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Coach Pop Takes a Sick Day

By Jeff Koch on January 23, 2013.

How ironic that a game in which the Spurs couldn’t buy a free throw would come down to Manu sinking a few to keep the Hornets at bay.

Or that New Orleans would score 64 points in the first 24 minutes, 28 in the next 23, and then rip off 10 in the final minute. With the end of the bench playing, because the coach had already pulled the starters. And didn’t put them back in (nor call any timeouts) once the game got close again.

Or that Bud would pull his starters up with 45 seconds left, only to have a 5-second violation, a 3, a turnover, then another 3 from the Hornets, to get the game back to that one possession.

Basically, it was just a weird game, with a weird rhythm, and impossible to decipher. And yet again, we won. So hey, let’s be happy for the win. Particularly playing without Tim, Kawhi, or Coach Pop, against a team that is 7-3 in their last 10 and always plays us tough. This game was no guaranteed victory, and while maddening at times, I thought the team played hard and deserved the win.

A few more thoughts from tonight’s game:

–It’s not surprising that the team would be so horrendous on D without its two best defenders in Duncan and Leonard. But the Hornets first half was an embarrassment. 64 points. Yikes. Luckily, the Hornets didn’t play much D either, so the game was still a wash at halftime. In the second half, the D tightened up, and we forced a bunch of turnovers that led to easy fastbreak points, which really put the game away, particularly late in the 4th when we made our final run. Danny Green in particular played tremendous defense on the always hard to guard Eric Gordon. He just continues to do all of the little things that never get noticed.

–One thing Pop brings to the team every game: ref bias. No coach probably works the refs harder or better than Pop. There’s a reason why the Spurs foul less than any other team, and it’s not just because that’s what Pop preaches. Without Pop there to work the sideline, I thought the Spurs got called for some horrible touch fouls, and sent the Hornets to the line a lot more than would be expected.

–Speaking of the FT line: wow, did we suck there tonight. It was hard to watch.

–Ditto the three point shooting. We clanked so many wide-open 3s.

–Gary Neal is completely out of rhythm right now. And without his shooting, he adds little value to the team. My guess is that he is still suffering some lingering effects from his achilles injury.

–Tiago continues his strong play. In a lot of ways, his offense is improved without Duncan on the court, as he can roll to the basket with impunity. He might be one of the 2 or 3 best big men in the pick and roll in the league. He moves without the ball in space so well, and is always open for little bunnies right at the rim. His defense and rebounding are improving, and he is a joy to watch develop right before our eyes every game.

–However, our rebounding still falls off a cliff without Duncan. The final tally was only 46-39 (-7), but it felt much worse. And we gave up some egregious offensive rebounds (10 in total).

–Parker is turning into a wonderful closer. This used to be a weakness of his. But he is now our most reliable weapon at the end of close games.

–I mentioned it at the top, but it bears repeating: Williams pulled his starters down 12 without about 2 minutes left, and never put them back in when the lead was cut to 3. Nor did he start fouling when it might be prudent. Nor did he call timeouts that might have helped them crawl back into the game. Nor did he really try to speed up the offense. It was an odd coaching decision.

We play a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday, and then only 2 games in the following 10 days. What? OK. The rest will probably do the team a world of good.

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