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Everybody Gets Orange Wedges

By Jeff Koch on March 24, 2014.

Philadelphia 91, San Antonio 113

The San Antonio Spurs beat the Philadelphia 76ers at the AT&T Center by 22 points while resting 3 starters in what might be the largest team-wide talent and quality gap in the NBA. The end.

Or, a few more thoughts on tonight’s game:

–Tonight was a classic ‘one team is playing checkers, the other team is playing chess’ game. Much like those Lakers games, the Spurs ran the risk of being too clever, of outthinking themselves, making too many extra passes, etc. I thought the team played very well on offense, staying within their system but always taking the first available great look. The defense was lackluster to start the game, but really picked up at the end of the first into the second quarter, in which they held the 76ers scoreless for some 6 minute of game time. The contest was pretty much over after that.

–Speaking of checkers and chess, Manu was kind of a train wreck out there in large part because of this. His basketball mind and vision are so far evolved that this game of checkers had him completely baffled. He was throwing the ball all over the place and just seemed completely out of sorts. There’s a theory that when Columbus and his crew landed on the shores of America, the Natives literally couldn’t even see their ships because their brains had no comprehension for it. This is like that, but in reverse. Manu literally can’t see the 76ers defense because it’s so far beneath his basketball vision.

–Alas, this game was also almost beneath Duncan’s dignity to play in. Almost. I don’t think he had to shoot anything other than a layup all game.

–Hello, Austin Daye. Nice to meet you. Any game against the 76ers should be taken with a grain of salt, but Daye really showed something out there. More than the shooting (everybody knew he could shoot), the way he moved the ball, played D, used his long arms and body on both sides of the court, and generally fit into the system were pretty revelatory. I don’t think he’s a regular rotation player by any means yet, but ask yourself this: who adds more to the team, Daye or Bonner? Daye is a Stretch-4 like Bonner, shoots as well as him, but is longer, more athletic, and has more court vision. We know Pop likes to throw Matt out there to shake up the offense every so often. Couldn’t he do that with Daye and actually get a bit more?

–People will talk about how Daye is just the next player to come to the Spurs and suddenly be better. It’s true. More than anything, this coaching staff should get credit for actually developing players and allowing them to become the best possible basketball players they could be. Think of Cory Joseph, and how slowly but definitively he has developed over 3 years. He played tonight and wasn’t anything but spectacular, but he (and the coaching staff) have turned him into a legitimate NBA player, when most people thought he couldn’t ever become one. He plays great D, his shooting is reliable, and he has real moves and an ability to score around the basket. On another team, he is washed out of the league in less than 4 years.

–The team actually played better tonight with the reserves (rather than the starters). That makes sense in a game like this. Daye and Joseph and Ayres are out there fighting for their basketball lives, given a real chance to prove something. They’re playing with more urgency and energy than the starters. But they also know that, on this team, to impress the staff, you must play hard and smart and within the system. It’s fun to watch these players run the system and play so well.

Up next is a home and home with Denver (in San Antonio Wednesday, Denver Friday). It’s always tough to win in Denver, and the Nuggets have huge spoiler potential. Plus, you have to imagine that Pop wants to lose at some point soon. Still, the best chance for that might be Saturday against the Pelicans.

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