SAN ANTONIO — The coach for the winning team doesn’t typically lament the fate of the ousted, but that’s what Gregg Popovich did after San Antonio edged Phoenix126-124 on Tuesday night, saying the Suns “got robbed” while his Spurs put together “a pathetic performance.”
Just minutes after Rudy Gay drilled a buzzer-beater to lift the Spurs’ record to 30-22, Popovich addressed the media for 27 seconds — using all 27 to rip his team — before walking away without taking any questions.
“We were really fortunate to win the game,” Popovich said. “I thought that they outplayed us, outcoached us, outphysicaled us, outexecuted us. We had no respect for them or for the game. We didn’t play with each other. It was a pathetic performance, and Phoenix got robbed.”
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Leading by seven points with 4:44 left to play in the fourth quarter, the Spurs turned over the ball three times down the stretch, with Phoenix turning the miscues into scores. Devin Booker‘s steal on Marco Belinelli with 19.6 ticks remaining led to a Josh Jackson dunk that tied the score at 124. In all, San Antonio committed six turnovers in the fourth quarter that Phoenix cashed in for 10 points.
The Spurs also shot just 47.8 percent in the fourth quarter, while the Suns connected on 15 of 21 attempts (71.4 percent), led by Jamal Crawford, who scored nine of Phoenix’s 33 points in the final frame.
Booker, meanwhile, poured in a game-high 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting.
“It was a heartbreaking loss again,” Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said.
Gay launched his winner from just inside the 3-point line on the left wing as time expired with Kelly Oubre Jr. guarding him. The entire Spurs team mobbed Gay on the floor in celebration after the shot, but that exhilaration quickly subsided once Popovich addressed the team minutes later in the locker room.
“They were all small, so I was just trying to get a good shot off,” Gay said. “I knew they were probably going to jump the screen, so I let L.A. [LaMarcus Aldridge] get away and tried to get a shot off. It’s a win. I’m not happy about how it happened. But we got the win, and that’s part of being a good team. You’ve got to find ways to get wins.”
San Antonio now sits eight games above .500 for the first time all season, but issues on defense have surfaced in recent outings.
“We’re just not as physical as we were when we were really playing well,” Spurs guard Derrick White said. “We have moments where we’re doing the right things, but we haven’t been consistent with it.”
That has led to plenty of moments of frustration for Popovich. During the team’s 132-119 home win over the Washington Wizards on Sunday, Popovich called for a timeout just 16 seconds into the game, marking the quickest timeout call to start an outing in the NBA so far this season.
LaMarcus Aldridge leads the charge early with 29 points, but Rudy Gay closes out the Spurs’ win with a buzzer-beating jumper.
Popovich called for a timeout last season just 14 seconds into a contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
When Popovich called for the quick timeout against the Wizards, he was trying to teach a lesson in “professionalism,” he said.
“I often tell them things like, if you’re a plumber and you go to somebody’s house and you don’t get the job done or you screw it up, they don’t call you again,” Popovich said before Tuesday’s game. “This is your job, and there’s a responsibility to it. Not just to do the job for yourself, but you have a responsibility to your teammates. There’s a game plan, and there are changes that get made during the game, and everybody’s got to pay attention and respond. That’s professionalism, and you learn that as you continue to grow in whatever job you’re in — you guys’ jobs and whatever vocation it might be.
“So, I think sometimes doing something dramatic like a quick timeout or showing a little bit of anger about not being able to do a simple thing helps them focus more and understand that it is important. So, in the end, the lessons get learned.”
Apparently, Popovich continued to teach after Tuesday’s narrow victory with his fiery postgame comments.
“It wasn’t our best game, and we didn’t execute well down the stretch,” said Aldridge, who led the Spurs with 22 points. “But we’ve lost some games that we should’ve won. This is one that we kind of dodged a bullet and got a win.”