Season 51, Game 10
San Antonio 112, Phoenix 95
6-4, 5th in the West
After a lethargic–if not entirely disappointing–first half, the Spurs seemed to remember they were playing the Phoenix Suns on the end of a 5-game, 10-day road trip on their home floor. The Spurs raced to a 34-13 3rd quarter and a 55-27 second half before both teams pulled the plug and we entered extended garbage time.
Patty Mills continued to show he deserves the starting PG spot by scoring 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting (3-of-5 from 3) and dishing out a team-high 4 assists. He came alive in the 3rd quarter, hitting 3 3s on the same action, a simple high pick-and-roll that the Suns big refused to step up on. He seems to be playing with more confidence and court awareness, and will likely remain the starter until Parker comes back.
At which point there is likely to be some PG confusion. Or possibly not at all, as Murray continues to struggle after a strong start to the season. I’m not sure if he’s just crashing back to earth (he is a very young 2nd year player, after all) or if he is struggling with some confidence issues. Either way, he is not playing like a net-positive on the floor.
Not struggling with confidence is Danny Green. Danny has long been a barometer for Spurs’ fans, between those who see his true value and those who think he’s a bum, to put it kindly. After the start to this season, there shouldn’t be a fan alive who questions his value. His defense remains top notch, his shooting is the best it’s been in 3 seasons, and he’s suddenly Dwayne Wade off the dribble. So yeah, that’s good.
My new favorite end-of-the-bench player is Brandon Paul. I love his game. He’s already a plus-defender (can you imagine a small line-up with him, Green, and Leonard?), and his shooting and playmaking has been a revelation. He made two passes that Manu might be the only other player on the team who could make. He is for real. Even though he is a rookie, he is 26, so I’m hoping that Pop continues to give him minutes and show confidence in him.
What we’re seeing early in this season is that the Spurs have a really good roster built around a superstar player. They’re just missing that superstar player. So they’re going to win games they should, though it might be tighter than expected; and, on the flip side, they’ll likely lose some games in frustrating fashion. As long as the team can stay in a strong position awaiting Leonard’s return, they can be competitive by the end of the season.
Assuming everything is right with Leonard. The longer it takes for him to come back, the more worrisome this becomes. (But it’s best not to think too much about that.)
Up next, the Clippers comes to town. This is the game on the homestand I’m most interested in. The Clippers have had a hot start to the season, and appear to be just fine after losing Chris Paul. This team has been a thorn in the Spurs side over the last few seasons, and I don’t know how much of that was because of Paul. Either way, this will be a good early-season test for the team.
Go Spurs Go.