Author: Trace Ronning (page 1 of 4)

Kawhi’s Presence Missed in Home Loss to Bucks

Danny Green

Season 51, Game 12
San Antonio 87, Milwaukee 94
7-5, 5th in the West

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers.

San Antonio dropped to 7-5 on the year after a 94-87 home loss to Milwaukee last night, mostly because the Spurs couldn’t help but give away the ball like it was a car and the Bucks were audience members at a taping of Oprah. San Antonio turned the ball over 18 times, leading to 19 fast-break points for the Milwaukee offense. The Spurs, on the other hand, only mustered eight fast-break points in the contest.

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Well… What Did You Expect?

Danny Green

Season 51, Game 08
San Antonio 92, Golden State 112
4-4

If I told you two weeks ago that the Spurs would lose by 20 at home Golden State and in that game, neither Kawhi Leonard nor Tony Parker would play a single minute, would you be surprised?

Nope.

So why am I so mad that San Antonio dropped the early season contest 112-92 in the AT&T Center after two nights of rest?

Because the when the game started, everything went right, even if it wasn’t what we expected.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol opened up the game by nailing their first shots, each from behind the arc. Kyle Anderson hung tough and looked every bit like the bench player San Antonio needs… although ideally coming off the bench. Hell, Danny Green shrugged off Steph Curry at the line, drove into the lane and “GET OFF MY LAWN” dunked on Kevin Durant. Danny Green – the guy who used to make me seasick just by running and dribbling at the same time – shook off TWO MVPs on his way to an early dunk!

And that wasn’t all, Patty Mills – who started over Sweet Honey Dejounte Murray – hit a three ball with half the first quarter remaining, and a couple minutes later Aldridge did one of those Shaquille O’Neal-style dunks where like four guys from the other team are hanging on him but he just throws down a two-handed jam anyway. It was gorgeous. The Spurs were unrelenting. The outcome was totally unexpected, which makes it exactly the kind of thing we should expect from a Gregg Popovich-led team.

Seconds later, Rudy Gay and Manu Ginobili hit back-to-back three point shots. The Spurs were on an 18-3 run, leading 28-12 at this point. In fact, the Warriors were scoreless from ~6:20 until there were only 2:16 left in the quarter, when Kevin Durant got to the line and broke the scoreless streak.

Buuuuuuuut, this is the Warriors, and no lead is safe against Golden State.

San Antonio didn’t help their cause by making some awfully careless turnovers in the final minutes of the quarter, leading to a couple wide open Steph Curry threes. At the end of the first quarter, the Spurs clung tight to a nine point lead, and that’s where my game notes started to get a little weird.

In fact, I’ll just share my 2nd quarter notes here to prove it:

  • So happy we got Gay
  • Pau makes more jumpers than lay-ups, huh?
  • Klay and Steph are objectively unattractive (I’m pretty sure they both hit some stupid three-pointers right before I penned that masterpiece)
  • Anderson has under the rim moves now? 5:30 left in the Q
  • Warriors missing a lot. Are we good at D or…?
  • 4:30 left… LMA at the line a lot. I like that

That adds up to a dwindling five point lead at half-time. And if you had that sinking feeling in your stomach that San Antonio was in trouble… well, you weren’t alone.

With 10:05 left in the third quarter, Kevin Durant hit a three that gave the Warriors a lead, and though the Spurs would briefly tie the game a few minutes later, they would never lead again. For the most part, San Antonio and Golden State traded baskets the rest of the quarter, and San Antonio went into the final frame trailing by six.

If it wasn’t obvious by the start of the fourth period, the Spurs are sorely missing their guy. You know, someone like Kawhi Leonard? The kind of guy who can single-handedly take over a game on both sides of the ball? That’s the kind of guy you need when you’re down by six at home against the defending champs. That’s the kind of guy you need when your reserves are playing the best that they can and it’s obvious that their best isn’t enough (and I promise that I actually really like the way most of the team is playing, it’s just clearly not cutting it for games like this one). And that – unfortunately – is exactly the kind of guy San Antonio is without.

Let’s just hope he’s back before it’s too late.

