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Duct Tape And A Paper Clip

By Jeff Koch on March 23, 2014.

San Antonio 99, Golden State 90

I’m not entirely sure how we won that game. Tim and Manu didn’t play. Mills and Diaw looked as if they were trying to shoot their way straight out of the league. Parker seemed to want to dribble the game away. Kawhi was an overall net positive, but shot just 5 for 14 and had some bad misses. Austin Daye played meaningful minutes in an NBA game for the first time in who knows. Alongside Jeff Ayres. The team overall shot 39%, 36% from 3 (and missed a whopping 18, some quite badly).

Yet they won going away, never being down by more than 2 points, controlling the game for the most part, though it was close for the majority of the second half. Green and Belinelli had some very timely 3s. Splitter was a horse under neath on both ends. The D, overall, was very solid. But this wasn’t Sacramento or some Eastern Conference team out of the playoffs. This is a team with legitimate title aspirations, fighting for their playoff lives in the Western Conference, with 2 of the best shooters in the game. At home. Still, the Spurs, seemingly stalled out in 3rd gear, got their 13th straight win.

For the first 11 of that streak, everything was clicking for the Spurs on both ends. What I liked about these last 2 wins is that both had to be won on D, grinding out the game. In both games the team shot about 40% and failed to crack 100 points. Yet in both games the team played hard and played well together, shutting down the opposing teams best weapons and getting just enough on offense. It’s a good harbinger for the playoffs, which are going to be a bloodbath in the West.

A few more thoughts from this game and just the team in general:

–For most of this season, the starting unit has maintained their defensive dominance from last year, but had slipped offensively, often handing close games off to the bench. In the last month or so, though, the starting unit has been great on both ends. Both Tiago and Kawhi have kind of quietly upped their offensive efficiency pretty dramatically, and both look to be at peak performance levels heading into the playoffs. For Tiago, it seems to be mostly a matter of health (he’s looking great in pick and rolls again, and finishing stronger at the rim); but for Kawhi, it seems as if he’s jumped another little level. His 3-point shooting has returned, which has opened up a lot more of his game. But he’s also been very aggressive looking for his own offense, cutting to the rim, pull-up jumpers, and even posting up. He often has a size advantage over whomever is guarding him, so his potential post game is really exciting.

–Over the last few weeks, it seems that Baynes has gotten those 4th big minutes over Ayres. Some of this is injury, as Ayres hurt his hand a few weeks ago. I also think some of it is Pop just figuring out what he has in both players. I do think both players have strong situational uses against match-ups, and both are important to have. However, I also think Baynes has stolen that spot in the rotation because he is just a much bigger body than Ayres (you can’t teach size) and can anchor the defense better; plus, Baynes is surprisingly nimble and athletic (with soft hands) for a player his size. Ayres works his butt off and makes great energy plays, but his hands are stone, and any big playing in this system needs to have soft hands and some grace. Ayres bobbles away too many great passes that would be sure fire points.

–Watching the two teams play tonight, it really drove home the importance of chemistry. Both teams were struggling in their offenses, but the Spurs stuck to it, and were still able to get a great deal of what they wanted. The effort, the cutting, and the spacing were still there. On a few occasions, as we’re accustomed to seeing, passes were made to spots blindly because that’s where the player is supposed to be. And they were. On the other side, the Warriors had quite a few turnovers because passes were just made to empty spaces, where the passer thought a player was going to be, but the cutter had other ideas. Miscommunication. Watching so much Spurs basketball, it’s easy to take for granted how special this team’s chemistry is, and how important ‘corporate knowledge’ is to winning basketball. Particularly down the stretch of close games, when every possession will be a battle. It’s nice to know that all 5 players are in sync with each other.

The Spurs head home to face the Sixers Monday night. The Sixers might be one of the worst teams ever assembled in NBA history, which makes it a terrifying proposition to play them.

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