Season 51, Game 27
San Antonio 104, Phoenix 101
19-8, 3rd in the West
The Spurs got lucky in this one. Against about 26 other teams, this game likely would have been a loss. But against these young and rudderless Suns, they were able to squeak out the win.
Like the night before, a late 3-pointer from the wing secured the victory. But unlike the night before, the shot was less triumphant and more “oh thank God”. (This is to take nothing away from Bryn Forbes, who is having a wonderful season and proving himself to be an NBA player with one elite skill and a well-rounded game.)
The thing is: this game had all the markings of a loss. The Spurs were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, traveling West after a tough home win less than 24 hours prior. And six veteran and/or regular rotation players were not playing.
Generally, I love these “end of the bench” games. Against good teams (like the OKC game last week), it’s fun to watch the superior opponent squirm as “scrubs” take it to them. Against bad teams, it’s fun to see them spread their wings and grow and (hopefully) pick up valuable wins. Continue reading
Season 51, Game 25
San Antonio 117, Miami 105
17-8, 3rd in the West
On Monday night, the Spurs used the 3-ball to stay in contact with the Pistons, eventually eking out the win. On Wednesday, the Heat were on fire from deep, nearly pulling off the upset of the Spurs at home. Luckily, the Spurs were mostly able to match the Heat from deep and were able to out-execute the Heat in the other areas to get the win.
Miami hit a ridiculous 18 3-pointers in this game (on 53% shooting from deep). They seemingly could not miss. The Spurs, though, hit 13 (on 52% shooting), keeping up enough to win the game in other facets. While you never want to give up 18 threes in a game (to be fair, some of them were shake-your-head-and-laugh shots that went in), it was nice to see the Spurs embrace the deep ball themselves.
In today’s NBA, you have to be able to shoot from deep. Sure, you can zag against the rest of the league’s zig and continue to play traditional bigs and emphasize the post and midrange; but not at the complete eschewing of the 3-pointer. It just means too much in the game, and you have to take them (and make them) to keep up.
While the Heat are no Warriors or Rockets, they do like to play that style. So to see the Spurs match them was encouraging. Also encouraging: watching the Spurs start the 2nd half small (with Rudy Gay essentially playing the 4 instead of the 3) and try to speed up the pace a bit to match the Heat. Again, it’s nice to be able to play two traditional bigs together and impose your will, but a team needs to have flexibility to compete. Over the last two years, it felt like Coach Pop was a bit too inflexible in his rotations and line-ups, so it’s nice to see him tinkering a bit more at this stage of the season. Continue reading
Season 51, Game 24
San Antonio 96, Detroit 93
16-8, 3rd in the West
If you’re going to punt the front end of a back-to-back by resting half your roster, you damn well better win the back end.
The Spurs did, but the game was in doubt until the end. The Pistons played like the better team for more of the game than the Spurs did. (To their credit, the Pistons actually are a good team.) But the Spurs used the great equalizer–3-point shooting–to stay in touch early, then pulled away late with increased energy and defense.
Besides the 3-point shooting, the other number that jumps out from the box score is the assists: the Spurs had 30 assists on 35 made field goals, while the Pistons had only 15 (also on 35 made field goals). When the ball is moving around, good things usually happen for the Spurs. Every single player on the team recorded at least one assist; no player recorded more than four. That is remarkable.
Season 51, Game 21
San Antonio 104, Memphis 95
14-7, 3rd in the West
This is the LaMarcus Aldridge that was promised.
We all had a vision of what LMA would be in a Spurs’ uniform. Perhaps our expectations were too high. Regardless, these last 2 seasons, he has not met them.
When he signed with the Spurs in the summer of 2015, the conventional wisdom was: imagine what LMA can be in the Spurs’ system? What will Pop and the coaching staff unlock in his game?
In his first season, he was good, but not great. He was still an All-Star, but his numbers weren’t necessarily what we were expecting and he didn’t seem as dominating as his days in Portland.
His second season was even more disappointing, though not as bad as we collectively remember it.
But something was happening in those two seasons: slowly, and under the radar, Pop and his staff was unlocking something in Aldridge. He was becoming a better defender, a better passer, a more aggressive offensive player, a better “big man”. All of those little things we were wanting were growing, they just hadn’t fully developed.
Season 51, Game 19
San Antonio 106, Charlotte 86
12-7, 3rd in the West
Holding your opponent to 29 points in a half can cover up all manner of sin.
So while the Spurs only managed 14 points in the first quarter Saturday night, they were no worse for wear, as the Hornets only managed a meager 15. 12 minutes later, the Spurs were back on track (after a 26 point 2nd quarter), while the Hornets were still spinning in the mud.
That slow first quarter is easily misleading: after starting 1-for-10 from the field (10% for non-Math Majors), the Spurs finished 38-for-70 (54%) the rest of the way. Once the ill-effects of too much turkey wore off, the Spurs were blistering offensively.
We’ve spent a lot of time this season talking about LaMarcus, Kyle Anderson, and Danny Green. All had good games. LaMarcus continues to work his butt off, doing all of the dirty work that gets less notice than his scoring output. Kyle continues to be the best PG on the team. He also had 5 steals in the game, using his long arms and anticipation to make up for his lack of speed.
But one player we haven’t talked much about this season who is playing brilliantly is Pau Gasol. Most observant fans were left scratching their heads after the Spurs re-signed Pau for 3 more years in the off season. At his age and with his production last season (and how the contract left the team with little financial flexibility), that seemed like a mistake.