  • The two coaches combined for three technical fouls in the contest.
  • Popovich’s technical fouls both came in the fourth quarter, and he was ejected for it.
  • Toward the end of the first period, Murray made a really bad turnover. Pop immediately called a timeout and yelled at him for what probably felt like six hours in Murry’s head. On the very next play, Sweet Honey drilled a jumper. I like that. I like that so much. I love Murray and I really, really, sincerely, hope that he pans out for San Antonio.
  • Someone on Twitter started calling Aldridge LaMarcus Alpha and I like that nickname a lot.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Eric Gay

Spurs Remain Unbeaten, Hand Toronto First Loss

(Photo Credit: Eric Gay, The Associated Press)

Season 51, Game 03
San Antonio 101, Toronto 97
3-0

Fresh off his double-digit rebound game in Chicago, the Spurs’ Dejounte Murray led San Antonio with 14 boards and added 16 points in a 101-97 victory over the Toronto Raptors to improve to 3-0 on Monday night. With the veteran starter Tony Parker sidelined by a leg injury, Murray has grabbed the starting job by the horns and doesn’t seem keen on letting it go.

He’s yet to crack 30 minutes in a game this season, but his PER 36 numbers have really impressed me already, particularly the rebounding. As a point guard he’s averaging 13.1 rebounds, 3.6 offensive rebounds, and 18 points. According to Basketball Reference, Murray has grabbed 10% of all available offensive rebounds while on the court – as a point guard. That seven-foot wing span is incredible. One nitpick: He hasn’t gotten to the line a ton, and Murray is only connecting on 75% of free throws when he does get to the line.

That said, Sweet Honey Dejounte is exactly what San Antonio needed to power through the opening stretch with true superstar Kawhi Leonard and Parker recovering from injury.

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Did We Learn Anything Watching Golden State vs San Antonio?

(Photo: Getty Images)

I’m going to level with you all before I get deep into this one.

I have no clue what to expect in a potential Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs playoff series. The season series was just about as nonsensical as it gets. Teams this talented and well-coached shouldn’t play three blowouts against one another. Never mind that two of the blowout wins were by the team on the road.

Still, we must have learned something from these games, as non sequitur as they seemed… right?

If nothing else, we’re going to try to learn, so buckle up!

GAME ONE
Season Opener
Spurs at Warriors, October 25, 2016
Spurs win 129-100

It’s hard to remember this game, it was so long ago. So much has changed in the world since this glorious night. Back then, the USA hadn’t even elected a reality TV star as president yet! What a world… what a world!

Anyway, believe it or not, in the first game of the post-Tim Duncan Spurs era (coincidentally, the first game of the evil villain Kevin Durant Warriors era), three of the oldest guys left playing basketball strolled into Oakland and “Get off my lawn’d” the Warriors into a pile of rubble. It was beautiful. It made me believe that all our dreams could come true if we simply believed in the powers of light and darkness and manifested those powers directly onto the things we care about. Whether San Antonio wins the Finals this year or not, this game proved to me that as long as your team is the real-life depiction of a Disney villain, you are screwed in the long run.

What went right for the Spurs in this game?

Kawhi Leonard assumed his throne and dropped 35 points and 5 steals on the defending NBA chokeians (that’s a new word I made up for teams that blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, btw), LaMarcus Aldridge dropped another cool 26, and Jonathon Simmons – bless his heart – made us all think this was going to be the year he became a legit bench threat with a 20 point effort and an epic chasedown block on Steph Curry.

The Warriors starters were great, as expected, but their bench was HORRENDOUS. Ian Clark led the bench with 5 points. Nobody on the team had a positive +/-. Zaza Pachulia (who I hate) had more turnovers than shot attempts.

It wasn’t meant to be for Golden State on that fine October night, and while one could argue that it was their first meaningful game with Durant and they still had to learn how to play together, well… actually no you can’t make that argument because that starting unit combined for 84 points while the bench scored 16 points.

And if you really wanted to make that argument, I think San Antonio’s case for potentially laying an egg is even stronger. The Spurs were without Duncan for the first time in 19 years. They replaced him with Pau Gasol, who isn’t nearly as young nor athletically gifted as Kevin Durant, and San Antonio steamrolled the Warriors.

If we learned anything that night, it’s this: The Warriors need SOMETHING from their 5-12 guys – Zaza is included here because, honestly, he is not good enough to start for this team, c’mon – or they aren’t making a third straight trip to the Finals. Strength in Numbers? Not this season.

GAME TWO
Warriors at Spurs, March 11, 2017
Spurs win 107-85

Danny Green was the only starter for either team that played in this game. Again, Zaza doesn’t count. Anyway, that tells you almost everything you need to know about this game. Oh, get this! JaVale McGee only played five minutes in this one! In a game where literally only ten people on his team were dressed he only got five minutes.

What did we learn?

Uh… that if somehow every starter from both teams dies before they play next, that lack of bench depth we already knew about is going to be bad news for Golden State. Also, it’s going to be a really shitty and somber playoff series. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. It was also a good reminder that San Antonio has a good bench. One of the best benches.

