Search results: "parker" (page 5 of 19)

Baby I’ve Got Your Number

Season 50, Games 79 and 80
San Antonio 102, Dallas 89
San Antonio 87, Los Angeles Clippers 98
61-19, 2nd in the West

The playoffs start in one week; thank God.

It’s hard to watch “meaningless” games. What makes it even more difficult is knowing that each “meaningless” game can actually have negative impact on the team. Letting off the gas too early and playing for nothin for too long of a stretch can bring you into the playoffs dull, unprepared to match the necessary intensity playoff games require.

So I’m glad Pop isn’t resting players these final two games. I think this is a mistake the team has made in years past, and it felt like the team never regained their edge. Unlike last season (though against the same team), the playoffs will be a battle from the opening minute against a Memphis Grizzlies squad who have no doubt that they can beat the Spurs in a best-of-seven series.

I liked the way the way Pop managed these two games. Rest against Dallas on the road (giving the rested players an extra day off before the final push), then start the final push at home against the Clippers, a team that’s always a challenge for the Spurs to play.

It’s hard to take too much from either game. The Mavs likely would have won the game if Carlisle hadn’t essentially ceded the game at halftime, making the second half C-Squad vs. C-Squad (I like our C-Squad in any comparable battle). But it was fun to see the young ‘uns get the win and get lots of valuable playing time.

The Clippers were playing for real stakes and the Spurs weren’t. So while the game could have been more competitive, that slight difference in motivation will always manifest. The Spurs were just a step slow everywhere compared to the Clippers. I don’t like it–the Clippers are my second least favorite team to lose to–but I understand it. Factor in the way the Clippers match-up so well against the Spurs, and the loss makes sense.

So let’s look at some positives from the game:

–Aldridge contines to look sharp. He is playing aggressively on both ends of the court, rarely falling into his passive mode (probably the root of all the knocks against him). His defense on Griffin was tremendous in the first half, and his offensive game was flowing, as well. I hope Aldridge can have a productive playoffs.

–Kawhi seems to have rediscovered his long ball, which helps open up the rest of his game. His playmaking has obviously taken a dramatic step up in the last 2 months, which will be critical as he starts to see more and more double-teams. Like Aldridge, I hope Kawhi has a good playoffs. He needs to show he can lead a team in the playoffs.

–Gasol played great off the bench. I’m excited to see how the brother vs. brother match-up plays out in the playoffs.

Areas of concern:

–Parker. This will never go away. He’ll have good games, he’ll have more bad games. The fates of the team will rest too much on his play.

–The Spurs seem to have good offensive line-ups and good defensive line-ups, but not many that are really good at both. How Pop manages this will be critical, and this will likely become more and more of an issue the deeper the team goes into the playoffs…assuming they do.

Of course, the best news of all is that the Spurs almost certainly will not have to face the Clippers again this season. Only two teams beat them twice: the Clippers and the Grizzlies. (Ugh.). The Clippers beat them three times. They just have the Spurs’ number. Their starters (who are very good) tear up our defense. Their bench (who mostly stink) kill our bench (who mostly don’t stink). I don’t understand it, but we just never play them well.

Good riddance, Clippers. And bad luck in the Playoffs.

The Spurs close the season on a very tough 2-game road trip: Portland on Monday, Utah on Wednesday. The Blazers have locked up the 8-seed, so aren’t necessarily playing for anything. However, they’ve been fighting for their playoff lives for so long, it’s doubtful they’ll let up the last week of the season.

The Jazz will be fighting for that 4-seed and home court in the first round. That game will likely be huge for them.

The Spurs are still playing for nothing other than rhythm and confidence. I’d like to see them win at least one of these games so they don’t go into the playoffs on their only 3-game losing streak of the season.

Go Spurs Go.

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.

Messed Around And Still Got The Win

Season 50, Game 76
San Antonio 109, Utah 103
59-17, 2nd in the West

This was a really good win.

Utah is a good – possibly great – team. They are fighting for their playoff positioning, and it behooves them to win every possible game. They wanted to win this.

San Antonio was resting six players, including two starters and three of the top four bench players. The team is locked into their seed, and are playing more for experimentation and preparedness than wins at this point. But even with the end of the bench doing most of the heavy lifting, the Spurs still got the win, building 20-point leads in each half and holding off the inevitable Jazz comeback.

