You Can’t Keep A Good Shooter Down
The story of the game for most in the Spurs victory over the Pacers is probably DeJuan Blair. Given his first meaningful minutes of the season, he produced with great numbers to match great energy and activity. Was his insertion into the rotation (mostly at the expense of Splitter) a message to Splitter (as Sean Elliott and Bill Land speculated late in the game)? Was it just a match-up thing? Was it a showcase for Blair? Was it just a Pop whim? I don’t think we’ll really know, nor do I think it matters.
I’m happy to see Blair get minutes and do well, but at this point, we know what we have (and don’t have) with Blair. He’s the most likely player to be traded from the Spurs if any move is made. And if there is none made, he will be the 4th or 5th big in the rotation.
What excites me more form this game is the play of Gary Neal. 17 points on 8-10 shooting in 20 minutes, and a +13 to boot. I’ve worried that we would use him too much as a back-up PG, both limiting the effectiveness of the offense and his individual effectiveness simultaneously. Playing alongside Ginobili, though, we see just how good that backcourt can be. When given the freedom, Neal is a scorer, pure and simple. Most people mistakenly categorize him as a shooter, which is too narrow. He is a scorer. A fine shooter, yes; but so much more than that. It’s been a pleasure to watch his game evolve (as his confidence grows), and see his step-in game, his slow but effective herky jerky drives to the basket, his pick and roll play, and even his modest passing ability. I love watching him bring the ball up, dribble to the elbow, and pop up for that 15 foot jumper that you just know is going in every time. I’m sure the book on him from other teams is don’t let him shoot the open 3. And you shouldn’t. But he does a lot more than that, and has a surprisingly diverse offensive game.
Tonight was a perfect example of what he brings to the team at his best. After the starters struggled to keep any comfortable separation, his little spurt late in the 3rd quarter is effectively what put this game away.
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