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Manu, Forever

 

San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) pumps his fist after hitting the winning shot in the final seconds of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 105-102.

Season 51, Game 26
San Antonio 105, Boston 102
18-8, 3rd in the West

Sometimes, a game requires an in-depth analysis that breaks down plus/minus and true shooting percentages.

Sometimes, a game reveals mismatches that one team exploits over the other and can be talked about at length.

Sometimes, a team gets lucky and steals a win against a better team in perfect storm scenarios.

And then sometimes, a 40-year-old Manu Ginobili steps out of the phone booth and reminds us he can still save the world from time to time.

Make no mistake, this game was worthy of its True Shooting Percentage analysis or its mismatch exploitation recap. But the heroics of Manu Ginoboli, which I surmise are taken for granted more than any other player in Spurs history, are exponentially more impressive than can be verbalized. It’s quite simple really:

Manu Ginobili is a gem. A national treasure, who should be preserved. A rose in a field of thorns. On a snowy night in San Antonio, Manu Ginobili hit a game winner and there was only one thing to say:

He is Manu, Forever. Continue reading

Spurs Recover From Slow Start To Win Big in Charlotte

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.

Continue reading

Spurs Split A Pair of Games After Coming Back From Big Deficits

Season 51, Games 15 & 16
San Antonio 86, Minnesota 98
San Antonio 104, Oklahoma City 101
10-6, 4th in the West

Despite different outcomes and wildly different energies, the last two games had a streak of similarity. In both games, the Spurs got down big, and in both games, they were able to fight their way back into it to make the game respectable.

On Wednesday in Minnesota, the schedule and the road were against them. So after clawing back into the game, they just didn’t have the juice to get over the hump. As my colleague said on Twitter, the Spurs looked like they had played the previous night in Dallas, TX.

But the process was good, and the scrap and heart in the team was commendable. While the talent isn’t all the way there (yet), this team is playing with a purpose and togetherness that is fun to watch. And it’s keeping them competitive in the West while they wait for Leonard to return.

On Friday night, back at home and rested, they were able to complete the comeback and beat the “super team” Thunder. What an awesome game. Everybody that played contributed something, making it a team win. There was no star, but Green and Anderson were steady throughout, and Aldridge brought us home in the 4th quarter.

Green was an all-around stud, disrupting the Thunder on defense (drawing the primary assignment of guarding Westbrook) and pouring in 17 points on the other end. His hot-shooting kept the team afloat in the first half.

Anderson continues to make the most of early season minutes with Leonard down. Zach Lowe mentioned him in his weekly Friday column, discussing how he has turned his (lack of) speed into his greatest weapon. It’s so hard for most NBA players to guard him because he moves at such a unique pace. With Parker out, he is probably the best or second best “point guard” on the team. Pop trusts him to run the offense, even late in close games. What a vote of confidence.

During his 3rd quarter interview, when asked what changed about his team, Pop said (paraphrasing): they went from an attitude of ‘poor me’ to one of ‘screw you’.

Screw you. I like it. Despite their reputation, ‘screw you’ isn’t an attitude we often associate with the Spurs. They are professional, proficient, efficient, and machine-like. But emotion and heart aren’t often ascribed to them as a whole.

But without Leonard (and to a lesser extent, Parker), they must rely more on togetherness, heart, and ‘screw you’ mentality to win games.

This reminds me of perhaps my favorite Pop-ism of all time: you have to participate in your own recovery.

On Wednesday and Friday night, the team did just that. While they only snuck away with a win in one of the games, both games gave us fans a lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to.

The Spurs get the weekend off before hosting Atlanta on Monday night.

Go Spurs Go.

The Spurs Beat the Bulls and it Wasn’t Particularly Close

Season 51, Game 13
San Antonio 133, Chicago 94
8-5, 4th in the West

The San Antonio Spurs beat the Chicago Bulls in an NBA basketball game on Saturday night. The score was 133 points in favor of the Spurs, compared to 94 points for the Bulls.

Analysis? The Bulls are not good.

There really isn’t much to take away from this game. We saw a lot of bench work tonight from the Spurs in route to a 39 point win. The game was pretty much over before it began and that’s even with Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Danny Green out. It was an annihilation.

The game was never really in doubt, save for a few minutes in the second quarter when the Bulls somehow managed to cut the lead down to single digits. But no matter. Coach Pop just inserted the 2017-2018 6th Man of the Year, Rudy Gay, into the lineup (that’s right, Sean. I said it first.)

Rudy came in and shut things down and the Spurs never really looked back. Can you blame them, though? The Spurs are really, really good and the Bulls are really, really bad. Of the 11 players who played for the Spurs, eight of them were in double figures. The Bulls? Three: Robin Lopez, Bobby “Break Yo Face” Portis and Chris Dunn, the only bright spot for the franchise.

The Spurs led in every category this game except one (steals), shot 66% from the three-point line and out-rebounded the Bulls 44-28. Did I mention the Spurs were without Leonard, Parker, Manu and Green? And Joffrey? And Derrick White?

So what do we take away from this game? Not much. We got some meaningful minutes from some core bench guys and put some use to those two-way contracts. But the biggest take away is learning a little bit more about this team is. Also, I got really deep into #HorseFactFridays due to how boring the game was.

