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Jeff Van Gundy Might Be Right

By Jeff Koch on March 19, 2011.

Charlotte 98, San Antonio 109  //  56-13  //  1st in the West

This was kind of a Toolbox game, as in, ‘let’s open up the toolbox and see what we got’. Duncan didn’t play for being too old, and Tiago Splitter started in his place. Steve Novak got 18 minutes off the bench and made the most of it, scoring 19 points and connecting on 5 of 8 3-pointers, perhaps threatening to challenge Gary Neal and Matt Bonner in their season-long “feud” to see who is the best 3-point shooter on the team. We know which way Van Gundy would vote (on a recent Spurs broadcast, he stated quite emphatically that he believes Steve Novak to be the best 3-point shooter in the world).

D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images

Despite a late surge by the Bobcats (as the Spurs were lulled into complacency), the game was never really close. These Toolbox games certainly have value. It’s great to get Splitter minutes in junk time of blowouts, but it’s even better to get him minutes earlier with the starters and main rotation guys. Same with Novak. Come playoff time, either of them could be called upon to provide important minutes in a big game, and they need to know where to cut, where the open space will be after Parker penetrates, when to roll to the basket for a Ginobili pass, etc, etc. This is information that can most efficiently be learned in actual game situations.

D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images

I thought Splitter played great tonight. His numbers weren’t eye-popping, but he played great defense and seemed to have really nice chemistry with Parker and especially Ginobili, being the beneficiary of many passes at the rim for easy looks. Every time I watch him I’m impressed with his intelligence and athleticism. He might already be our best big defender; he just needs to cut down on silly fouls and learn the system intuitively, so that his movement is more precise and reflexive. But he has the makings of an all-world defender.

As for Novak, it was fun to see him shoot. And shoot. And shoot. Much like with Bonner and Neal, that’s what he is here for, and if he’s open, he better shoot the damn ball. His stroke is certainly pure.

Being a Spurs fan, though, I was much happier to see him play hard defense, get some rebounds, and even block a shot. We’re sick that way; Popovich has even gotten to us!

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