PHOENIX (AP) - Richard Jefferson flashed his old form at the right time for the San Antonio Spurs.
Jefferson hit four fourth-quarter 3-pointers, including the go-ahead basket with 1:38 remaining, and the Spurs edged the Phoenix Suns 112-110 Wednesday night.
``It was just one of those things where the ball was coming my way,' Jefferson said. ``My teammates made some great passes, they left me open a few times and I was able to knock them down.'
Jefferson was largely disappointing in his first season in San Antonio, averaging 12.3 points and 4.4 rebounds. Coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs staff paced Jefferson through what Popovich termed ``a lot of ridiculous drills' to help the 10-year veteran regain his form.
``We worked him all summer long on basic fundamentals to get some rust off of him and get him back to the solid habits he had at Arizona,' Popovich said.
Jefferson, though, credited open looks more than summer school for his success against Phoenix.
``Every time I make two 3s, people ask me about that and Manu (Ginobili) starts laughing,' Jefferson said. ``Coming here, the offense is different and you have to learn how to be aggressive in this offense. That's something that last year was tough. (Now) I know where I'm supposed to be and you can focus on different things.'
Jefferson finished with 28 points, Tim Duncan had 25 and Ginobili added 18 for the Spurs, who won in Phoenix for the first time since Jan. 29, 2009.
Jason Richardson scored 21 points, Hakim Warrick added 19 off the bench and Steve Nash also had 19 for the Suns, who have lost consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 25-26. Phoenix is 1-3 for the first time since 2006-07.
``We've just got to keep our heads up,' Richardson said. ``We know this is not a sprint. It's a marathon. It's a long season. Nobody's got their head down. We've got a long way to go and every game we get better.'
Jefferson hit three straight 3-pointers from the left corner to give the Spurs a 103-97 lead with 6:15 to play.
But after a free throw by Warrick, Nash sank a 10-footer, Warrick added a driving layup and Richardson hit consecutive baskets, the last off an alley-oop pass from Nash, to cap a 9-0 run that gave the Suns a 106-103 lead with 3:31 left.
``We had a little bit of miscommunication, especially during that stretch when Jefferson hit the three 3s,' Warrick said.
Antonio McDyess made two free throws to pull the Spurs within one before Jefferson hit his fourth 3-pointer from the same left corner to give San Antonio a 108-106 lead.
``Defensively we finally got some stops,' Duncan said. ``They run that pick-and-roll over and over and over again and for a while we couldn't do anything with it. Coming down the stretch, the last two or three minutes, we got two or three stops. That changed the game for us.'
The teams traded the lead 13 times in the first half before settling for a 50-all tie.
San Antonio opened the game's largest lead early in the third quarter. Duncan's 17-footer just above the free throw line gave San Antonio a 67-56 advantage, but Phoenix slowly whittled the deficit to 81-79 on Richardson's two free throws with 23 seconds left.
``We just have to find a way to finish the game,' said Suns coach Alvin Gentry. ``We've just got to continue to try and plug away and get a little better.'
Notes: Jefferson was 6 for 6 from the floor in the fourth quarter. The Spurs missed eight of their first 10 3-point attempts before making their last five, all in the game's final 6:59. San Antonio beat Phoenix for the second time in eight meetings, including last spring's four-game sweep at the hands of the Suns in the Western Conference semifinals. The Suns hadn't lost consecutive home games since December 21-23, 2009. Warrick recorded Phoenix's seventh double-digit scoring effort off the bench this season. Phoenix didn't have a double-digit scorer off the bench last season until its fourth game. The Suns said an article appearing in a local weekly newspaper that said Nash was going to retire to run for mayor of his native Victoria, British Columbia, was a hoax.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved