Tim Duncan. That Is All.
Another night, another tight game against a Western Conference playoff team. For the second time in as many games, the Spurs came out on the right side of a hotly contested game. And for the second time in as many games, the Spurs did a lot of good things and a lot of bad things en route to the victory.
Too much going on for a cohesive narrative, so let’s just get straight to the bullet points:
–This game was won on the back of Tim Duncan. Sweet Jesus was he good tonight. Midway through the second quarter, the team went through a rough stretch, was on the wrong side of some iffy calls (Pop getting T’ed up arguing), and found themselves down 9. Duncan went to work, scoring something like 9 or 10 straight points, almost single-handedly bringing the team back to even by halftime. It was vintage, and amazing to watch. This was one of two key stretches in the game.
In the second half, it was more of the same. Duncan keeping the team afloat on both sides. He missed a couple of shots down the stretch, but made up for it with the game winner, and-1, playoff like roar from the crowd. What a finish; what a game; what a player.
–Parker also played a hell of a game, as he often does against Chris Paul. My opinion is obviously skewed, but Parker just owns Paul. CP3 might be the overall better player against the rest of the league (though not this year), but Parker always gets the best of him, and I think the Spurs just have a knack for defending Paul. Either way, Parker looked more like his old self tonight, getting to the basket, orchestrating the offense, and even playing some hard D. He earned every bump and bruise he’ll be feeling in the morning.
–Our crunch-time offense continues to be very bad. It’s hard to tell exactly what is happening, but it feels like the team is almost timid, fearful of running the offense that works so well for the first 45 minutes. So the ball ends up stagnant, and too often in a bad position with the shot clock running down. We didn’t win tonight’s game on offensive execution.
–On the flip side, our defensive crunch time execution has been solid the last few games (save for that wide-open Crawford 3 with about a minute to play; oi vey). I feel like we have a solid defensive core with Duncan, Leonard, and Green, able to handle most other team’s primary offensive threats. Throw in Splitter and Parker, and we’ve got a very good defensive unit.
–One curiosity from the last few games (and from the last few seasons): Tim Duncan being taken off of the floor for last second defensive possessions. I just don’t understand the logic behind it. Perhaps he is a bit slow of foot, but he still clogs the pain better than any other player on the floor, and he is our best rebounder. Particularly in last second possessions, securing a rebound can be the difference between a win and a loss. I’m sure Pop has his reasons, but I can’t think of a single one.
–I thought the other vital stretch of this game came in the overlapping of the third and fourth quarters. In the first half, the Clippers bench just abused our bench, building their 9-point lead. Crawford and Bledsoe in particular just abused us. However, in the second bench stint, the game slowed down and got mucked up, and our guys were able to do just enough and create just enough offense to more or less play the Clippers’ bench even, preserving the slim lead for the return of the starters. I thought every bench player–Jackson, Diaw, De Colo, Neal, and Bonner–made at least one very positive contribution to the game.
–The bench is still a major concern moving forward. I wonder what is going to happen in the playoffs when the rotations are tightened, the starters get more minutes, and the benches mean less. In seasons past, that has been bad for the Spurs, when our bench was such a strength. However, I’m wondering if we’ll see less negative impact this season, relying on our bench less. Granted, we still need solid contributions from at least 3-4 bench players every night, but we won’t have to rely on them as much.
–Ginobili left early with an injury. If his hamstrings really have been nagging him for a few weeks, that would explain quite a bit. Tight hamstrings lead to a lot of little things that have a big impact: stretching with your hands and arms more, bending with your back, throwing the rhythm off of the shot, taking gambles on defense (i.e., playing defense with your hands, not your legs). This would explain a lot of Ginobili’s frustrating play of late. So perhaps a little rest will be a blessing in disguise for him, as he can get right for the playoffs.
–The Western Conference playoffs are going to be insane. Every single match-up every single round will be compelling.
–Miami comes into town Sunday evening. As with most Heat-Spurs games, who knows who will even play or what will happen. Will Miami send their stars home? Will Pop rest some players after stealing the first 2 games of this 3 game stand, and with Memphis in Memphis looming the following night?
–OKC lost tonight. So the Spurs gained a full game, going up 2 1/2 on the Thunder for the #1 seed. The Clippers fell to the #4 seed, 1/2 game back of Denver and 1/2 game up on Memphis. The race for the 3-4-5 seed in the West is the most compelling race going. And obviously has major impact on the Spurs potential 2nd-round opponent.
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