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Old Faithful

By Jeff Koch on February 12, 2014.

San Antonio 104, Boston 92

Death, taxes, and Tim Duncan.

When you’re down 2 future hall of famers and 2 top-flight defensive rotation players, there aren’t many tricks left up your sleeve. Luckily, San Antonio can still play a card it’s had in its hand for almost 2 decades: get it into the post to Tim Duncan.

Even today, as Duncan nears the end of his career with just a hint of the athleticism of the 1999 model, the Duncan post-up is still a viable offensive cornerstone. He is still an efficient and effective scorer down low; but he also has spectacular court awareness and the passing ability to match, and the Spurs keep the rest of the offense quite active around him, so there are always cutters cutting and shooters ready to shoot if a defensive players lapses for even a moment. So with the game stuck in a rut entering the second half (and Duncan with only 2 points), the Spurs went to Tim early and often. He missed his first few shots, but you could see where this was headed. Boston couldn’t stop it, and once Duncan got a couple of his turnarounds to fall, the rest of the offense completely opened up around him.

It took a bit longer than it should have, but the Spurs slowly seized control of the game. With 6 days of rest looming and the game there for the taking, Pop went away from his usual rotations and started Duncan (along with fellow starter Diaw) at the top of the 4th quarter rather than allowing him his usual 4-6 minutes of rest. The gambit paid off, as the Spurs got a double digit lead about 3 1/2 minutes in and never looked back.

25 points and 9 rebounds. Just another night of work for the ageless legend.

A few more thoughts from tonight’s win:

–Belinelli’s line is pretty incredible: 16 pts, 11 rebs, 8 assts. It just kind of snuck up on me, particularly the last two numbers. Along with Mills and Diaw, his offense really kept the team in the game in the first half. The rebounds and assists are huge, though, particularly missing Parker, Leonard, and Splitter.

–I really liked Joseph’s game tonight as the starting PG. I’ve been down on him at the PG spot this season, but he ran the team very well tonight. He kept the ball and the team moving without trying to do too much, and was active and solid on defense. 11 pts, 5 asts, and 3 steals is solid. He’ no Parker (obviously), and he doesn’t bring the same energy that Mills brings as back-up PG, but he has turned himself into a very useful utility guard off the bench, able to play the 1, 2, and 3 position in a pinch and fill in whatever holes exist because of injury or match-up. With his defense (and improving shooting), he’ll always be a useful player to have on the bench.

–It was nice to see Shannon Brown finally get an emphatic dunk for the Spurs.

–Given the injuries and mishmash rotations Pop is forced to play, a 4-2 start to the Rodeo Road Trip is very impressive. Granted, this was the easier swing. But with 6 days off before facing the red-hot Clippers in LA, the team has time to heal and get ready for the tough match-up. Parker should be back, Splitter will hopefully be back, and Manu might even be back. This 6-game swing was more something to survive than thrive in, and 4-2 is a net-positive considering 2-4 was just as realistic. It hasn’t really been pretty or overly impressive basketball; but, again, with the rotations and players that the team is relying upon heavily right now, every game is a battle, and every win is to be savored.

And now…6 days off. Never has an All-Star break been more necessary for this team. Hopefully the team can get some rest and recovery and be ready to make a strong end-of-season push into the playoffs.

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