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A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to The Bench

By Jeff Koch on January 16, 2013.

After jumping out to a 15-11 lead and looking smooth to start the game, the Spurs offense stalled out midway through the first quarter. Memphis slowly built a small lead that seemed much larger considering the lackluster play of the home team. It felt like we were in for another long night against a hard-hitting opponent.

Then Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw came in, and the complexion of the game was turned on its head. Both players were moving, passing, and shooting brilliantly. The offense went from “stuck in the mud” to “floating on air”. Diaw, in particular, was impressive. This was the best of Diaw, aggressive with the dribble in the shot, but still making incredible point-guard level passes. Most importantly, he was decisive with his decision-making, whether it be to take the shot or make a play. Between him and Jackson, the Spurs offense completely turned around. After totaling just 19 points in the 1st quarter, the team went on to score 84 over the next three.

Overshadowing the great offense was some pretty spectacular defense, as well. Memphis only shot 42% overall, and much worse than that in the second half. The rotations were crisp, the close-outs hard. The team seemed to be playing defense with a purpose and a passion. After giving up 4 offensive rebounds in the first quarter (a sure way to keep a team like Memphis in a game), the Grizzlies only got 2 more the entire game, one a cheapie in garbage time. Splitter in particular was a man on the boards, showing an aggression that is much needed from him. But it was a team effort, and every position rebounded well and came back to the glass in support.

But oh man, that offense. 33 assists on 44 made field goals. Only 13 TOs. 9 of 18 from 3. 58% shooting overall. Uptempo, without playing too fast or out of control. So much of the Spurs offense is predicated on quickness, getting into sets quickly, exploiting scrambling defenses, and scoring on the secondary break. Tonight, after the first quarter, was a fine example of just how good the offense can hum, even against a great defense.

After two hard fought games (and one dispiriting loss) against this Memphis team, it was good to beat them definitively. In a larger sense, it also feels like the team might be starting to get back on track after a little lull. Tonight marks the midway point of the regular season schedule, and with 30 wins, the team is on pace for another tremendous regular season. Three teams have really separated themselves in the Western Conference (Thunder, Clippers, and Spurs), and it will be an interesting race to see how the seeding plays out come playoff time.

Up next is our first game against the upstart Warriors on Friday night.

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