Motivation is an often overlooked aspect of unique wins and losses. On any given night, the team that ‘wants it more’ can often be favored to win. Wanting it more and playing most of your top of the rotation players should usually mean a win. Instead, the Spurs just Spurs-ed right along and got the win anyway, all while giving huge playing time to players like Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes, Dewayne Dedmon, Jonathon Simmons, and Kyle Anderson.

Anderson played very well. I’ve always been a fan, partly because he’s probably about as athletic as you or me, so must use intelligence and cunning to keep his place in the league. It’s obvious that Kyle Anderson is a very smart player, and I like to see him slowly figure it out. He was a team-best +24 in a game won by 6.

Simmons got out of the dog house and made the most of his opportunity. His play is definitely less consistent than Kyle’s (which is likely why Kyle has usurped his rotation spot), but at his athletic best, there’s nobody like Simmons on the roster. The team will need that at least once these playoffs.

Forbes and Bertans both got big minutes and both acquitted themselves win. I really like both of these players. While it’s likely too late for either to have any sort of playoff impact, they are nice pieces building for the future.

The best sight of the night, however, was Tony Parker. He looked spry and fresh, and played smart and aggressive. This is what makes this season so frustrating: when we see these games he’s still capable of, we understand just how good this team can be. But we can no longer rely on it night to night. Hell, I’m not even sure we can rely on it more than one game out of four. That won’t cut it in the playoffs.

But if he really can get his legs and get a bit healthy, we could be a formidable team come playoffs.

If, if, if. The story of Parker’s season.

The Spurs go for win number 60 at home against Memphis on Tuesday night. This is also our likely first round opponent, so a win would be good psychologically, too.

Go Spurs Go.

37 Seconds

Season 50, Game 75
San Antonio 100, Oklahoma City 95
58-17, 2nd in the West

The Spurs led the Thunder for a whopping 37 seconds on Friday night, but it just so happened to be 37 of the final seconds of the game. And that’s all it took for the Spurs to pull out the improbable win.

Despite losing Durant, the Thunder still give the Spurs lots of trouble. It wasn’t really Durant that was the problem; it was the size and the physicality and the general defense that bothered the Spurs lo these many years (making 2014 even more incredible). None of that has really changed. Roberson still guards Leonard better than anyone else in the league; Adams and Kanter (and now Taj Gibson) still wreck the Spurs on the interior on both sides. Westbrook is the least of our worries.

It looked like all of those things were coming to pass again on Friday. Leonard and Aldridge just couldn’t get anything going; Parker looked two steps slower than normal; the Thunder–usually a poor shooting team–were hitting everything in site. It just wasn’t our night.

But Manu and the bench had other ideas. All of this worry about a once lightning-quick PG whose lost all the steps and seems to be a lead weight on the potential of this team; but you know who is not an existential drag? Manu Ginobili. Despite an even more advanced age (and lost steps), he’s still effective breaking down defenses, making great passes, and being a spark plug off the bench. And his outside shooting might be better than ever.

This would never happen, but imagine Manu starting at PG for the Spurs? It could just be crazy enough to work. The problem is Manu is still only great in bursts. After about 28 minutes, the returns likely start diminishing at a rapid rate. Manu must be used in the right dosage. But in those bursts, he seems to be playing as good as ever.

The turning point of this game was likely when both Adams and Roberson went to the bench with foul trouble and the Spurs bench (with Leonard) was able to make a run that put the game back in reach. With the middle opening up and not being hounded every step, Kawhi found his rhythm and his stroke. He’s still struggling with the 3-ball (it looks like he is pushing the shot, rather than stroking it), but he made a couple of big ones.

Aldridge struggled offensively most of the game, but as has been the theme of late, he played great defense and did a bunch of dirty work to pull out the win. His block on Westbrook on that final crucial possession was the play of the game. People don’t think of Aldridge as a defensive ace, but when he’s locked in, he has the length and timing to be a wonderful rim protector.

Despite the win, I still want no part of this team in the first round. They have a defense built for the playoffs (as we learned the hard way last season), and Russell Westbrook is the personification of a wild card. He could shoot the team out of a playoff game or also single-handedly win them a playoff series. You don’t want that kind of volatility in the playoffs.

Ironically, the Spurs winning this game made this first-round match-up much more likely. The Grizzlies are still the most likely opponent, but with Memphis winning tonight and OKC losing, the margin between those two teams tightened.

