Turning the Corner
San Antonio 113, Los Angeles Clippers 103
In what feels like an annual tradition, the Spurs kickstarted the post-All Star break schedule with a bit of a head-turning win. Down Parker, Leonard, and Splitter, and with a very limited Manu, the Spurs looked more like the Spurs than they have in weeks, using selfless team play and solid execution throughout to put away the talented Clippers. Griffin had another solid outing, but San Antonio was able to completely lock up Chris Paul, mostly with Cory Joseph and Danny Green and some smart help defense. In the end, it was the traditional formula for the Spurs win: solid team defense, solid team offense, trust in the system, execution, everybody playing their designated role.
Oh, and Patty Mills continuing his torrid stretch. Holy heck, I don’t even know what to say about Mills anymore. He took some ridiculous shots…that all went in. He had at least 2 shots that were so soft and so true, that even though they were bricks, they just kind of sat on the rim until they casually fell through. He scored 11 points in the first 3 1/2 minutes of the 4th quarter, completely destroying the Clippers bench, and prompting Doc to put Paul and Griffin back in earlier than he wanted. No matter, Patty kept hitting shots and outplaying whatever guard was on him.
And here’s why I love Pop: even though Patty is in the midst of the hottest streak of his career and clearly has now been the catalyst for at least 2 big road wins, he is still coming off the bench. Not only that, he is still playing very limited minutes. It’s almost as if Pop is saving him up for the 4th quarter, when he can just unleash him, full of energy and confidence. Joseph gets the start (and is playing solid), Patty sticks to his normal shifts until the end of the game.
Ditto Manu. Ginobili came back on restricted minutes, and Pop kept enough in the tank to have him available for the 4th quarter. And while he looked a bit creaky, he grabbed a huge offensive rebound, and got to the line for a bunch of huge free throws to ice the game.
Our best lineup available? Tim, Patty, Manu, Green, and Diaw. Didn’t play together until the last 6 minutes of the game, when it was time to win. This is why it can be so hard to judge the Spurs, because Pop plays the long game, longer than any other coach or team in the league. Add in all of the injuries, and there is just no telling what this team can be. Most people have given the West to OKC, and they deserve to be the favorites. But I think the best of this Spurs team is in front of us these next few months. Just how Pop has been planning it.
This was a big win in the big picture, too. It gives us the tiebreaker over the Clippers, which could come into play while fighting for the 2-4 seed in the West. It is probably also the “biggest” win of the season, a road win against a fully healthy contender. It also ensures a winning record for the Rodeo Road Trip, which is big psychologically.
Plotting out the best case scenario for this three game swing, a split in these first two games and then a win in Phoenix on Friday would be a realistic ‘very good’ scenario. The game in LA was probably the more likely of the first two to win, so this takes a bunch of pressure off of the (currently being played) Blazers game. (We already know that Duncan is resting, though so is Aldridge, so perhaps the team still has a chance. Patty will win it for us!) Still, I would expect a loss in Portland tonight, making Friday’s game in Phoenix another chance for a big road win.
This is when the season starts to get really good. Let’s enjoy it.
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