The first night of a back-to-back on the road in November, coupled with a stomach virus running its way through the team, will allow Coach Pop to go into mad scientist mode with the line-up and rotations. (Playing in lowly Sacramento doesn’t hurt, either).
Some notes from the laboratory:
–I like DeJuan Blair. He has a tenacious game. But he shouldn’t be starting. I think Pop made the switch more to have Diaw’s playmaking with the second unit. But Diaw and Duncan play so well together, it’d be a shame not to maximize that. Plus, as I’ve stated many times before, Blair’s game is more suited coming off the bench, a change of pace player who makes things happen with his energy.
–Patty Mills can play. Which presents an interesting dilemma for the team: who is Tony Parker’s back-up? The only player on the team who can match Parker’s ball-handling and passing ability is Manu Ginobili. But Manu is a 2-Guard, and should be used mostly as such. Plus, on defense, Manu has a harder time guarding opposing PGs. As of now, Neal and Mills are our other best options as Parker’s back-up. Mills has the quickness of Parker and the ability to keep the tempo pushing, plus he is an absolute pest on defense (and a joy to watch). Neal isn’t nearly the defender as Mills (and really shouldn’t be guarding PGs to begin with), but is a much more creative scorer. They are both excellent shooters and above average passers. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. I think Pop wants a certain amount of time from Neal, but would much prefer to play him at the 2.
–One possible solution: a small line-up that includes Mills or Parker, Neal, and Ginobili, with Manu essentially playing the 3. We saw a little bit of this against the Kings, but it was hard to draw any strong conclusions because…
–Oh boy, did Manu have a stinker of a game. You get these games from Manu every so often, where he is just a split second off in his play, and the tiny gaps he sees (that nobody else does) are closed before he can fit the ball through them. Or they were never there. Either way, he was pressing in a major way, and accounted for 4 of the team’s 20 TOs, though it seemed more like 14. (Ironically, Parker had 4 of his own, tying the team high for the game.)
–Tim Duncan is still really good. And I love him.
–Speaking of Duncan, apparently late in the game, after Cousins had (literally) dropped his shoulder and physically assaulted Duncan (with no foul call) twice, he barked at his bench about how he was going to dominate Duncan. In classic Duncan fashion, his response was a wry smile, and a mild evisceration of Cousins to close out the game and the win. Did I mention that I love Duncan?
This was a sloppy game, but a good chance to experiment in this early season. And a win never hurts. It’ll be interesting to see what Pop has in store tonight in Portland.
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