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Silver Lining Playbook

By Daniel Strickland on March 3, 2013.

San Antonio Spurs 130, Sacramento Kings 102
(46-14, 23-3 home)

Why should Spurs fans care about Friday night’s Spurs-Kings game?

Going into the game, the Kings were in a three-way tie with the Phoenix Suns and the New Orleans Hornets as the worst teams in the Western Conference.

The Spurs had something to make up for, coming off an overtime loss to the Suns that snapped their 18-game home winning streak. So you knew this game might get ugly fast. And it did.

Both teams committed five quick turnovers, but despite the mutual sloppiness, the Spurs led 13-4 after 4:36 played. Keith Smart was so frustrated, he took out his starters and brought in the second unit.

By the time Manu Ginobili entered the game for Danny Green with 5:03 left in the 1st, the Spurs led 22-10 on seven points by Green (1 steal) and six points by Splitter (2 rebounds, 1 steal). Matt Bonner, DeJuan Blair and Cory Joseph got some playing time, too. At the end of the first, the Spurs led 34-21.

Despite the fact that the Kings played better in the second quarter, and cut the Spurs lead to nine at the midway point, they were never really in this game. A 34-20 Spurs’ third quarter sealed the deal.

But none of this matters much. All that really matters is that Tony Parker sprained his ankle and will be out for about a month.

Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photos by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

After the game, Coach Pop said:

“[Tony] has been a stalwart for us. He’s having an All-Star season. As I’ve said, he’s playing better than any other point guard in the league consistently through the year. We will miss him.”

We will miss him, indeed.

Call me an optimist, but I think this dark cloud has a silver lining.

Tony has been an incredibly durable and efficient player the last three seasons, so we have to go back three seasons to find a period when he missed a few weeks due to injury.

On March 6, 2010, in a victory over the Memphis Grizzlies he broke a bone in his right hand. He was out a month, March 8 to April 4, missing 16 games total. During that stretch:

  • the Spurs went 11-5 without Parker (.688), which was better than how they fared with Parker (35-24, .593).
  • George Hill stepped up in a big way, setting and then breaking his season scoring highs with 27 against the Thunder and 30 against the Rockets.
  • Keith Bogans and Roger Masons had a few standout games.
  • Manu Ginobili became a starter and got his mojo back, in a serious way. Remember 38 points against the Cavaliers, 38 points against the Hawks, and 43 points against the Magic? During this stretch, Manu averaged 25.5 points, 5.6 assists and 4 rebounds per game. In retrospect, it may have been Manu’s best stint as an NBA player, when he reminded some of us, while making some others aware, that he is one of the most exciting players to ever play the game.

So what can we expect this time, with Tony out a month? Who knows. But here’s what I’d like to see:

  • more playing time and more impact from Patty Mills.
  • more points and play making from Kawhi Leonard. We know this kid has serious upside. Now we need to see more of it.
  • a few standout games from Nando de Colo and perhaps even Cory Joseph.
  • Manu gets his mojo back, a la 2010.

So let’s wish Tony a speedy recovery, and hope his time away ends up being a net positive for the team going into the playoff stretch.

Random note: Back in November 1988, Keith Smart played two games for the San Antonio Spurs. In those two games, he played a total of 12 minutes, attempted and missed two field goals (one from behind the arc), shot and made two free throws, grabbed a defensive rebound, dished out two dimes, and made two turnovers.

And that is Keith Smart’s entire NBA career stat line as a player.

Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photos by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

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