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Ricky Don’t Lose That Number

By Jeff Koch on November 23, 2013.

San Antonio 102, Memphis 86

Much like our beloved Spurs, I had an away “game” (show) last night, with a quick turnaround back at home tonight. So just some brief thoughts from last night’s win over Memphis:

–Everybody in the NBA world knows this, but the Spurs have completely owned Memphis since that infamous first round playoff series. I doubt Pop and Duncan (and the rest) will ever forget that, and always seem to bring their best again the Grizzlies. In particular, ZBo always has terrible games against us, after destroying us in those 6 games. The funny thing is, the games are almost always close, but the Spurs always have a little bit more and just seem to have Memphis’ number.

–Conley, Jr. out-Parkered Tony Parker last night. Conley, Jr. always seems to be perpetually underrated, and I think his closest analog is Parker, who suffered a similar fate until years upon years of superlative play just forced his name into the conversation. I really like his game.

–That being said, Parker still got the upper hand in crunch time, as is his wont. Remember when we didn’t trust Parker in the 4th quarter, and we just gave the ball to Ginobili to make things happen? Now Parker is finishing off games as both a scorer and a playmaker, and rarely makes a misstep late in games. (For now we won’t mention his very mediocre play through three quarters.)

–A lot has been made of Ducan’s early season struggles, and rightfully so. Of equal concern for me is the hot and cold 3-point shooting. As much as Duncan’s reticence to shoot that 18-footer is gumming up the works of the offense, so is the lack of quality 3-point shooting, which shrinks the floor and allows defenses to squeeze in and tighten up. In particular, the starting line-up only has 2 quality 3-point shooters, Leonard and Green, and both are struggling in different ways. Leonard is just below average on the shots, and Green can’t seem to get any space to get them off. This is why our starting line-up is having a hard time getting any good offense going at the beginning of games. Luckily, they are beastly (still) on defense.

–The bench unit, on the other hand, is on fire offensively. (They aren’t too shabby defensively, either). They are really winning a lot of these games for us, opening up insurmountable leads in short bursts in both halves. This is all well and good early in the season, but this is beginning to remind me of 2 years ago, when the Spurs went 10 and 11 deep, and rolled to a historic season, only to be cut down by the Thunder in the Conference Finals. I’m not worried yet, but we do need more balance from our units, and more from our starters in general. Luckily, the 2nd unit does have at least 3 players I still trust in playoff situations: Manu, Marco, and Boris.

–Tiago Splitter was the best player on the team last night. He seems to have taken a step on both ends of the floor, and he is playing with confidence in himself and in his knowledge and abilities in the system. The FG% is starting to come around, highlighting just how good he’s been all season on both ends of the floor. More intuitively, he just seems to be more aggressive this year, playing as if he belongs. Which, he does.

–Manu also had a Manu night, whipping passes around, seeing things that only 10 people ever could see, running the offense with the bench, and making ‘winning’ plays. The difference between “Good Manu” and “Bad Manu” are so slight. Two of them are turnovers and made baskets. Last night he protected the ball and made some shots, which is almost like a perfect game for him.

The Spurs face the mess that is the Cavaliers tonight in San Antonio. This has the potential for a scheduling and energy let down loss, but if the Spurs just play smart, they should get the win.

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