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Whoa. What a fun win. It’s always great when the ‘kids’ win and play great to boot. Too much going on, we’re going straight to the bullet points:
–Some insane numbers from the box score: The Bulls outrebounded the Spurs 49-26, with 17 offensive rebounds. That’s insane. They also held an 18-2 second chance point edge. However, the Spurs won the turnover battle 19-8, and scored 29 points on turnovers, to the Bulls only getting 8. Those two lopsided stats kind of balanced each other out, so that the total FGAs were 78-75 in favor of the Bulls. In a lot of ways, the game was going to be determined by which trend broke first. In the third quarter, the Spurs started turning it over more (after surrendering only 1 in the first half), and the Bulls climbed back into the game. However, late in the 4th, the Spurs started securing defensive rebounds, and were able to settle in and run away with the game.
–Still, an atrocious rebounding night all around. Danny Green was the rebounding leader with 6. Yes, 6. The Bulls had 4 players with more than 6 rebounds.
–The story of the night tonight was the starters. All 5 played tremendously, showing facets of their games that we don’t always get to see, yet still playing within the framework of the team and the system. On both ends of the court they were just dynamite. Such a joy to watch. With 9 minutes left in the game, Pop put the entire starting unit back in–the Spurs were up by 1. Over the next 8 minutes, the Spurs went +14, and with 1 minute left, Pop finally put the bench in with a 15 point lead.
–On the minus side, the bench was horrible tonight. Only Neal and Bonner got double digit minutes. And while Neal had a strong first half (6 for 7 shooting), he regressed to and shot past the mean in the second half, finishing the game 7 for 14…or 1 for 7 in the second half. And many of those were bunnies that he just short-armed. Bonner was equally putrid, doing really nothing positive on the floor. Individual game +/- can be misleading, but tonight it is not: each starter finished with a double-digit +/-, with 4 over +20 (De Colo bringing up the rear at +11). Nobody on the bench had a +: Bonner -13, Neal -9, Mills -6, Blair -4. (To contrast: Leonard +24, Diaw +23, Splitter +23, Green +22.) You can see why Pop rode his starters in the second half.
–Particularly Leonard, who played the entire second half, and logged 44+ minutes total. In the absence of any of the Big 3, Leonard was really the lead player and got show off parts of his game we’ve never seen. He was more aggressive than I’ve ever seen him play, bringing the ball up in transition, cutting to the hoop, stepping into jump shots, and just generally being the man. He ended with a career high 26 points, with 0 turnovers.
Leonard also played his usual stellar D on Luol Deng, who happens to be an All-Star. We don’t need this Leonard all the time, but it’s nice to know he is there, and hopefully we’ll be able to find room for him with the other Big 3.
–The other revelation tonight was De Colo. Again, he showed me a game I’ve never seen before. If he can play like this for 15 minutes a game, he is our back-up PG, without hesitation. Especially playing alongside Ginobili. He was quick and confident with his movement and decision making, showing some speed to accompany his court-vision. He ran the offense amazingly well, to the point that we were still able to run the pick and roll we always run and have our wide open 3 points shooters. Also of note: 7 assists, just 2 turnovers, and 3 steals (felt like he had a lot more). His on ball defense against the opposing PGs was the best I’ve seen from the Spurs this year. Nando just might have won the job tonight.
Looking big pictures, tonight might have given us a glimpse into the rotation moving forward. We all know this is the time of year that Pop likes to start tightening things up. So, we have the Big 3, tonight’s starters, Stephen Jackson, with Gary Neal and Matt Bonner available situationally and for spot minutes. Works for me.
Tonight was one of the win-win wins. We had nothing to lose, and, with the win, seemed to secure two victories. Up next, we head into the All-Star break with the last stop on the Eastern swing of the Rodeo Road Trip in Cleveland.
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