Search results: "parker" (page 6 of 19)

Feeling Minnesota

Season 50, Game 70
San Antonio 100, Minnesota 93
54-16, 2nd in the West

Kawhi Leonard looks tired.

The Spurs won the game (Minnesota has been playing great lately, but the Spurs just kind of own them right now), but all I could think watching it was that Kawhi just isn’t quite right.

He’s short on his shot. His percentages are dipping ever so slightly (more dramatically from 3, where he is slumping). He misses key defensive rotations. Everything just seems to be a bit more labored than usual.

Mind you, he’s still great. And he’s still efficiently productive. But he just looks tired. Which isn’t surprising, given the load he is asked to carry each and every game for this team. His offensive responsibilities aren’t quite to the level of Harden or Westbrook, but his defensive responsibilities more than make up for it. Pound for pound, possession for possession, no player is asked to do more for his team than Kawhi Leonard. And it’s starting to show.

Will Pop rest him? He usually reserves that for his older players (and it pays dividends for them, long-term and short-term). By doing so, he would be acquiescing the 1-seed. But that might be a forgone conclusion, regardless. The 2-seed and health is more important that the 1-seed and a tired Kawhi.

On the bright side, Aldridge has been playing better than ever. His jumper is rounding into form, and he’s been the most aggressive I can remember him in a Spurs’ uniform. Gasol can’t miss on his shot, and he’s a natural fit with the second unit. Ginobili and Mills are both playing great. When Parker is rested, he is filling his role perfectly. Lee and Dedmon provide amazing depth in the frontcourt.

The rest of the squad is rounding into playoff form. But Kawhi is the center of the whole operation, the keystone that holds everything in place. In a sense, the team’s entire playoff fortunes rest on him. Will he have the energy to meet the challenge?

The Grizzlies come to town Thursday night. The Spurs own them one. (Or two, but we’ll start with one.)

Go Spurs Go.

Good Tony Is Good For A Night

Season 50, Game 69
San Antonio 118, Sacramento 102
53-16, 2nd in the West

At least this time the Spurs didn’t wait until they were down 28 to start their comeback.

Continuing the trend of sluggish starts, the Spurs let the Kings jump out to a quick double digit lead. Once again, they were sluggish and out of sorts on offense, and nothing was coming easy. About midway through the first quarter, the Spurs started pressing full court, forced 4 straight TOs, and got themselves back in the game.

While I like a lot of the young players on this Kings team post-Cousins trade, they’re just not a very competitive team. If the game is competitive, it’s the Spurs fault. Thankfully, it was only competitive for about 20 minutes.

The most important takeaway from this game was the play of Parker. After his first shift, he looked great. By extension, so did the rest of the team. You can actually trace the moment when the Spurs seized control of this game to the moment that Parker started to play well in the 2nd quarter. He made some vintage drives to the rim. His stroke looked pure on the midranger.

In the third quarter, he went into set-up mode, and the offense hummed inversely proportional to how it clunked in the first quarter. The end result: a season-tying 41-point third quarter.

All of this just helps to illustrate the Parker problem: to be great, the team needs him to be good. (Not even great, just good.) And when he is good, the team is great. But getting a fresh, consistent Parker is near-impossible. Game to game, you have no idea which Tony is coming to play. But the only path to true greatness is with a good Tony.

So how can the team be a championship contender when the only truly reliable variable is that Tony will be not be reliable?

And moving past this season, what do the Spurs do about Tony? Easing him to a lesser and lesser role will not be as easy as it was with Manu and Tim, and the team might have to choose between keeping Tony and keeping a younger, more valuable piece. Can they make the cutthroat business decision they never had to make with their other legacy players?

Thinking too much about it makes my head and my heart hurt. But make no mistake: a Tony Parker reckoning is coming, sooner rather than later.

Until then, there’s still a season to play out. The Spurs travel to Minnesota for a one-off roadie on Tuesday night.

Go Spurs Go.

First For A Night

Season 50, Game 66
San Antonio 107, Atlanta 99
52-14, 1st in the West

With Monday’s win against Atlanta, the Spurs did something most people thought impossible before the season: they took possession of first in the West. Yes, yes, technically they are tied with Golden State. But the Spurs own the tiebreaker, so I’m taking it: the Spurs are first.

