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The Quiet, Polite Wrecking Ball

By Jeff Koch on November 11, 2013.

San Antonio 109, Philadelphia 85

Another night, another East coast team, another lopsided shellacking doled out by the Spurs. At first blush, this might seem like a repeat of yesterday’s whooping of the Knicks, but tonight’s game was anything but, mainly because the Sixers, while young and inexperienced, actually played hard and made an effort to get back into the game.

Yet the Spurs still had their way with them, jumping out big early yet again, and keeping the game on a yo-yo for the remainder. There’s a reason why a player’s prime is usually his late 20s and early 30s, because all of the youth and athleticism in the world doesn’t do much without experience and intelligence. (The prime being a potent mix of the two.) Tonight the Spurs showed the Sixers that discipline, intelligence, and efficiency can steamroll all the energy in the world.

I enjoy this Philadelphia team. They play genuinely hard, they attack, they play for each other, and they have a good nucleus of players to build on. (They’re also coached by Spurs’ bench alum Brett Brown.) I thought there defense in the paint and at the rim was very strong and took away a lot of points from the Spurs. But the difference in the fluidity of the offense between the two teams is staggering. The Spur whipped the ball around, went inside and outside, side to side, always making 1 or 2 extra passes and getting a wide open shot. When the Sixers were shutting down the rim, we went to the next most efficient place: the 3-point line. And drained it. And drained it. And drained it. Rinse repeat.

The Sixers made a few passes, but mostly relied on athleticism and one-on-one basketball to create their points. With the Spurs’ disciplined defense, even when the younger Sixers beat their men on the perimeter, there was more bodies waiting for them.

The Sixers made little runs to get glimpses back into the game, but it was fool’s gold, because Pop always had his ace in the hole: Tony Parker. Let this post serve as our annual beginning of the season post in which we remind the world that Parker is really good at being a point guard in the NBA. For my money, he’s the best PG in the league. Take Chris Paul, take Derrick Rose, take Russell Westbrook, I’m sticking with Parker. Speaking of players in their prime, Parker is still as physically gifted as any guard in the league (he can literally break a defense down by himself by dribbling around for about 10 seconds, usually leading to a lay-up), and has complete mastery of the Spurs’ offensive system. Tonight he barely broke a sweat yet continually broke the Philadelphia defense, often making it look silly. (This is not an insult to Philly in the least.) Whenever the Sixers even got a hint of a comeback, Parker would re-enter and re-establish the Spurs’ hold of the game. (He finished with a game-high +25, 5 better than any other player). He has finally found the perfect balance of scoring and sharing, fast breaking and slowing down, when to attack, when to probe, when to feed the big man, when to find his shooters. And when it’s time to win the game in the 4th quarter, he’s secretly become one of the more clutch shooters in the league. And have we mentioned that his biggest glaring weakness for his entire career might now be his biggest strength? He can hit that 18-foot elbow jumper like nobody’s business.

To be blessed with a Duncan, a Popovich, a Ginobili, and a Parker in one run is almost unfair.

A few more notes from tonight’s game:

–Does anyone else get a big grin whenever Mills is in the game? I’m not sure how many steals off the inbounds from a made basket he ended up with, but it seemed like he disrupted at least 5. He’s such a pest defensively and a great shooter offensively, and plays with great energy. He’s a perfect bench player.

–While the Sixers interior D was solid, the Spurs might lead the league in blown gimmes. Splitter is the master of it, and Jeff Ayres is fiercely battling for the crown. It’s so hard to get mad at them, because they both work so hard to get proper position, almost always make the right play, and give so much to the team…yet just miss such easy baskets. Someday.

–I’m sure the Knicks’ horrible defense and the Sixers’ young defense has a lot to do with it, but the offense and ball movement in particular have looked really great these last few games.

–So has Danny Green.

–Leonard had a nice little run in the 3rd quarter in this game when he really showed off what an offensive weapon he will be. If come playoff time we have Parker running the show, with Duncan and Leonard both as legitimate #2 focal options, Ginobili his same wild card self, Boris and Belinelli also creative X-factors, and Mills and Green (and others) as perimeter shooters, this could be a scary good team.

–This team just won 5 games in 7 nights, and sits at 7-1, atop the West, while still spreading the minutes around and generally not playing all that great. I’ll take that.

The next game is back home against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

One final note: Today is Veteran’s day, and everyone at SpursDynasty is greatly appreciative and forever grateful to all that our Veteran’s have given to us and for us. There is no other professional sports team more tied to the military and its veterans than the San Antonio Spurs, and that relationship is one that I think all of us fans truly appreciate and take great pride in. To all Veterans, thank you.

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