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After a slow, ugly, and unsteady first half that luckily only saw the Spurs down 4, the team came out in the second half with more energy and precision, racing off to a quick 11-4 start and taking the lead for good. Although we were never able to get any real separation from the Bobcats, we were able to hold them off just long enough to come away with a 4 point win and improve our record to 5-1 on the young season.
What I Liked:
–Behind the arc. We got great 3-point shooting, particularly from Neal and Ginobili, who each hit 5 a piece. Throw in Anderson’s 2, and you have all of our 3 pointers. But 12 3s in 26 tries is great, and almost always leads to great things for our team. Even more impressive, is that we held the Bobcats to just 6-19 from behind the arc. I believe they hit 4 of 5 in the first quarter, only able to connect on 2 of their next 14 for the remainder of the game. Our 3-point defense in the second half looked particularly sharp as we chased shooters off the line hard, preventing many attempts (and turning them into long 2s) and contesting almost all of them. This is a tenet of Pop’s defense, so it’s nice to see it starting to take hold this season
–And suddenly there was a bench.
The guys over at 48MoH
did a fantastic job diving into Pop’s reliance on the bench
this season and compares it to Alvin Gentry’s use of the Suns bench last year. I agree with their assessment, and I like the way our bench is shaping up this year. I’m very impressed with Neal and Anderson’s play early; McDyess looks like the player I always coveted when he was with Detroit; George Hill will come around; and Splitter and Bonner offer differing yet both very important skills from our 4th/5th big. Most importantly, I trust each of them to be on the floor at any given point in a game.
–Blair’s D. Blair’s having a tough start to the season, especially on offense, where I think every one of his shots has bounced off the rim. But I thought he played nice defense on Tyrus Thomas, a player who had a nice game and had his way with McDyess. But when Blair was on him, he was able to stay with him to cut off the driving lanes and still contest his jump shot. Thomas is a type of player (quick, athletic 4s) that gives us fits, so it’s nice to know we have at least one player that can defend it.
–Morgan. The Bobcat’s play by play guy called Blair ‘Morgan’ at least 2 or 3 times. Hilarity ensued.
–Splitter’s inside presence. It’s not always showing up in the box score yet, but I think Splitter is having a nice impact on the interior both offensively and defensively. He’s getting some nice Offensive rebound putbacks, and on only play he occupied both Bobcats bigs as they boxed out, allowing McDyess to slide in, grab the rebound, and throw down a dunk. Splitter is still obviously learning the game, learning the system, and finding his legs, but I like what I see.
What I Didn’t Like:
–George Hill, Point Guard? Hill seems to be regressing a bit in the early going. The injury may have something to do with it. Perhaps it’s the pressure of being expected to be a major contributor. Whatever the reason, he’s not given us much in this early season. He’s particularly rough at PG. When he was running the offense, it went really stale and just stalled out completely. The ball movement died, the ball didn’t reverse sides of the court, and we didn’t get a lot of good looks nor run a lot of nice sets. His ball-handling is good, and he’s fine in that role, but it’s clear that he’s better suited as a 2-Guard, and that either Parker or Ginobili will need to be in at all times when the games really start to matter.
–Turnovers, Rebounding, 2nd Chance Points. I haven’t harped much on either of these categories this year. The rebounding numbers don’t look great, but it doesn’t pass the eye test. It feels like we’re rebounding better this year and allowing less 2nd-chance points. (This discrepancy could also be because we’re allowing opponents to shoot so well that there aren’t as many rebounds to collect.) However, in this game, we gave up 15 offensive rebounds and gave up way too many 2nd-chance point opportunities.
We also seem to be turning the ball over way too much this season. We were particularly sloppy in the first half when the Bobcat’s aggressive, pressing defense really seemed to bother us into some careless passes and mistakes.
–The end of the game. Having stretched our lead to a comfortable 9 points with around 2 minutes left, our next few possessions looked like this: missed 3 from the corner; turnover; missed basket on a poor possession; turnover that led to a 3-point play the other way that turned into a 4 point play when Thomas missed the free throw attempt but the Bobcats rebounded the miss and put it back in. In this run the Bobcats closed the deficit to 2 and put some real heat on our last possession and the last 15 seconds of the game.
Luckily, we have Manu Ginobili, stone cold assassin. He calmly ran the clock down, drove the lane, got to his left hand thanks to a Duncan pick, and banked in a running sideways leaner that probably almost got blocked and looks completely out of sync and awkward if anybody besides Manu Ginobili attempts it. Throw in his team high 26 points and 5 3-pointers, and you’ve got yourself a game ball winner.
The Clippers come to town Wednesday night. This will be our second meeting already in this young season. I keep expecting a down game from the Spurs, and they keep threatening to deliver, yet winning in the end. Part of me feels like I’m reverse jinxing the team by doing this. So I’ll continue to do it. The Clippers seem committed to moving past Baron Davis and letting the kids run the show, and they have some pretty good kids out there. We own the Clippers; but nobody beats the Clippers 18 times in a row, right? Right?
Still, I expect us to win.
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