|First meeting October 27, 1976|
Meetings total 205
Regular season series 83–75 (SAS)
|Next meeting TBD|
All-time series 108–97 (SAS)
|Latest meeting January 14, 2017 (Mexico City Arena)|
The Spurs–Suns rivalry is a National Basketball Association (NBA) rivalry between the San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns. It began in the 1990s, when the Spurs were led by "The Admiral", David Robinson, and the Phoenix Suns were propelled by a number of players, including Dan Majerle, Kevin Johnson, and Tom Chambers. The rivalry continued into the next decade with Tim Duncan leading the Spurs, and with Steve Nash leading the Suns. The rivalry has also allegedly prevented Spurs coach Gregg Popovich from coaching the USA Basketball team in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
The Spurs and Suns first met in the first round of the 1992 NBA Playoffs. The Suns established a record of 53-29 garnering fourth seed in the Western Conference, while the Spurs, owning a 47-35 record, clinched the fifth seed. However, with their captain, David Robinson, injured the Spurs were shorthanded and the Suns swept this series in three games.
The two teams would meet again the next year in the 1993 Western Conference Semifinals. The Suns had a new look having acquired former Celtic Danny Ainge. They also traded Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang, and Tim Perry to the Philadelphia 76ers for Charles Barkley, who was the season's Most Valuable Player. The Suns also compiled a league-best 62-20 record and clinched both the Pacific Division title and the top seed in the Western Conference. The Spurs finished the regular season with a 49-33 record and the fifth seed. The Suns managed to reach the Conference Semifinals by beating the Los Angeles Lakers in a five-game series after having lost the first two games. The Spurs ousted the defending Western Conference champion Portland Trail Blazers. The semifinal series lasted six games with the Suns prevailing over the Spurs again when Barkley hit a game-winner in Game 6. The Suns would proceed to win the Western Conference championship and face the Chicago Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals.
Three years later the two rivals met again. The Spurs finished that year with a record of 59-23, the Midwest Division title, and the second seed in the Western Conference. The Suns, in contrast, just made the playoffs with a 41-41 record and the seventh seed. The Spurs won the first two games at home and won the second of two games at Phoenix, winning the series 3-1. The Spurs would go on to face the Utah Jazz. Their season over, the Suns would trade Barkley to the Houston Rockets for Sam Cassell, Robert Horry, Mark Bryant, and Chucky Brown.
During the 1997 offseason, the Spurs, who finished with the third worst record in the league (David Robinson and Sean Elliott had both suffered injuries which kept them out of the lineup for extended periods) won the 1997 NBA Draft Lottery and, in the subsequent draft, selected consensus All-American Tim Duncan from Wake Forest University.
In 1998 the Spurs met Suns in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. The Suns were seeded number 4 and the Spurs seeded number 5. The Spurs would win the series 3-1 in Tim Duncan's rookie year. The Spurs would lose to Utah 4-1 in the Western Conference Semifinals.
This marked another major turning point in the rivalry as the Spurs would win three of the next four playoff matchups against the Suns.
The Spurs and Suns have met 10 times in the playoffs. All of these meetings occurred from 1992 onwards. The Spurs have won 6 series and the Suns have won 4.
The rivalry went to a new level in this decade, because the Spurs and Suns met several times in the playoffs. The only Spurs series losses to the Suns occurred in the 2000 NBA Playoffs, when Duncan was out with a knee injury and in the 2010 NBA Playoffs, when the Suns put up the first 4-0 sweep in this rivalry.
The Spurs took the first round of the 2003 series from the Suns in six games on their way to their second NBA title.
The two teams met in the 2005 Western Conference Finals. The revived Suns (who had posted the third-greatest turnaround in NBA history that season) went up against the second-seeded Spurs. San Antonio took home the bragging rights as they easily won in 5 games on their way to their third NBA title.
2007 NBA Playoffs
The Spurs and the Suns met in 2007 NBA Playoffs in a heated second-round series that many later described as having been "the real finals."
2007-2008 NBA Season
The newly revamped Suns saw the rivalry in 2008 evolve into a struggle between two of the NBA's dominant big men, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O'Neal. In the final regular season game of the year between the two teams held on April 9, 2008 in San Antonio, Amare Stoudemire set a screen for Steve Nash on Bruce Bowen with a little over a minute to play when Bowen threw an elbow in Amare Stoudemire's chest. Amare had to be restrained by team mates and coaching staff, while Bruce Bowen took a seat on the bench. The Suns eventually went on to win the game 96-79 and the season series by a count of 3 games to 1.