GAME THREE
Warriors at Spurs, March 29, 2017
Warriors win 110-98

This started as the kind of game where I thought I’d be excited to see Davis Bertans and Kyle Anderson getting fourth quarter minutes against a quality opponent. But by the time the fourth quarter came around and I noticed that Anderson and Bertans were on the court, all I could do was scream and writhe in pain until my girlfriend dragged me out of the bar and into a cab.

This one hurt. Not only would a Spurs win have put the 1-seed firmly within grasp, but San Antonio raced out to a 15-0 lead and ended up losing by 12 to a team that was missing Durant. Ouch. And the Spurs weren’t missing anyone besides Dejounte Murray who wouldn’t have seen anything but garbage time if he were healthy.

The contest was pretty much our collective worst nightmare, and a microcosm of the season. The Spurs have looked like the hottest team on Earth several times this year, including versus Cleveland and opening night vs. these same Warriors (well, minus Durant).

At other times, the Spurs have looked like Brooklyn would give them a run for their money. Sometime we get both versions of San Antonio, and the shitty version sticks around for a lot longer than we’d hope for.

What did we learn?

JaVale McGee still has an atrocious rattail. But in actual basketball…

When the Spurs are operating at optimum efficiency, they can hang with and beat anyone. They led 33-17 at the end of the first quarter, and it wasn’t because they were relying on Leonard to do everything. Yes, the Spurs’ star had 8 points in the first quarter, putting him on pace for another 30 pt game, but contributions from Aldridge and Green helped them get out to their strong start.

As the game wore on, the Warriors figured out to mostly remove Kawhi from the equation, and Kawhi was eventually forced to try and take things on himself despite constant double-teams. It, obviously, didn’t work out.

Tony Parker (who went scoreless) and Manu Ginobili (who missed a lot) both looked very much their age against the younger, quicker Warriors, and neither Patty Mills nor Anderson instilled much confidence with their games either.

Remember that time I talked up San Antonio’s bench to be the best thing since the invention of the 3 point line? Bleh.

That’s all just a really long way to say that if the Spurs match up with Golden State in the playoffs, Kawhi is either going to have to become basketball Jesus, or the rest of the team is going to have to hold up their end of the bargain.

Oh, and playing some defense would be nice too. Sheesh.

3 in the Key: Spurs v Cavaliers

Tony Dejak/AP Photo

Trace Ronning writes:

No Pau, no Tony, no Timmy? NO PROBLEM. San Antonio traveled into enemy territory and took down the reigning NBA champs in overtime on Saturday night behind Kawhi Leonard’s career-high 41 points.

I’ll get to my 3 key takeaways in a second, but first I want to give a bonus key to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich for his session with the media before the game. Whether or not you agree with President Trump’s politics/philosophy/general being, you have to recognize that when one of the most caring and thoughtful men in the NBA is concerned about something, it’s worth arming yourself with the knowledge to fight whatever fight it is you need to fight. I highly recommend taking a listen to Pop’s thoughts if you haven’t heard them already.

And for what it’s worth, I want the Spurs to win the championship this year – obviously – almost just to see if they even visit the White House. Can they just go kick it with Obama at his house instead?

Back to basketball, here’s what I took away from the Spurs’ win over Cleveland.

Kawhi ain’t playing around out here

Pardon me while I type through my extremely biased keyboard over here, but how can you argue that any single other player in the NBA is more valuable to his team than Kawhi is to the Spurs? The man scored 41 points, shot 50%, made 100% of his free throws and played 46 minutes, much of which was spent guarding Basketball Hercules (LeBron James) on the road.

Yes, he lost a ton of steam at the end of regulation when all San Antonio needed to do was make like, shit, ONE, of their shots in the last 3 minutes to avoid overtime. He was 0-5 in the final 8 minutes of regulation, but without him are they even in the game at this point? Hell no.

Oh, he also scored 6 of San Antonio’s 11 OT points, so yeah he’s pretty vital to this team’s success.

David Lee is awesome and I wish we acquired him eight years ago

Lee moved into the starting lineup because Kyle Anderson broke Pau Gasol’s finger a few nights ago. No big deal, he just came in here and dropped a casual points/rebounds double-double on the Cavaliers and hustled his undersized ass off in the process. I learned that David Lee can dunk on Saturday night. I also learned that he has the heart of a damn warrior (no pun intended) and it reminded me of something.

Remember how in 2014 all of a sudden Aron Baynes was starting in the NBA Finals and all that happened was that San Antonio tore Miami’s heart out and fed it to a gaggle of bloodthirsty demon sharks? Can’t you see David Lee being the key to a Finals run this summer? Do you have any idea how awesome it’s going to be when Lee is the secret weapon that helps the Spurs to beat the Warriors in five games this postseason? JUST YOU WATCH.

