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By Jeff Koch on November 1, 2013.

San Antonio 91, Los Angeles Lakers 85

Remember the mantra, remember the mantra, remember the mantra….

That was a ‘pound the rock’ game if ever there were one. Playing without Duncan against a young and feisty Lakers team with nothing falling through the hoop, a less-disciplined team might have taken an understandable loss. But the great thing about the Spurs is their foundational bedrock are the things they can rely upon: execution, energy, defensive effort, corporate knowledge, chemistry. The shot will come and go, momentum will swing to and fro, but if you trust the system and pound the rock, more often than not, you can walk away with a win.

And that’s just what they did Friday night in the Staples Center.

There are very few bright spots from this game. For a team with such continuity, it sure seemed like there was a lot of confusion often, with the offense lacking the usual crispness. The shot was not falling, obviously. We missed a ton of shots at the rim. The bench was a bit listless (outside of Manu, who is classified more as “Bench +” or “Starter -“) and we just couldn’t put the team away, though we had ample opportunity to.

But let’s focus on some of those bright spots:

–Manu and Boris had the ‘flashier’ games, but this was a Tony Parker game all the way. It’s the sort of performance we need from him to get those early and mid-season wins on the road when nothing is falling. His shot was falling, and he was able to penetrate and create just enough offense for the rest of the team.

–Manu looks good early. He seems to have his legs, which makes every part of his game come alive. His shot is reliable, his defensive peskiness is there, and he is playing less recklessly.

–Boris had a pretty poor first half, but he really kept the team afloat in the second half and in the closing stretch. A lot is being made about how aggressive he is being with his shot. As long as we don’t lose playmaking Boris. It’s a fine balance for him, but the early returns look good. He really is a luxury to have on a roster with his versatility on both ends of the court and his playmaking abilities.

–Kawhi had one of those quiet games when you look up and he has 15 points and 12 rebounds. Ho hum. The growing pains are evident when the team deliberately makes him a focal point offensively, but he is still giving so much as that ‘garbage player’ who does every little thing that helps to win games. The risk when a player is ready to “make the leap” (like so many predict Kawhi will) is that as he becomes a more aggressive scorer, everything else drops off, and he no longer provides the other things that are often more valuable. So far, Leonard shows no signs of giving up his complete awesomeness.

–Say what you want about Splitter (and many do, and I hope to have a more Splitter-centric post in the near future), but the man plays his ass off. His shot was off tonight, but his energy and rebounding prowess was critical. He’ll never be a star, but if he’s your starting Center and plays his role, you’ll be alright.

With a quick turnaround, the boys are playing up here in Portland Saturday night. Portland is coming in from Denver, so it should be an interesting game energetically. The Spurs suck in Portland over the last half-decade, and we often seem to get ‘schedule losses’ up here (meaning we play up here at the end of long road trips and/or on the second night of back-to-backs). I don’t know what to expect, but we could see some interesting things from Pop.

(Also, I won’t be at the game, which will give the Spurs a better chance of winning. You’re welcome.)

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