Season 51, Game 28
San Antonio 89, Dallas 95
19-9, 3rd in the West
Let’s start with the good news: KAWHI LEONARD MADE HIS SEASON DEBUT FOR THE SAN ANTONIO SPURS ON TUESDAY NIGHT.
If there was any doubt that Leonard would be effective in his first NBA game since May, it was quickly erased. Kawhi showed a few signs of rust, losing the ball a couple times (he wasn’t credited with any official turnovers), but he shot 6-12, including a three pointer for 13 points. The All-Star forward also recorded six rebounds to go along with an assist, a steal, and a block in his 16 minutes of play.
It’s safe to say that Kawhi is back and doesn’t look any worse for his time away from the game. His final minutes came halfway through the third quarter, which is a shame, because if he was even able to play for four or five more minutes in the fourth quarter, San Antonio might not have blown this one.
Which leads me to the bad news…
Besides Kawhi, the only other person who traveled with their offense to Dallas was Rudy Gay, San Antonio’s front-runner for the Sixth Man of the Year award. Gay finished the night with 21 points, going 8-11 from the field, including two three pointers in 27 minutes of work.
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
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
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.