Of course, the Spurs can help their cause by beating the Grizzlies next week. And beating the Jazz two more times (to help the Thunder move up). And beating the Clippers. Four through seven in the West is still up for grabs, and the Spurs play all of them to close out the season. The Spurs will play a very active role in determining not only their first round opponent, but the first round opponent of the Rockets, and the second round opponent of the Warriors.

Up next, the Utah Jazz at home on Sunday afternoon.

Go Spurs Go.

Same Problems, Different Season

Season 50, Game 74
San Antonio 98, Golden State 110
57-17, 2nd in the West

With this loss, the Spurs all but seal their fate.

It’s not a bad fate. The 2nd best team (by record) in the NBA is a place many would be envious of. There will be tough series along the way, but the Spurs should be the favorites to make it to the Western Conference Finals. And as the wisdom goes, once you’re there, anything can happen.

The problem is, that “anything” will need to happen against the Golden State Warriors. And the Warriors are really really good at basketball. And likely only getting better.

Did we learn anything from this game? Perhaps. Without Kevin Durant, this felt a lot like last year’s Warriors team. And while we didn’t hold up our end of the bargain to meet them in last year’s playoffs, this game felt like a similar domination last year’s squad had over us.

To be fair, we did dominate them for about 10 minutes. But the 22-point lead we opened up on them pales in comparison to the 34-point beatdown they put on us over the final 38 minutes. As promising as those opening minutes were, the closing minutes are equally as demoralizing.

Let’s not read too much into one game, though. If we wanted to go down that route, we could look at opening night and say, “See, we can beat these guys fairly easily”. Still, I think last night is probably more indicative of a future playoff match-up, and there’s definitely some worrisome observations:

–Kawhi had a very bad night, and is having a pretty disappointing (by his extremely lofty standards) end of the season. As I’ve been saying for a few weeks, he looks a little tired. His shot seems a bit flat. He’s really slumping from deep. He’s made a few more uncharacteristic defensive mistakes than usual.

Teams are really starting to double-team him, and it’s a new process for him to learn. To his credit, his playmaking has been really good of late. Like most things with Kawhi, you can almost seem him learning in real time. We have 8 more games for him to figure out how to play with more defensive attention and still be efficient and effective.

Kawhi needs to have a dominating playoff run.

–Parker looks unplayable against these guys. We’ve discussed the Parker Problem quite a bit, but it’s starting to feel like we’ve passed critical mass. Waiting for “good” Tony feels a lot like waiting for Godot.

–After a sterling regular season, the Spurs’ bigs are starting to look like who we thought they were on the defensive end. Lee and Gasol both struggled containing the Warriors’ smalls, and their ability to hit the 3 stretched our defense thin and broke it. Aldridge and Dedmon had better luck in that regard. But we still need a better answer.

–The Spurs bench was outplayed by the Warriors bench. Remember, the fear with getting Durant was that it would cost them depth. For them to have more depth and have Kevin Durant is a slap in the face.

To beat the Warriors, the Spurs have to decisively win the bench battle. This has been a fairly consistent theme over the last few season when the Spurs are finally eliminated from the playoffs: the team that beats us gets better bench production, despite our bench being the better bench in the regular season.

Mills, Ginobili, Lee, and Gasol really need to show up.

–Pop needs to figure out who the back-up wing is. Simmons is in an extended dog house stay. He can be hit or miss, but his athleticism is sorely needed.

–Danny Green played really well.

What’s next? There are still 8 games left in the regular season. All the Spurs need to clinch the 2-seed is one more win, or one more Rockets loss. Seems likely to happen.

So let’s assume we have the 2-seed. Does Pop start resting? I think it’s smart to prepare physically for the playoffs, but you can’t just throw away 8 games. Particularly when we still have to face the Thunder, the Jazz (twice), the Clippers, the Grizzlies, and the Blazers. The team still needs to play competitive basketball and figure out rhythm and chemistry issues.

That being said, the actual won-loss record is of less importance. So I imagine Pop will use the games as laboratories to try and fine-tune some things going into the playoffs, without overextending anyone. Personally and selfishly, I’d like to see the team get at least 3 more wins to reach 60. That seems doable.

Personally and selfishly, I’d also like to see the team beat the Thunder on Friday night.

Go Spurs Go.

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