Go for the jugular for once, sheesh

With 2:46 to go, LaMarcus Aldridge (who I yelled at all night, even though he apparently finished with a double-double) dunked home an errant Danny Green 3-ball to give the Spurs a 107-101 edge. This game had NO business going into overtime, but check out the Spurs’ possession log after that Aldridge dunk:

  • Danny Green misses a 24-foot three point jumper
  • Patty Mills bad pass out-of-bounds
  • Kawhi misses a two point shot
  • Kawhi misses a two point shot
  • Kawhi misses a two point shot

Was Kawhi exhausted? Probably, man. Probably. But I hate seeing the Spurs do this to themselves.

The Spurs get another shot at a top 5 team on Tuesday in Toronto, let’s hope they bring their killer instinct with them for that contest. (Editor’s note: they did!) Let’s kick it over to Stephen for his key takeaways!

Stephen Hale writes:

Dejounte Murray

Oh sweet honey Dejounte. This is kid is a treat. He is the entire headache and aspirin pill all rolled into one. He clearly has talent. But at the end of the day, he’s a rookie and it shows.

One particular play stood out: he walked into a trap and got picked clean which led to a Tristan Thompson dunk, a Spurs timeout and a not-happy-face from the old guy with the beard. But those types of play have to happen in January of his year. Let’s not underestimate how valuable this game was, Honey.

Big minutes against Bron-Bron on prime time TV and he certainly played basketball tonight. He was aggressive, assertive and decisive. He wasn’t shy and he proved that the D-League actually has a purpose after all.

At 6’5″ and 170 pounds, he definitely can afford to eat a few Whataburgers, but man is he quick. He has, like four elbows and that floater is eerily similar to that of a rookie from France the Spurs had almost two decades ago. I’m not saying Murray is the next Tony Parker, but he definitely isn’t Jacque Vaughn. I’m on the Honey Dejounte Bandwagon.

The Spurs have developed a disgusting trend this year and it’s driving me bananas

In no particular order, the Spurs have been dishing out about 18 really good minutes of basketball, 12 minutes of average basketball, 10 minutes of really bad basketball and 8 minutes of “oh snap-we better not lose or Pop is going to be mad” basketball.

They continue to squander leads and let teams get back in the games that should turn into easy wins. I don’t know what causes them to let off the gas, but I hope they fix it and soon. Granted, this is the NBA, where any team can beat you on any given night, but more often than not, the Spurs find themselves in a Tale of Two Halves and that’s not a good trend as we near the second half of the season.

Teams will make runs, but often times the teams that win are the ones that maintain a run, rather than surrender one. The identify of this group is starting to solidify. It will do one of two things: it will either unify this concoction of misfits and has beens, or will expose the weak links in the chain. Now is the time when we see who is who. January and February is when the tweaks start to become finalized and that rotation begins to shorten, ever so slightly.

Pop and LeBron

So rumor is, LeBron wants to grace the world with his Olympic presence and play for Coach Pop. I struggle to see if this is a compliment or an insult. It’s no secret that Pop is the greatest coach in the League and quite possibly of all time, save Red Auerbauch. And LeBron will go down as at least a top 100 player all time. Ok. Fine. Top 20.

But Bron-Bron has to be wondering “what if,” right? I mean, look at the all the other greats. Jordan, Kobe and Shaq all had Phil. Magic had Riley. Russell and Cousy had Red. Dream has Rudy T. Timmy had Pop. LeBron has had Coach Spo and an assistant who stabbed the head coach in the back and was also stepped over by Allen Iverson.

LeBron has won by his own efforts. He never had a coach make it easy on him. He never had a system to flourish in. He never had a coach that was even smarter than him. Pop represents the white rabbit. He might be the only person who has LeBron’s ear. He’s the only coach who has the recipe to stop him: look into the future and trade your favorite young point guard for a guy who is really long, really smart, a quiet defender, and teach him how to shoot. That’s how you beat LeBron.

Popovich is notorious for eating LeBrons lunch and “popping” the bag. He’s pretty much the only person who can bully him. And when this big mammoth of a small forward finds himself in an odd, horrifyingly vulnerable state of being with this opposing coach, what does he get from him? Respect. Respect that his own coaches haven’t or don’t give him. I can see why he loves Pop.

Do people say that about Phil Jackson, or Pat Riley, or Rudy T? No. They don’t. Pop isn’t great because his players love him and want to play for him. Pop is great because his opponents do. We will never see LeBron in a Spurs uniform. We will never have the city he wants to play for. And we won’t ever have the salary space to sign him.

But we will always have the coach he wants.

And having something he wants that he can’t have, well, that’s enough for me.

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