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By Jeff Koch on November 2, 2009.

Are you kidding me? Did Manu really just swat a bat out of midair? That’s insane. Anybody who has been around a bad knows how terrifying they are, and how incredibly difficult it would be to just swat one out of the air. But there’s Ginobili, sizing it up, then WHAM, out of the air the bat goes. Meanwhile, men who get paid millions of dollars to be strong and tough are cowering in fear.

They also played a game last night. Going into this game I was worried about its trap game capabilities. It’s easy to take a lesser opponent for granted, especially playing at home. I wasn’t so much worried about losing the game, but more about making it a competitive game for too long.

Luckily, I didn’t have much to worry about, as we overwhelmed the Kings with talent and execution and were simply just too good for them. The Kings competed hard, but there is just too much of a talent deficit on that team for now.

What I Liked:

–Jefferson. By far his best game as a Spur. It wasn’t just that he scored well, it was how he scored. He was hitting outside jump shots, driving to the hoop and getting to the foul line, and he was working perfectly within the offense. He is looking increasingly more comfortable each game, and I’m very happy with what he is bringing to the team.

–Parker’s bounce back. I’ve stated many times that Parker needs to get off to a good start in a game. When he does, he is virtually unstoppable and competes hard the whole game. But if he gets off to a bad start, it’s easy for him to fall out of rhythm and mentally check out of the game. It’s a tough balance for him, because he needs to be aggressive and get his points early, but he also needs to keep the offense fluid and everyone else involved. Last night he achieved that balance perfectly, and our offense hummed all night long.

–Ginobili’s hair. Love the buzzed look. Now maybe everyone will stop talking about his bald spot, and start focusing on his bat catching skills.

–Blair’s passing. I’m more and more impressed every game with Blair. How lucky were we to find a rotation player in the draft? Last night, I was really impressed with his passing ability, from both the low and high post. His offensive game seems more refined than most originally thought, and he can be a legitimate post up option on the 2nd unit.

–Finley’s jumper. He is getting older, and is mostly a liability to us on the floor. But he’ll be able to hit that jumper off the curl until the day he dies.

–95 points after 3 quarters. We were lucky to get 95 points in a game last year, and now we’re hitting it after 3 quarters.

–Bonner and Mason, Jr.’s expanding games. Bonner is putting the ball on the floor and driving and making baskets. He still looks a little awkward doing it; but if he’s just good enough that his defender has to somewhat respect it, it will give him even more wide open 3-point shots. And Roger’s handle seems to have improved dramatically in the offseason. He actually looks natural putting the ball on the floor and driving to the hoop. And he can actually pass out of his drives now. I’m not saying he should be playing any PG, but it never hurts to have another player who can handle the ball in a pinch.

–Hill’s shot. George’s shot looks really good right now. I actually believe his shots will go in, which is a lot different than last year.

–Closing quarters. The mark of a great team is how they close out quarters. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but we seemed to play even for the first 8 or 9 minutes of most quarters, and then closed each quarter strong, pushing our advantage each time. Up 7 after the first, up 16 at half, and finally, up 20 after the 3rd, before garbage time kicked in.

–Ratliff’s defense. He did what we brought him here to do: protect the rim. He registered 4 blocks, and affected countless other shots.

What I Didn’t Like:

–27 and 30. We gave up 27 points in the first quarter and 30 in the third. Granted, in those quarters we scored 34 and 34 respectively, but I’d still like to see us play sharper D, and try to keep teams under 25 or so points a quarter. The rules have been gradually changing to give the offenses every advantage, so maybe it’s not realistic to see the lockdown D we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. But we still need the dedication and commitment to it, so that we can get important stops down the stretch of close games.

–Ratliff’s offense. Oh my. “Unpolished” would be a kind word for it. Any offense we get from him is gravy…but still….

–19:17. Our assist to turnover ratio. Still to low. Our offense did look good last night, so the low assist number might be a bit fluky. But 17 TOs is still a little more than I’d like to see.

One final observation, and this goes under neither the “Like” or “Dislike” column. It seems that there is a more concerted effort to hit the offensive glass this year. In years past, once the shot went up, we usually had 3 or 4 players hustling back on D, preventing another team from fastbreaking. However, in last night’s game, I noticed a few times when 2 or 3 stayed behind looking at the offensive board. I even saw a few plays when we crashed the offensive glass from the top of the key, rather than hustling back. Obviously, with Blair’s special skill in this area, it would make sense for him to do this. But I noticed Bonner doing this. I’m not sure if this is in the game plan, or just an isolated incident, but it bears keeping an eye on.

Looking Forward:

We have 4 days off, then a brutal back to back, facing both Utah and Portland on the road Thursday and Friday.

Pay attention to our energy to start the game. Let’s hope it’s better than the effort we put out in Chicago. Pay attention to our overall D, and what our commitment to it looks like. And pay attention to the rotation, and who gets crunch time minutes.

Both of these games should be very tough and very close. It will be a great early test for us. Obviously it’d be great to get them both, but a split with 2 hard fought games would be a victory as well.

On a personal note, I will be at the Portland game, sporting my black Ginobili jersey. Every time I go to a Spurs game in Portland, I’m amazed at the number of Spurs jerseys I see, especially considering how rabid and devoted Portlanders are to the Blazers. I was sitting right behind the Spurs bench last year when Finley’s jumper rimmed out, giving us our second or third straight loss to open the season. This year, I intend to see the Spurs win.

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