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Playoff Reps

By Jeff Koch on February 6, 2012.

Where were these victories against the Grizzlies in last year’s playoffs? 3 games, 3 wins, 2 without Manu. The same Manu who didn’t play in Game 1, the same Game 1 that set the tone for the entire series.

(I swear, I’m over it.)

Some actual thoughts on tonight’s game:

–Not that I enjoy seeing a 13-point lead dissipate in the matter of minutes, but I do like the Spurs playing (and ultimately winning) close games on the road. Especially against proven playoff teams. I know there’s no statistical correlation, but it does feel like it gives the team some “Playoff reps”, especially for the younger players, who will be put into some important positions come playoff time. Any experience they can draw from at that point will be critical.

The game really did feel playoff-y near the end, too, as possessions ground to a halt, and the defense really packed in.

–While the numbers probably suggest that our defense is worse than in years past, I actually like our single possession defense more than I have in a while. Over the course of a game (and a season), we’re not as strong defensively. But at the end of close games, I like our chances to get just one or two stops when absolutely critical. We have both Duncan (still a clutch defender, I don’t care what anybody else says) and Splitter as bigs that can clog the lane and protect the rim. And with Green, Leonard, Anderson, Ginobili, and even Neal and Jefferson, we have some long, athletic players who can guard multiple positions, get steals and strips and blocks and generally cause havoc, and are better than average rebounders for their position and size.

–We started the game 5 for 5 on 3-point shooting. We then went on a 1 for 9 cold streak, during which the Grizzlies caught up and took the lead. (We finished the rest of the game just 1 for 2, though the one make was a huge basket by Anderson.) This game really illustrated the importance of the 3-point shot to our offense, and how we truly play outside-in now. When we’re making the shot, the defense slowly expands, and the middle starts to open up for us. With every one of those 8 misses, the defense got tighter and tighter, and pretty soon it was impossible for Duncan, Parker, and even Splitter to get much going around the basket.

–Leonard started the game strong, defending Rudy Gay about as well as he can be defended. (Gay started 1 for 6 with Leonard on him, and only got going once Leonard went to the bench.) However, in the 3rd quarter, Leonard made some dumb rookie mistakes on both ends of the court, and was relegated to the bench for most of the remainder of the game. As a young rookie, he’ll have nights like this. Pop has the luxury of having 4 similar players on his roster: Green, Leonard, Anderson, and Neal. All are slightly different, but mixing and matching them can cover the necessary ground on any given night.

–I feel a little sorry for Gary Neal. He’s trying his hardest as our back-up PG, and I suspect he’s not as bad as most of us think (and he’s getting a lot better). But his true position is 2-Guard, and right now we’re not getting what we should out of him, ie, spot-up 3-point shooting and efficient drives. Ginobili returning is going to slide a lot of things back into place for the team.

–Tim mother f’in Duncan. He’s still pretty damn good.

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