Thanks, Trace.

It’s early, so I want to tread lightly here. With full disclosure, I am aware that Kawhi Leonard’s quad injury is a bit more serious that maybe we all thought. I am aware that Tony Parker may never be Tony Parker again, although, he might be. And I am aware that Tim Duncan is not walking through that door. Boris Diaw is not walking through that door. Tiago Splitter is not walking through that door (thankfully).

But the Spurs are starting to look like the Spurs of 2014. Let me explain.

The ball movement is there. The grit is there. And the defense is there. The talent is not.

There are flashes of the beautiful game that we all will tell our grandkids about in 30 years. It may not be perfected yet, and it may not last, but even against the Bucks and Clippers, you can see the extra pass being made. I identified last week that the guys were making too many passes. And I know it’s the Bulls, but last night, they made the right pass.

Kawhi and Tony’s absence could end up being a real blessing in disguise. The flow of the game has been very “benchy” during the first 13 games of the season. If you recall, the Spurs always play a deeper bench than most teams come April. Sometimes, that’s a bad thing. This year, I think it’s going to be a huge boost.

If you’re not on the Rudy Gay bandwagon, I suggest you buy a ticket. Rudy might be the most versatile player not named after a Hawaiian Island to ever take the Black and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. He’s smart, smooth, athletic and very crafty. I just hope he gets the minutes and stats to warrant that 6MOY trophy. I am making two trips to Texas over the next 90 days and I fully intended on getting myself a Rudy Gay jersey while I am there. For those who know me, that’s a big deal. I don’t buy Spurs jerseys unless I feel like you’re a Spur. To put that in perspective, I haven’t even gotten a LaMarcus Aldridge jersey yet.

Rudy is a Spur and he’s a darn good one.

Speaking of LaMarcus, it’s time to buy his jersey. LaMarcus is for real, too. He finished with only 14 points in this one, but also played only 21 minutes. He went 7 for 11 from the field and had seven rebounds and two blocks. I firmly believe that teams have turned a blind eye to him this year because of the events of last year. Shame on them. Aldridge has been a monster this year and already deserves to be an All-Star. If he stays in this killer instinct mode when Kawhi comes back, I’m telling you: the Spurs will be a tough out (also, I covet a Sweet Honey Dejounte-Green-Kawhi-Rudy-LaMarcus lineup, so get well soon, Klaw).

Gasol has been underdiscussed but has quietly looked very Spursian this year too. He does his work, stretches the floor, finishes with either hand, has been an offensive threat as of late, and although he could probably be a nominee for an Oscar, his assertiveness against the Bulls led him to a beautiful 21 and 10 game. Pau will win a playoff game for the Spurs this year. Watch.

I don’t like Kyle Anderson. It’s no secret. Something about his game bothers me. Makes me uncomfortable to watch. Kyle always looks like he just got done mowing the yard and is really, really tired. Then he scores on you. I’m going to leave Kyle alone and stop being a hater, because whatever he is doing is working and he’s in the NBA and I am writing about him while my kids are napping on a Sunday.

Bryn Forbes can flat out shoot the ball. He’s the 2017 version of Gary Neal, but better. I’d expect to see a lot of Bryn this year, especially as we get close to March and guys are sitting out with res….injuries.

Brandon Paul is our Jonathon Simmons replacement. So far, I like the upgrade, and I loved the Juice. But Brandon is the epitome of a journeyman NBA player. Learn to do two things in the NBA and you will find yourself with a contract: Shoot the 3 and play defense. Brandon ranks 18th in the league in charges drawn. Of the 17 guys ahead of him, only three play less minutes (Willie Reed, Jared Dudley, Okaro White). Of those three guys, Brandon has played in more games, has more 3 point shots made, and more deflected passes. So, yea, I’d say the Spurs found another diamond in the rough.

Finally, I think we need to discuss the future, Sweet Honey Dejounte Murray. The kid is a player, but he is also still young. He opened the season with a really good game and had a couple more, but has been sent back to the bench. This is ok, and to be expected.

First off, it helps him immensely psychologically. His pressure is reduced and he is free to play looser with the second unit. Secondly, his shuffling in and out of the lineup in various time frames of the game allow him a unique perspective to see the game in real time from multiple viewpoints. Murray is getting valuable experience, within the experience gain from Parker’s absence, that will develop him faster than we might have imagined.

The beauty of Pop is how he manages to win these types of battles. In the past, we’ve seen him keep Patty Mills on the bench in his backup PG role and would put the #3 guard in as the starter. We will probably continue to see some of that until Parker’s return, but starting Mills and bringing Murray off the bench allows Pop to develop Murray as both a starting caliber point guard AND as a backup point guard: two very different roles in today’s NBA. It’s genius and I love it. We will thank Pop in 2019.

Not all teams will be as tough a challenge as the Chicago Bulls, but it was a pleasant way to end a six-game homestand, on Veterans Day, before heading to Dallas on Tuesday.

And I’ll end with this: we would be remiss if we did not thank our veterans. If you have served in the Armed Forces, there are no words that could fully summarize our gratitude for you and your families. From all of us here at Spursdynasty.com, Thank You.

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.

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