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From Here To Eternity

By Jeff Koch on November 20, 2013.

Boston 93, San Antonio 104

4 days off is an eternity in the middle of an NBA season. (Most every team gets at least one extended break early in the season like this.)

So it’d be easy to say that the Spurs had a huge edge coming into tonight’s home game well-rested against an inexperienced Celtics team that got thrashed last night in Houston. But rhythm can take you a long way in this game, and the Spurs were sorely lacking it in the first half.

Credit to Boston: they played hard, have a roster full of competent NBA players, are well-coached, and were making plenty of long jumpers that the Spurs are happy to cede. But this game was about the Spurs finding an edge and a will to win. Because this Spurs team should always beat this Celtics team in San Antonio. While the game remained close through the first half and into the second, it just felt like the Spurs would find it eventually and pull away.

Which they did. And that “it” that they found was catalyzed by Kawhi Leonard. When people talk excitedly about Leonard and what type of player he can be, it’s the 3rd quarter they are talking about. He was a monster on both ends, playing his usual aggressive (but not gambling) defense. More surprisingly (and excitingly), he took over on offense, refusing to defer to Duncan or Parker. It was awesome. Dribble drives, pull up jumpers, 3-pointers: he had the whole arsenal working. This was easily his best quarter of the young season.

Leonard gave the Spurs the breathing room, but the bench put the game out of reach. How many times will I get to type that this season? Marco and Patty are fitting in seamlessly next to Manu, and Boris is perfectly blending his natural playmaking with a newfound aggression. It’s almost not fair; if Boris always played like this, he’d be unstoppable. If he gets within 5 feet of the rim, the basketball is going in. With those 4 and any other 5th player, the Spurs are able to easily extend any lead against most team’s inferior benches.

What I particularly like about the current bench unit is that with Mills, Belinelli, and Diaw, so much pressure is taken off of Ginobili. Manu no longer has to try and be the everything of the second unit, which age just won’t allow him to do anymore. He can pick his spots (did you see some of those passes?), be more of a shooter, save his legs for the drives when necessary, and play more in control. Also, the second unit can now survive and even thrive without him on the floor, allowing Manu more rotation time with the starters (namely Parker and Duncan).

It’s early in the season, and the schedule hasn’t been all that tough, but things are looking very good for the Spurs.

The next game is Friday night in Memphis. We beat the Grizzlies on opening night, but they seem to have turned a corner this season, so it’ll be a good barometer to see where we’re at.

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