2008 NBA Playoffs
The Suns and Spurs met again in the 2008 NBA Playoffs. Anticipation of the renewal of the rivalry was high. “The Phoenix-San Antonio matchup is going to be an absolute bloodbath,” said the Houston Rockets' Shane Battier.
In May 2008, ESPN.com columnist John Hollinger named the Spurs Hack-a-Shaq use as the "Best Tactic" of the first two rounds of the 2008 NBA Playoffs. Hollinger wrote that Popovich was the "first to really master how to use this weapon to his advantage." He explained that Popovich used the tactic "to eliminate 3-point attempts" and with 25 seconds or less at the end of quarters to get the ball back for the Spurs to gain the last possession. Hollinger stated "This should be a Eureka! moment for other coaches, and I expect it will be the league's most widely copied tactic next year."
2010 NBA Playoffs
After eliminating the number 2 seeded Dallas Mavericks, the Spurs qualified to the Western Conference Semifinals to meet the number 3 seeded Suns. It marked the 3rd time in 4 years the teams would meet in the playoffs. Steve Nash led the Suns with 33 points and 10 assists for a Game 1 victory, 111-102. Amar'e Stoudemire led the Suns with 23 points and 11 rebounds as the Suns defend home-court advantage and go up 2-0 over the Spurs. The Suns won Game 3 110-96 with Goran Dragić scoring 23 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to take a 3-0 lead in the series. Suns also went in to sweep the Spurs in 4-0 with Nash scoring 20 points with 10 of them being scored when his right eye was swollen shut.
Gregg Popovich and Team USA basketball
The managing director of Team USA basketball is Jerry Colangelo. Colangelo is the past Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Phoenix Suns and is in charge of hiring the coach for the national team that represents the United States in world competitions, including the Olympics. Popovich had a long history working with Team USA when he was in the military and as an assistant to Larry Brown when he was the coach of the 2004 Olympic basketball team. Colangelo chose Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. Despite Popovich's stated desire to coach the 2008 team, Colangelo suggested publicly that Popovich wasn't as enthusiastic about the job as Duke's coach, that he didn't seem to want it as badly. These statements infuriated the Spurs coach to the point that he wrote an open letter to the league stating his desire to coach the team, and led many to speculate that the motivation for Colangelo's decision was that "the Spurs-Suns rivalry precluded Colangelo from truly considering Popovich for the job."
The Battle for LaMarcus Aldridge
In July 2015, one of the biggest free agent signings of the 2015-16 season, power forward LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trail Blazers, allowed for meetings with contending and potentially improving teams in the league. One of the first meetings Aldridge had during the beginning of free agency was with the Spurs. With San Antonio, they not only resigned key players in 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to long-term contracts and confirmed Tim Duncan would return for the 2015–16 San Antonio Spurs season, but they were also motivated to trade Tiago Splitter to the Atlanta Hawks in order to shed salary to sign Aldridge to a maximum contract. Not too long afterward, Phoenix had their own meeting with Aldridge. While many reporters initially thought the Suns were dark horse candidates to woo Aldridge, recent moves like the addition of Tyson Chandler and a trade where they moved small forwards Marcus Morris, Danny Granger, and Reggie Bullock to the Detroit Pistons helped the Suns out in their pursuit to open up some cap space to sign Aldridge. Between their recent moves and the presentation the Suns gave to LaMarcus on July 1 (which included the aforementioned Tyson Chandler and Aldridge's former teammate Earl Watson), it helped get the Suns from being a longshot candidate to competing with the Spurs as the main candidates for the rights to sign LaMarcus Aldridge. On July 3, 2015, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich met with Aldridge for a personal second meeting with the team, which included lunch together. That turned out to be one of the deciding factors moving forward to where LaMarcus decided to sign a four-year, $80 million deal to play with the Spurs moving forward on the Fourth of July. On a June 28, 2016 episode of Adrian Wojnarowski's podcast Vertical Pod with Woj, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough remarked that an Aldridge meeting with Pat Riley in Miami may have inadvertently led to Aldridge's final decision.