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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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Spurs Ride Big 3rd Quarter To Beat Clippers At Home

Season 51, Game 11
San Antonio 120, Los Angeles Clippers 107
7-4, 4th in the West

I definitely hate the Clippers less this year than years past, so it’s definitely Chris Paul.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still no fan of the Clippers. But they seem just a little less “dickish” this year. And a little less scary.

Griffin is having a wonderful year, but the Spurs did a fantastic job of slowing him down. For a while it looked like Austin Rivers and Lou Williams might shoot the Clippers to a win. But if Rivers is shooting–taking the ball out of Blake’s hands–that’s a win. Even if he didn’t miss for three quarters. (Because he finally did miss in the 4th, and Blake never found his rhythm in this one.)

The real story of the game, though, was the Spurs sizzling offense. With a 6-minute exception to end the first half, the Spurs just dominated on offense in all facets. They were bombing from 3 (15 makes on over 53% shooting); they were attacking the rim; they were moving the ball (33 total assists on 45 made baskets); they were getting offensive rebounds (11 for the game); and when all else failed, their isolation scorers went to work.

I can’t stress how surprised I’ve been at the play of Rudy Gay. I always thought he was a “good stats, bad team” type of player. Turns out, he just needed the chance to actually play the right role on a good team. As a starter, he might command too much usage and be a bit too selfish. But on the second unit, he is a perfect fit to keep the offense trucking along with the starters sitting. He is long and strong, and can often dominate any of his match-ups one-on-one. And he likes to attack, rather than settle for jumpers. Tonight he showed off his long ball, which was the only thing I hadn’t fully seen yet. Welcome to the 6th Man of the Year race, Mr. Gay.

I also can’t stress enough how good Danny Green has been this season. LaMarcus has been our best player, but Danny has been right behind him, and closer than you might think. Spurs fans no longer watch from their fingers when Danny dribbles. Not only can he dribble now, but he can finish, too. And he shoots again. I know I’m repeating myself, but it’s worth repeating: this is the best season of Green’s career so far, and he’ll be a huge weapon once Kawhi comes back.

This was the game I was most interested in this home stand, and the Spurs showed up in a big way. Let’s continue the good vibes Friday at home against the Bucks.

Go Spurs Go.

Spurs Ride 2nd Half Surge To Easily Beat Suns

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.

Spurs End 4-Game Losing Skid With Home Win Over Charlotte

Season 51, Game 09
San Antonio 108, Charlotte 101
5-4

That was a fun game.

For starters, it’s always fun to end a 4-game losing skid. Ick. As Spurs fans, those are foreign to us, and every consecutive loss destroys a little piece of our basketball-rooting souls. How do fans of other teams (I’m looking at you, Suns/Sixers/Nets/Magic fans) do it?

When you win four in a row, it feels like you’re indestructible. When you lose four in a row, it feels like you have the worst team in league history and you have no idea how you’ll ever score an easy basket or make a defensive stop again. So yeah, it was nice to shake that feeling and stay above .500.

The game was also fun because dunks. Did you see all the dunks the Spurs had? Gay had a breakaway dunk (Kawhi has that patented, though, Rudy, so tread lightly). Then he caught a fast-break alley-oop lob from Manu. Danny threw another dunk down off of a dribble-drive move, which I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. (He actually crossed somebody up in the opening minutes of this game. I love this new offensive wizard Danny Green.) Then he threw an alley-oop to Murray off another fast-break.

Manu stole the show, though, with his dunk off a drive to the basket in the half-court. He is 40 years old. I am 39 years old, and my arms get tired after a day of yard work. Not to mention, Manu’s dunk came in the heart of the 4th quarter when the Hornets were threatening to steal the momentum from us. Long live Manu.

Not to be outdone, our long-range bombers got in the action and made the game fun by raining 3s. To ice the game, the Spurs hit 5 3-pointers in a row. First, Bryn Forbes hit the 3-and1 for a 4-point play. Then Patty–awakened from his early season slumber–hit FOUR 3-pointers in a row to put the game out of reach. This is why we love you, Patty. Glad to see the stroke back.

Finally, the game was fun because the bench had a “vintage” (as in, 2012-2014 era) performance. When the Spurs first wave of stars started to decline, they kept up with the rest of the league by building insane depth, often winning games on the backs of the bench players. With Kawhi out, for the Spurs to win, the bench needs to win their nightly battle against the other team’s bench, as the starters are rarely better than the opposing teams starting unit.

65-16. That was the Spurs bench’s edge over the Hornets bench. That is…good.

Rudy continues to impress off the bench, single-handedly carrying the team through that 3rd quarter, not letting the Hornets seize control of the game. Manu is still Manu, the beating heart of the bench. I love what Forbes and Paul bring off the bench, and I’m curious to see how Murray plays with a lessened role, but also a lessened spotlight on him. I think it’s smart to take some pressure off the young man and let him develop and make mistakes.

Let’s hope the fun (and winning) continues when the Suns come to town Sunday afternoon.

Go Spurs Go.

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

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