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Battle of the 3-Point Specialist Back-Up SGs

By Jeff Koch on February 28, 2014.

Charlotte 82, San Antonio 92

It probably wasn’t the deciding factor in the game, but the game sure felt like a referendum on our choice in 7th/8th men, the sweet shooting SG off the bench. Marco vs. Gary. It was almost comical watching them go at each other in the first 4 minutes of the 4th quarter, as they traded baskets (and Gary even got in a nice shot to the head). Neal, freed from the disaster in Milwaukee and able to play a role more suitable to his talents on this Charlotte team, played like a man possessed, determined to ‘stick it’ to his old team. No animosity, just a desire to play well against his former team.

And the full “Gary Neal Experience” was in effect. It’s interesting observing it from the other end, shaking your head at the makes, nodding knowingly at the misses. A player like Neal has to be taken in his entirety, good and bad, because streak shooters–by definition–will miss plenty. When they start making it, they can swing a game. Neal tried his best to swing tonight’s game, and the always pesky Bobcats hung around for 46 1/2 minutes. Ultimately, they fell short.

Ultimately, Neal falls short to Marco individually, at least in terms of fit with this Spurs team. Even tonight, Marco showed how much more breadth there is to his game, that he’s not just a spot-up shooter nor a streak player, and that he can be relied upon to run the offense (during that stretch in the 4th, Belinelli was the PG for the Spurs, Neal was not). Marco has so much junk in his game and is so clever with the ball, he can be relied upon for so much more. Not to mention I just intuitively trust his wide open shooting more. It was his 3, after all, that helped to seal the game late in the 4th, a wide-open shot off of a beautiful set. I’m not saying Neal misses that shot; just that I feel more confident with Marco shooting it.

So while we fret about this year’s Spurs team (an annual tradition, humorous for a team so successful), remember this: Marco is better than Neal; Mills is better than Joseph/Mills of last season; Manu this year is better than Manu last year; Diaw, as well, seems to be having a better all-around year. Everything else is pretty much the same. While it might not feel like it, the Spurs are in a similar position as last year: lurking, but not the presumed favorite in the league or even the West.

It’s a good place to be.

A few more thoughts from tonight’s victory:

–Both teams played really great D tonight, which usually means the line between ‘great D’ and ‘bad O’ gets very blurry. The Bobcats did a great job of shutting down the rim and the 3-point line for long stretches against the Spurs, which mucks up the offense. However, it was a stretch of wide open 3-balls that got us back in the game in the 2nd quarter. The Spurs also had several possessions of really great defense that led to off-balance buzzer beating long jumpers from the Bobcats. It happens.

–I was about to make a note that I thought Leonard should be in the game down the stretch instead of Ginobili (because Manu had a pretty poor game), and then Manu had a crazy good block on D, drew a charge on the next D possession, and made a twisty lay-up and-1 that really put the game away. So, you know, typical Manu.

–Mills also had a typical Patty Pesk play that gave the team an extra possession in the last minute of the game. That was huge (and eventually led to the Marco 3).

–Splitter seemed really out of sorts tonight, particularly on offense. I’m not sure if this is why Diaw got the start in the 2nd half, or if it was just to set the rotations better. It’s nice to have a deep rotation of bigs to call upon, and particularly a “do-it-all” type like Boris at our disposal. He covers a lot of ills.

–Kawhi and Tim are both kings of the “how did they end up with that stat line?” game. Hey, did you know Duncan had a 17-16-6 game tonight? Kawhi had 12-8 with 3 steals and 2 blocks. Ho hum.

–This Charlotte team is good and scrappy. I’d enjoy rooting for them if they were my team. Among many things, I’m particularly impressed with their rebounding on both ends of the floor. I felt like we had no chance at a single offensive board, and that we were under pressure on every defensive board (and in fact gave up 12 offensive boards for plenty of second chance points). Funny enough, we out rebounded them for the game, but it sure didn’t feel like it. (A large part of that is that they missed 57 shots while we missed 39, so we had more opportunity for defensive boards. The flip side of that: they put up 17 more shots than we did.)

Dallas comes to town Sunday. Any game against the Mavericks is an important one.

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