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All’s Well That Ends Well?

By Jeff Koch on January 7, 2014.

San Antonio 110, Memphis 108

Or, a win is a win is a win is a win.

The Spurs had a chance to put the finishing touches on this one late and ensure that all of their players stay at or below their season averages for minutes. After Mills hit a 3 to put the team up 15, the wheels slowly came off the bus. The Spurs played cautious and tight and to not lose, allowing the desperate Memphis team to miraculously send the game to OT. The Grizzles got their first lead of the game at 103-102 a few minutes into OT, but the Spurs were able to grind out the win in OT. Despite the late collapse, the Spurs showed tremendous mental resolve to gather themselves and still get the win. While cruising to the win would have been more impressive, the OT crunch time reps might do the team more good in the long run.

Unless, of course, Manu did lasting damage to that hamstring. Then it really sucks.

With a very quick turnaround against Dallas tomorrow night in San Antonio, the extra rest would have been nice. But Dallas played tonight, as well, and the Spurs’ bench players have shown great pride and effort when called upon for bigger roles. I expect a competitive game with Dallas, and with a couple days of rest looming, I also expect tremendous energy and effort, regardless of tonight’s extended duty.

A few more thoughts from tonight’s game:

–Memphis is much less scary without Gasol. They were missing Tony Allen, too. The Grizzlies are a very good team when fully healthy, but they depend so much on each of their 4 main players and really can’t suffer losing any of them. They go from fearsome to ordinary in a hurry.

–Pop continued his “never again” streak against ZBo. After that infamous playoff upset, never again.

–Conley has always been the Memphis player I fear the most. Conley:Parker::Parker:CP3. Most consider CP3 better than Parker, but Parker often gets the best of him. Likewise, Parker is considered a better player than Conley, But Conley always seems to eat his lunch. He was unconscious in the fourth quarter, spearheading the comeback. This is also a big reason why they beat us in those playoffs: Conley played Parker to a draw, when Parker was expected to be a major advantage for us.

–Pop is amazing out of TOs with the game on the line. End of regulation and end of OT, and we get two layups from one of our best players. Of course, it helps to have hall of fame players that have shared the court for over a decade together.

–In a last second situation where we’re only keying in on D, I wonder why Pop doesn’t take Parker out and put Green in to play D on the opposing PG? He’s not afraid to take Duncan out in ‘switch everything’ situations. Wouldn’t Green be better guarding Conley when all the team needs is D?

–I don’t think we fully grasp how amazing TD is. Hell, I don’t think I even fully grasp it. He is older than me, and he is still killing the league. That rebound in OT–not to mention the clutch FTs–was insane.

–Turns out Marco can play with the starters if you just give him some time to adjust. He’s been one of the team’s leading scorers in several of the last games, and he is starting to get very comfortable with the starters. Some random game, just watch Marco (and not the ball) on offense. He has an amazing feel for space and where to move. He and Manu have a great connection, but TD and TP are also starting to figure him out. It’s beautiful to watch.

–Another advantage of having Marco in the starting line-up: it’s like having most of Manu’s attributes while still saving Manu for the bench. So the team gets crazy good court vision at all times. There was a play early in the 1st quarter when the Spurs got a quick TO in Marco’s hands, who saw a streaking Kawhi on the opposite end of the court, and he threw a beautiful overhead 3/4 court pass for an easy layup. Only Boris, Manu, and Marco see this pass and make it. It’s good to have that vision with the starters.

–And while Green may have permanently lost his starting position, I also think he’s been playing quite well lately. Really locking in on D, playing aggressive but in control on O, and, most importantly, being a difference maker on the court. He doesn’t have to hit 7 3s in a game for it to be successful. I think some of his best games are the less flashy ones.

–I like Jeff Ayres a lot. He plays D, sets screens, and gets rebounds. His learning curve has been pretty steep, but as he gets more and more comfortable, his O will start to look a lot better. But his work on the glass in particular is outstanding.

–One thought I had while watching tonight’s game: the reason fans often panic early in the season is that our last frame of reference is how the team ended the season prior. So we look at the team today and figure we’re doomed because we’re not playing like we did at the end of last season, even though the numbers compared to the same point in the schedule from last year are almost identical. Those Finals, despite the Spurs loss, were historically good. Two great teams going at each other. That’s a process you build to. Trust the process; let the season develop. We won’t see the best of these Spurs for a long time, but know that it’s coming.

Early tip time against Dallas tomorrow night!

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