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Patty Is The New Manu

By Jeff Koch on April 11, 2014.

San Antonio 109, Dallas 100

A few thoughts about last night’s game before tonight’s game:

–It occurred to me during the first half, as Manu was throwing the ball all over the court (in the bad way) and looked generally out of sorts, that Patty’s ascendence this year is the real counter to this. (Many people argue that Kawhi would be taking Manu’s spot; but Kawhi’s development is a totally different animal.) The role Manu has had over the last few seasons as 6th Man Extraordinaire has been to come off the bench, change the dynamic on the court, bring energy and passion, and be the primary playmaker for the bench, stemming the tide between Parker and Duncan shifts. Now Patty doesn’t have nearly Manu’s court vision or creative genius. Few do. At this stage in their respective careers, though, Patty is a much more volume scorer and a better shooter. If the end result is to get points and keep the offense humming, both do that, albeit in different ways. Which isn’t to say that Patty isn’t a playmaker or a willing passer: he is. He just has a different role. Defensively, they are similar in that they are both pesky, both disruptive, both play with high energy, and both change the entire floor dynamic when they enter.

–Of course, Manu had a wonderful second half. Manu and Patty together, both playing well, is a bit weapon to have.

–Pop seemed to be in playoff mode last night with his rotations and minutes. With a near-assured win looming on the last day of the season, he knew that the team only needed to win one of these next three to absolutely secure home court advantage. Tonight’s game seems like a sure ‘rest’ game, and Monday’s game is against the Spurs-kryptonite Rockets. So this game seemed the most logical to really go after. I also think Pop likes to use certain games as playoff simulations, and probably wanted to see how the team would respond after the Minnesota debacle. Considering that the game was a playoff game for Dallas, the team responded well and matched the energy of Dallas well. While the Spurs are still playing for something, Dallas is playing for everything, and it would have been easy for the team with more to play for to win.

–Speaking of playoff rotations, I think we can more or less say good-bye to Joseph except in spot minutes once the playoffs start. The drop off in offensive rhythm when he enters the game (versus both Tony and Patty) is remarkable. It was noticeable both Tuesday and last night. This is why Patty started. I like his defense, and he does have a good attacking mentality on offense, but he just doesn’t have that instinctual vision that is almost necessary to play in the Spurs’ offense.

–Boris and Belinelli seem to be mini-slumping at a bad time. I hope it’s just a minor, passing thing. Boris, in particular, is hugely important to our playoff hopes. Marco is, too; but with Leonard’s increased minutes, Belinelli will suffer the most minutes loss from regular season to playoffs. Still, his shooting will be hugely important at least once come playoff time.

–Speaking of Leonard, 16 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 huge wrecking ball over the Mavs. Kid is playing out of his mind.

–Duncan didn’t break his knee. In essence, all other stories are meaningless. Holy hell, when I saw him on the floor…. And then he came back and played like the bad ass he is. You know we’re going to miss him when he’s gone, right? (But don’t spend too much time thinking about that; it’s sad.)

–Tiago Splitter was a +39 from the floor in 28 minutes. That’s insane, even given the relative meaninglessness of that stat for individual games. But it shows his value, even if lots of people think he stinks. Between him, Boris, and Kawhi, he did the best job guarding Dirk. He also had a very solid offensive game, which is everything the team wants from him.

–The game got me thinking about the last time the Mavs beat the Spurs (San Antonio has now won 9 straight). It was the game. The game 2 seasons ago when the Spurs got down big, Pop put all of the scrubs in, they made a furious come back, Green hit the buzzer beater only was 0.0002 seconds too late, and the team eventually lost in OT. But, that kickstarted the entire season, leading to that crazy 20-game win streak, the run to the Conference Finals, and, in many ways, last season’s run and this season’s success. So thank you, Dallas.

–If the playoffs started today, Dallas would be San Antonio’s first round opponent…because they beat them last night, which knocked them from 7th down to 8th. Tonight, they play Phoenix, the current 7 seed. Many people–including me–think Pop will rest a bunch of players tonight. If Phoenix wins as a result, the Spurs will have essentially given the Suns a one-game bump over both Dallas and Memphis. In unrelated news, the team the Spurs probably want to face the least in the first round is Phoenix, and as an added bonus to avoiding the Suns, the Thunder get to play them in the first round. But, Dallas, Memphis, and Phoenix all play against each other in a perverse round-robin like tourney to close out the season. Almost as if the schedule makers knew. I have a hunch we won’t know who the 8 seed is until the final day of the season, but the Spurs are certainly playing a role in choosing it for themselves.

The Spurs play the Suns tonight. It’s a back to back for the Spurs, not the Suns. The Suns are also playing for their playoff lives. The Spurs have 2 days off after this game. Parker is injured, Manu got kicked in the leg a few nights ago, Duncan almost broke his leg in half at the knee last night. Anyone who misses tonight’s game will get an extra two days of rest. Hmmm… On the other hand, Pop doesn’t often do mass resting at home, so we’ll see. But I think 2 of those 3 rest, and maybe even one or two ancillary players (Green and Splitter have been given days off in the season pretty regularly). A loss isn’t a huge thing here, especially given the bump it gives to the Suns chasing the 7 seed. But a win secures the overall top seed for the Spurs.

Either way, it should be an entertaining game.

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