Surprising Suns face stern test in San Antonio

( - Defense has been the key to the early success of the Phoenix Suns, who will face a true test Wednesday against the defending Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs in the Alamo City.

The Suns weren't given much respect leading up the 2013-14 season opener, but have so far surprised many with a 3-1 mark. They suffered their first loss of the season Sunday at Oklahoma City, but rebounded with Tuesday's 104-98 defeat of the New Orleans Pelicans in the middle test of a three-game road trip.

Eric Bledsoe led the Suns with 25 points and Gerald Green buried six 3- pointers for 18 points. Markieff Morris and brother Marcus Morris finished with 17 and 16 points, respectively, off the bench for Phoenix, which shot 50 percent for the game and made 12-of-25 from 3-point range.

"I thought we did a nice job of penetrating, kicking out and getting easy shots. Guys were knocking them down," Suns first-year coach Jeff Hornacek said. "A lot of credit goes to the bench tonight; they played awesome."

A 37-24 advantage in the third quarter put the Suns comfortably ahead and they erased a 14-point hole in the first half. Phoenix finished the third quarter on a 28-9 burst, which was highlighted by six 3-pointers (3 by Green).

Phoenix, which is third in opponents scoring at 94.0 ppg, was without guard Goran Dragic because of a sprained ankle suffered against the Thunder on Sunday. Dragic is doubtful for Wednesday.

Green, meanwhile, has made five or more 3-pointers in consecutive games and Bledsoe has scored 20-plus points in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.

"He's got that strength and explosiveness," Hornacek said of Bledsoe. "You see him get trapped and all of a sudden he gets to the hole in a matter of seconds."

The Suns, Golden State and Los Angeles Clippers are all even atop the Pacific Division with 3-1 records. The Suns are off to their best start since a 4-0 record back in 2009-10.

San Antonio completed a three-game road trip with a 2-1 mark thanks to a 102-94 victory over the Denver Nuggets Tuesday night.

Tony Parker scored 24 points, Tim Duncan added 17 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and four blocks and Kawhi Leonard managed 14 points to keep the Nuggets winless and lift San Antonio's mark to 3-1. Tiago Splitter rounded out the double-digit scorers with 12 points for the Spurs, who scored 30 of the 46 points in the fourth quarter and shot 46.5 percent.

The Spurs tallied 27 points off 23 Denver giveaways, had 14 steals and blocked nine shots. San Antonio is holding teams to 97.0 ppg.

"I thought our defense was much better," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. "The defense fueled the offense a little bit."

San Antonio took two of three from Phoenix last season and has won nine of the past 11 meetings between the teams. The Suns haven't fared so well lately in the Alamo City, losing seven of eight and 14 of 18 trips there.