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We’ll Spot You A Quarter

By Jeff Koch on December 10, 2013.

San Antonio 116, Toronto 103

This game had 2 permutations: the first quarter, in which the Raptors couldn’t miss a shot against a lackluster Spurs defense and won 36-24; and the rest.

The rest saw the Spurs outscore Toronto 92-67, and it was only that close because of some last minute garbage time scoring.

The Spurs should have won this game easily as Toronto just engaged in a major trade, losing Rudy Gay and a few other players, and their acquired players have yet to arrive in Canada. So they were playing a very short roster. The first quarter was not surprising, though, because the team they do have is still quite talented and they were clearly playing with a lot of pride. Even as the lead got to as high as 14 in that first quarter, I never doubted the Spurs would win. Depth, experience, and talent would all out.

A few thoughts from the game:

–Baynes was the star of the show. In the first quarter, the Raptors killed the Spurs inside, particularly with Valanciunas. He is a big boy and a good player, and neither Duncan nor Ayres could handle him. But Baynes could. After a wonderful first quarter, Valanciunas was barely heard from again the rest of the game.

More impressive, though, was Baynes offense. He must have done at least 3 things I’d never seen from him before. (One of which was a drive from 18 feet to the hoop, finished off with a dunk. Oh my.) His time in Austin with the Toros is clearly paying off, and it’s a wonderful endorsement for the program the team is developing there. For a young player not getting much playing time to get a few games in as a starter, primary focal point, and tons of minutes running the same system as the “big” club is invaluable. Baynes was playing with a confidence I had not seen in him yet. Often the difference between a 13th man on a bench and a 7th or 8th man is comfort and confidence. Austin can provide Baynes with both, and the trust of the coaching staff for when a big body is needed in an important game.

I’ll be curious to see how Pop uses him tomorrow night in Milwaukee. He has earned some more meaningful playing time.

–Danny Green also had a solid game. With Danny, it seems he is prone to either fantastic games or total garbage games. Tonight was somewhere in the middle, and I’d like to see that happen with more consistency. He continued to play wonderful defense (and was particularly strong on the defensive boards), but showed a patience on offense that has been lacking. He made one great drive after being run off the 3-point line, finding a cutting Kawhi Leonard with a difficult pass for a finish at the rim. Then later he sunk a big 3 in the flow of the offense after patiently allowing a defender to fly by him. 14 points on 5 of 7 shooting, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, 2 blocks and a +15 should be a regular line for him.

–Manu is also having a wonderful season, and has looked great in the last few weeks. His long-distance shot is falling and he is finishing at the rim with great accuracy.

But the best part is watching him orchestrate that second unit with Marco, Patty, and Boris. He is like a kid playing with toys out there. It’s insanely fun to watch, too. He had 9 assists tonight, and surely would have had ten-plus if Pop hadn’t pulled him due to the score. I think most of them were of the variety that only Manu could pull off. A lot is made of his connection with Marco, but he and Patty have great chemistry, too, and he had great back door passes to both tonight. If he is playmaking with the second unit AND shooting well AND driving AND keeping his turnovers low, he’ll have his best season in years.

It felt good to get a convincing win, even against a weaker and diminished opponent. After a few games of suspect play, both the offense and defense seemed to come alive after that first quarter. It was nice to see.

The team plays in Milwaukee Wednesday night against another Eastern Conference team crippled by injuries. The Spurs always seem to have trouble in Milwaukee, but, like tonight, with the right focus and appropriate fear, this should be another mark in the win column.

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