SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs overcame a slow start and a heavy heart to beat the Phoenix Suns.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 21 points and San Antonio rolled to a 112-95 victory on Sunday night following a dominant third quarter.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich earned his 1,156th victory, passing Phil Jackson for sixth all-time, but the veteran coach’s thoughts were on the victims of the mass shooting in nearby Sutherland Springs.
A lone gunman killed 26 people and injured 20 others at First Baptist Church, which is located 32 miles from the AT&T Center. The gunman was found dead in his vehicle following a brief chase.
“We won a basketball game. Considering what’s gone on today, it’s pretty meaningless,” Popovich said in his brief postgame remarks. “When you think about the tragedy those families are suffering, it’s inconceivable and impossible to put your head around. So, I think talking about basketball is probably pretty inappropriate. So, you guys have a good night.”
The Spurs were low on energy in the first half, falling behind 65-61 against the short-handed Suns.
Playing without four players and with T.J. Warren nursing a head injury, Phoenix shot 69 percent from the field in the second quarter. Warren scored a team-high 17 points.
“In the first half we were moving the ball, especially entering the second quarter,” Warren said. “Moving the ball, getting good shots, exploiting mismatches, but we know basketball is two halves not one. We’ve just got to put it all together.”
The Spurs turned things around in the third quarter by holding the Suns to 13 points, the lowest production by an opponent in any quarter this season. San Antonio won the period by 21 points, its largest point differential in the third quarter since 2012.
“The last couple games our third quarters have been kind of slow, and we just had to come out with intensity,” said Spurs forward Rudy Gay, who had 12 points. “We made a couple defensive changes, and offensively that’s going to come, but we just had to have the mindset of coming out there to win the game in the third quarter.”
Patty Mills had 11 points in the third, going 3 for 3 on 3-pointers, and Aldridge had eight.
Mills finished with 17 points and Danny Green added 14.
With Manu Ginobili sitting out for rest after playing in back-to-back games, San Antonio’s young reserves stepped forward.
Dejounte Murray had 13 points, Bryn Forbes added 12 and Brandon Paul scored 11.
Forbes scored in double figures in consecutive games for the first time in his two-year career.
Troy Daniels added 14 points for Phoenix and Devin Booker was held to a season-low nine points on 3-for-11 shooting.
Jay Triano is still getting accustomed to his new role in Phoenix.
Triano was puzzled when asked if he recalled playing a back-to-back in the final days of a 10-day road trip.
“We have a back-to-back?” asked Triano, who was named interim coach Oct. 23 after the Suns fired Earl Watson.
Reporters chuckled, “Yea, tomorrow.”
Triano laughed, “I told you that before, one at a time.”
Suns host Brooklyn on Monday night in their second back-to-back of the season.