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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Jeff Koch on October 30, 2009.

Opening night was the good. Last night was the bad and the ugly.

We have to expect games like last night, especially early in the season. Nights where everything seems discombobulated and players seem lost and unsure about where to go and what to do. We have more talent than we’ve ever had before; but we have a lack of system knowledge, of chemistry that can be achieved only by getting the reps in. Don’t worry; it will come. Losses like last night’s help us to understand where our weaknesses are what to focus on moving forward.

What I Liked:

–Tim Duncan. That was a monster game. 28 points and 16 rebounds, with 2 steals, 2 assists, and 3 blocks thrown in for good measure. His bank shot was unstoppable last night, and he was playing some good D. He looked spry. Let’s hope this is the Duncan we can expect this season.

–George Hill’s D. He is a very good defender, with greatness within his reach. He can sometimes get lost going around screens. And his ball denial defense isn’t as good as Bowen’s was (Bowen’s specialty, really). But he is an outstanding one-on-one defender. He likes to pick up his man early and pester him with every step and every dribble. And he is great at picking the pocket of the opposing player. He had two fantastic steals last night.

–Richard Jefferson. Yes, he’s shooting horribly. Yes, he seems a bit lost in our schemes. But he’s already showing one of the reasons why we went out and got him: he is a dynamic offensive player. Several times last night he drove the ball into the lane, drawing fouls and collapsing the defense. This is what we need him for on offense. He’s probably pressing too much early on, as is to be expected for a new player coming into a new system. But once he figures things out and gets more relaxed and comfortable, he will be a deadly player for us.

–The defense. The score belies it, and we didn’t finish the defensive sequences by securing the rebounds, but we played solid D last night, forcing them into some tough shots and keeping their FG% to 41.7%. That is a championship number.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The energy. With the exception of Duncan, we looked very flat last night. Tony, especially, looked bored or exhausted or both. I’ve talked before about how important it is for him to get off to a good start. If he doesn’t, he oftentimes checks out of the game. It seemed like he did that last night. But he’s not the only one guilty of it. Everybody looked tired and out of sorts.

–The shooting. Ugh. We shot horribly, especially from long distance. Most of our shots seemed to fall short, which to me is an indication of tired legs. I guess we’re not in game condition yet, ready to play back-to-backs against young, hungry teams. That’s fine. But our shot selection also seemed poor. We were shooting too many contested shots, not making the extra pass to get to the wide open player, or taking the time to drive and dish to create the space. We weren’t shooting within our offense.

–The rebounding. Um, yeah. We couldn’t secure a defensive rebound to save our lives. They had 19 second chance points in the first half, and we’re up by 1 at halftime. Think about that. If we’d just secured our defensive rebounds, we could have had a double digit lead at halftime. This one concerns me the most, because it hearkens back to last year. This is one of the main dangers of starting Bonner, as he is not a great defender. It puts too much pressure on Duncan to protect the rim and secure the board.

–15:13. That was our assist to TO ratio. 13 isn’t a horrible TO number, but 15 assists is bad. It means we weren’t moving the ball, and weren’t executing our offense. Which means we were probably lazy and tired and not willing to take the necessary steps to get the good shots.

There are lots of other things to look at negatively in this game, but it’s only the second game of the season. I’m going to allow the newer players time to adjust to the system, and assume they will get it. I’m going to allow Blair a rookie learning curve and not expect double-doubles out of him every night. This was one game, early in the season, against a team that could very well turn out to be very good this year. Chalk it up to experience and move on.

Looking Forward:

We play Sacramento at home on Saturday. Sacramento looks to be one of the worst teams in the league again this year. That being said, we need to have a strong showing, do our work early, and not get dragged into a close game. Last year we won a lot of too-close-for-comfort games against inferior opponents. This year, we need to control these games from tip to buzzer. I expect a strong showing from our guys being back at home coming off a tough first loss.

Look for Parker to get going early and often. Look for our defense to be locked in and feisty. Look for better shooting and better shot selection. Keep an eye on the rotation and see who gets the minutes. Will Hill continue to earn more minutes off the bench? Will Finley and Bonner stay as the starters? Keep an eye on Jefferson and McDyess as they continue to learn the system and get comfortable in it.

After Saturday’s game, we’re off until next Thursday, when we start a vicious back-to-back, at Utah, then at Portland on Friday night.

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