I’ve been waiting for this game for a long time, and boy did it not disappoint.
The Clippers dealt the Spurs probably their two worst losses of the season (and only 1 of our 2 home losses) early, and for much of the season looked like the superior team. The Spurs have been playing tremendously of late, seizing control of the Western Conference, but I was still interested to see how they would fare against the team that they hadn’t really been close to beating yet this year.
The results speak for themselves.
It can sometimes be hard to get any hard analysis from such a massive blowout, but let me say this (after Barkley said it at halftime and Reggie Miller said it in the third quarter): Tony Parker is the best PG playing in the league. Period.
Right now, and for this season, he is better than Chris Paul, and he is better than Russell Westbrook. His absolute evisceration of Paul tonight is just the microcosm of the story writ large.
Paul is most likely playing hurt, and that’s a function of the game. It doesn’t diminish Parker’s mastery of the position right now. (Not even factoring in Parker’s remarkable durability over his long NBA career, especially considering the pounding he takes.) Paul often gets the “best PG” title from reputation, but it’s time to concede that Parker is having a better year, playing the position better, and performing at a higher level than any player not named “LeBron” or “Durant”.
As Spurs fans, we don’t need to rehash Parker’s brilliant season. But let’s focus on one under appreciated development of his game the least few seasons: defense. PG on PG defense in the league is essentially a zero sum game. No PG can really shut down another. It’s about help defense, positioning, and trusting the system and the rest of your team. Parker will never be known as a fabulous one-on-one defender. But he uses his quickness to prevent obvious blow bys, he always sends his man into the proper lanes and help, and he’s surprisingly strong and sturdy in the post. Irving had his worst game of the year facing Parker right before the All-Star break, and Paul had his arguably worst game of the year tonight.
By contrast, Paul has no shot of limiting Parker. Tony got wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted. From the get go, the Clippers defense was always scrambling, always recovering.
The thing I love about Parker’s play and the Spurs system in general, is that the wide open shot that is taken with 5 seconds left on the shot clock is very often created by the first screen set with 18 seconds left. It really is a thing of beauty, and every screen, every dribble, every action by Parker is deliberate and with purpose.
I tend to agree with the notion that there aren’t true statement games in the regular season. But perhaps there are statement performances. And if there are, Parker made one tonight, as did the Spurs as a whole.
A few more thoughts from tonight’s game:
–It’s a small quibble, but Billups committed what could be considered a flagrant foul on Danny Green as the half expired. But because the contact occurred after the buzzer, and because Green’s shot happened after the buzzer, nothing was called. I understand not rewarding free throws on the shot, but the precedent could be set that basically anything goes if it happens just after the buzzer, and you could seriously injure a player. I think a flagrant or technical should still be called in an instance of something like that. He hit him hard, square in the face.
–With the blow out, there was ample of opportunity for rest and low minutes, so hopefully we’ll be able to have another strong performance tomorrow night in Oakland against Golden State. Quite the tough back to back.
–My favorite play of the night came late in garbage time. Jackson had the ball behind the 3-point line on the wing, and drove a lane to the basket. Aron Baynes became a brick wall, preventing not one but two Clippers from even getting a chance to stop Jackson. They even tried to push him into Jackson to no avail. Dude is big and strong.
Miller and Chris Webber were laughing at how huge his shoulders were. I thought he played great in garbage time tonight. His understanding of the system has grown exponentially, and he got some big rebounds, made a huge block, played solid D, and showed great space awareness on offense to work himself into a couple of easy baskets. None of this matter for this season, but he is a player worth watching that could be important in the future.
–For the present, Splitter had a great game tonight. We got all of the little things we usually expect, but what was surprising was his solid, solid defense on Blake Griffin. He played strong and tough and did everything you want in isolation on the post. If we continue to get that, the Duncan-Splitter pairing will be formidable.
–Finally, our heartfelt condolences to Captain Jack and his family. Read this story to understand why he was away from the team. It’s sometimes easy to forget that these players are humans with lives and families and hardships and tragedies. I can’t imagine a circumstance more emotionally difficult than what he is going through. It is heart-warming to read how supportive and wonderful the Spurs organization has been, and it really drives home that family mentality that is so often spoken about but so rarely seen in genuine and authentic ways in our sports culture. I was a huge supporter of Jackson’s return to the team last year, and I’m glad he will be with us for the remainder of the season. His shooting is pretty horrid this year, but I think he’s playing pretty well in other areas coming off the bench. Plus, he adds a certain element that every team needs. A wild card, an unpredictability, a certain untamed energy. Every body has a friend like Jack: a kind of loose cannon, rough around the edges, but with a huge heart and who would do anything for you. Sure, he might be an asshole: but he’s your asshole, dammit. And you love him regardless. He gives his heart to this team, and we offer ours in support in his time of grief.
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