figure scoring.
The Spurs remained unbeaten at home despite setting a season-high with 21 turnovers that resulted in 18 points for the Suns.
But Phoenix were even more careless with the ball, recording a season-high 28 turnovers — 18 of them steals by the Spurs, also a season-high — that led to 27 San Antonio points.
“In the first half, we couldn’t get it going because we were turning it over, too,” said Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, who had eight points in 19 minutes.
“We were not as sharp today (as we have been). We let them get away with a lot of open looks. It’s a win, but we’ve had better ones.”
Phoenix played without leading scorer guard Eric Bledsoe, who was ruled out of the game just before tipoff with a knee injury.
Guard Tony Parker added 20 points and guard Danny Green scored a season-high 18 points for San Antonio (11-3), who are 7-0 at the AT&T Center this season. Reserve guard Patty Mills scored for 10 points for the Spurs, who shot 51.2 percent from the floor but converted just five of 10 free throws.
Phoenix (7-7) were led by forward Markieff Morris’ game-high 28 points, just two of which came in the fourth quarter, on 12-of-15 shooting from the field.
Guard Brandon Knight scored 18 points for the Suns, including 12 in the fourth quarter, and reserve forward T.J. Warren added 16 points.
“There’s no way we can win when if we turn the ball over as much as we did tonight,” Morris said. “Some of that had to do with (Bledsoe) being out, and some of it had to do with the Spurs’ defense. We just have to take better care of the ball.”
The Spurs led 20-17 at the end of the first quarter as Leonard poured in 11 points, including the first seven, for San Antonio. Morris had eight points in the quarter for the Suns, who stayed close even though they had had nine turnovers in the first 12 minutes.
San Antonio expanded their advantage to 44-34 at halftime despite missing five of their nine free throws in the first two quarters and committing 10 turnovers.
Phoenix shot just 39.4 percent in the first 24 minutes and allowed San Antonio 10 points off of their 15 turnovers, 10 of which were Spurs steals.
“You’re not going to beat anybody with 28 turnovers,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “At one point, when I think we had 15, I counted 11 of them that were unforced.
“When they make a good play and you get a turnover, then so be it,” Hornacek added. “I don’t know what we were doing — just throwing soft passes. Even when we tried to lob it over, the passes were like five feet short of where they were supposed to go. That’s hard to overcome.”
After the Suns cut the Spurs’ lead to 44-38 on a Morris jumper with 10:22 left in the third quarter, the Spurs reasserted themselves with a 10-3 run in which Leonard scored seven straight points.
But Morris kept shooting — he had 14 points in the quarter — and Phoenix got within 67-60 heading into the fourth quarter.
Hornacek tried to steal a few extra minutes of rest for Morris at the start of the fourth quarter, but the move backfired on the Suns.
By the time Morris came back in the game with 7:45 to play, San Antonio had built its lead back to 78-64 and Phoenix never again got closer than nine points.
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly