If You Don’t Love Me I’ll Kill Myself
San Antonio 98, Orlando 84
(56-19 overall, 33-5 home)
There’s not much from a team-wide perspective to gleam from this game. With Parker, Leonard, and Ginobili all sitting out, and with Duncan and Splitter playing very limited minutes in anticipation of tomorrow night’s important tilt with OKC, this game was more about role players stepping up and making the most of increased playing time, and not letting down against a scrappy but truly inferior team.
And while the game stayed close until early in the 4th quarter, it never really felt like it was going to slip away. With a nice stretch to start the 4th, the “bench” (the entire game was pretty much the bench) put the game away, and the Spurs cruised to a relatively easy and much needed victory.
So let’s look at tonight’s game from an individual perspective, and see where every player that played tonight is. We’ll designate a plus (+), minus (-), or neutral (0) to designate where they are.
Tim Duncan: +
Stephen Jackson: -
Oh boy. He seemed to roll his ankle early in the game, but played through it. Played poorly through it, I might add. He is in a pretty bad shooting slump, and is making bad decisions with the ball, to boot. He is painful to watch sometimes, as he looks like an old man on the court with back problems. Still, I think he is an important piece in the playoffs. He is our only other true SF, and does good work guarding Durant and other big wing players. Plus, for better or worse, he’s just one tough M’Fer.
Nando De Colo: 0
Overall his play is trending up, and he is playing more confidently, which is why Pop declared him the back-up PG today. With his shot improving, he becomes a much more viable offensive threat. He plays smart on both ends of the court, and has good vision; but he is often sloppy with the ball. I thought he played OK tonight, and I’m fine with him being the back-up PG. But I still like Cory Joseph a bit better.
Boris Diaw: 0
His play can be frustrating, as he often passes when he should be shooting, and gums up the offense by NOT shooting. But his skills are perfectly suited to the offense, and he’ll play an important role off the bench in the playoffs.
Danny Green: 0
He’s had a rough couple of games, though he did lead the team in scoring tonight. Like Boris, his play is critical in the playoffs. When he is making shots and active on defense, the team jumps a level. Save for the last week or so, his shooting has been consistently good for the second half of the season.
Tiago Splitter: +
While his offense has been down the last few weeks (is it just me, or are we running less pick and roll recently?), his defense has really improved, particularly rebounding and protecting the rim. He has creeped his way into the “People I trust with the game on the line” list. Along with Kawhi, his jump from last season to this season is the biggest difference in the team, and our best chance of making it to the Finals.
Gary Neal: +
Finally starting to look like his old self. There are a lot of things he does that are frustrating, but when that shot is on, he is an invaluable piece of the puzzle. If he’s playing 25 minutes in an important game, that’s probably bad; if he’s playing 15, that’s good. He can score in bunches, and help turn games in a heartbeat. Along with Green, he is our best 3-point shooter, an asset the team desperately needs.
Patty Mills: -
I see now why he lost the back-up PG spot, and the back-up back-up PG spot. His shot seems to be off more often than not, but his confidence isn’t. He works as a tempo changer/disrupter off the bench in small spurts every so often, but doesn’t really have a spot in the regular rotation right now.
Matt Bonner: +
I think Matt has had some solid outings the last few weeks. If he’s giving you 10 solid minutes a game, great; 20, and you’re probably screwed. But he knows the system better than anyone besides the Big 3, and he rarely makes mental mistakes and will play his butt off. He’s just not talented enough to warrant big minutes in big situations. Still, a great player to have on the bench.
Aron Baynes: +
He is a wrecking ball in the paint on both sides. Let’s be honest, he’s not playing in the playoffs, but I like what I see from him when he gets minutes. He keeps balls alive, sets deadly screens, and has a decent touch around the rim.
Cory Joseph: +
I’m falling for Cory. I thought he outplayed De Colo tonight, and gives us more of what we need at back-up PG. He protects the ball better, runs the system better, and is starting to develop some of Parker’s moves (though with less efficiency and skill, obviously). Plus, I think he is our best defensive PG. De Colo probably gets the nod this season because he’s a bit older and bit more ready for “big” moments, but Joseph is making it a tough decision, and I won’t be surprised to see him get important minutes during the remainder of the season.
Tomorrow night is a hugely important game for the top seed in the West. The Spurs currently have a 1 1/2 game lead over OKC; tomorrow’s game will provide a 1-game swing. So if OKC wins, suddenly it’s only 1/2 game and will come down to the wire (with the Spurs having a much tougher closing stretch). If the Spurs win, though, they go 2 1/2 games up, which effectively becomes 3 1/2 games by virtue of winning the season series and the tie-breaker. That would be extremely difficult for OKC to overcome with only 7-8 games remaining.
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