The Nets just aren’t good enough to hang with a rested Spurs team, and that truth bore out over 48 minutes. The Spurs did nothing exceptionally well and mostly played a fairly sloppy, lethargic game. But they were the more talented team, and eventually their precision and execution won out over the less precise Nets.
End of story.
Of course the more interesting story line for Spurs fans was the return of Manu Ginobili. In many ways, there couldn’t be a more perfect return for Manu. A low profile game on a Saturday night against an inferior opponent. In fact, the schedule is perfect for his return, as the team gets another two days off, plays two more of the worse teams in the league, and then gets another 2 days off. Plenty of time to integrate Manu back into the flow.
Manu’s play on the court was what one might expect coming back from a long lay-off: he was rusty, a bit sloppy, and a mixture of flat and overly aggressive. His normally crisp passes were just a touch off target, and his shooting stroke was short, usually indicative of tired legs. But, paraphrasing Pop, when Manu’s ready, Manu comes back. Because he’s Manu Ginobili. I don’t think there’s a Spurs fan alive that worries about Manu and his ability to contribute.
For me, the most interesting moment of Manu’s game came late in the game when he ran a pick and roll with Tiago Splitter. Manu threw a typical Manu pass to the rolling Splitter…only it was about 2 feet behind him, and ended up squirting out to the three-point line, where I think Matt Bonner picked it up. This was interesting because it was indicative of Manu’s rust, but also his lack of chemistry with Splitter. A chemistry that Parker has built up over the season. This may be the first case in Spurs history of a player having better chemistry with Parker than with Ginobili. Perhaps it’s because Ginobili is used to throwing passes to the likes of slower players like Duncan, McDyess, and the slew of other big men that have come through the system. Splitter is one of the fastest players in the league on the roll. Ginobili will find the rhythm.
Two other take aways from the game for me:
1. Gary Neal is slowly becoming a competent back-up PG. Not that he should ever be in that role with a healthy Ginobili and TJ Ford. But it’s always good to have another player who can at least get the team into the offense. Neal has a really nuanced game off the pick and roll, and has that little hop off the wrong leg floater that works surprisingly well. More encouraging, he’s starting to learn when to hit the roll man (usually Splitter), and had some good chemistry with Splitter tonight, getting some easy baskets at the rim.
2. The Nets have some injuries, and were playing a lot of young players. And it showed, in the lack of experience, the stupid mistakes, the miscues. But you know what? The Spurs also play a lot of young players, and it doesn’t show nearly as much. I think sometimes we take for granted just how good the organization is top to bottom. The Spurs create an atmosphere for players to succeed, whether it be the smart drafting and maneuvering by Buford,;t he patient development and teaching by Pop and the coaching staff; the staff’s ability to see the strengths in a player and encourage them; the veteran leadership of Tim, Manu, and Tony, who dictate the culture of discipline, teamwork, and professionalism that allows players to succeed. It’s not coincidence that the Spurs keep getting “lucky” with players like Green, Neal, Leonard, Blair, George Hill, Splitter, etc. They are given every chance to develop to the best of their abilities.
And we get to enjoy watching it.
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