Most of us thought the Warriors would be just too good to really be challenged for the top spot in the West. But with the injury to Durant and some recent lackluster play, they are vulnerable. Most probably also thought the Spurs would be good but not quite this good. After losing Duncan and making no big offseason splash, the Spurs were set to fall back just a little bit.

Nope. The emergence of Kawhi as a super-duper star and the unrelenting consistence and excellence of the Spurs system dictated otherwise. Same story, different season.

The Warriors play the Sixers at home tonight, so they will likely claim that top spot back again, for the night. But the race is real, and the 1-seed is up for grabs.

As for Atlanta, they played hard, as they usually do. And they lost, as they almost always do in San Antonio. 19 straight years now they’ve lost in the Alamo City. That’s…not good. While the Hawks have done their best to mimic the Spurs, they haven’t been able to model the same consistency and continuity. The team that won 60 games a mere few seasons ago is all but gone, and that style of play with it.

The Spurs lost in OT in Atlanta earlier in the season, so the Spurs had extra motivation to avenge that loss. Coming back from a concussion, Leonard looked solid early, but struggled with his shot in the second half. Still, he made big plays when he had to, and iced the game at the free throw line.

Mills once again looked solid starting in place of Parker, which once again made me wonder if he actually wouldn’t be a great fit in that starting line-up. Hmmm…. The Spurs have some tough decisions to make regarding Parker in the near future. He still has value as he ages (just as Duncan and Ginobili did), but where? And will he accept a much lesser role? And can the Spurs even keep Mills?

The other player that impressed me against the Hawks was Forbes. He hit a couple of big shots. But more importantly, he finally looked like he belonged out there and that he understood what was going on. On defense he was making all the right rotations and reads, and on offense he was in the right spots at the right times. With his shooting stroke, he can be a valuable role player in the future.

Also of interest: Simmons didn’t play until the 4th quarter, and was quickly yanked after a bit of sloppy play. He has been a bit off since the All-Star Break, and it seems as if he is in Pop’s doghouse a bit. His athleticism and overall floor game will be needed in the playoffs, so if there’s something that needs tuning up, now is the time to do it. This will be something to monitor over the next few weeks.

The Spurs face the Blazers at home Wednesday night.

Go Spurs Go.


Fifty the Hard Way

Season 50, Game 63
San Antonio 114, Sacramento 104
50-13, 2nd in the West

I’ve seen a lot of Spurs basketball, and I feel confident saying that first quarter was the worst quarter I’ve ever seen the team play.

“Complete trash” is the phrase that comes to mind. Evans, Koufos, Hield, and Labissiere all looked like they were going to have career nights, while the Spurs looked like they had forgotten to shoot. Parker was horrible. Dedmon was horrible. Simmons (starting in place of Kawhi) was horrible. It looked like the game was over after about 8 minutes.

This “1st Quarter Surrender” has been going on for five games now. In that stretch, the Spurs are allowing an average of 32 points in the first quarter. Over the remaining 3 quarters, they are allowing an average of 68.2 points, just double what is happening in that first quarter. Broken down further, they allow just 21.5 pts/quarter from the 2nd quarter on, after that 32 mark in the first. Or, 2.67 pts/min in the first, and 1.79 pts/min after that.

Why does the first quarter defense suck so bad? Theoretically, it should be better with Dedmon in the starting lineup, paired with Leonard, Green, and Aldridge (3 of the better defensive players on the team). Parker isn’t that bad at defense. Is it just a lack of preparation? I wouldn’t expect that from that group of players.

Dedmon, in particular, has been fairly unremarkable (ranging from mediocre to bad) in this recent stretch, after being so impressive in the month prior. I still think starting him over Gasol is the right call for a variety of reasons–especially how it sets up the game long rotations–but it is a bit disconcerting to see Dedmon struggle lately. Here’s hoping he regains his confidence and rhythm.

Back to this train wreck of a first quarter. The subs came in and it barely helped. Yet, you could see the spark of something there. It took for the lead to balloon to 28 points before that spark finally ignited.

Manu Ginobili was a goddamn monster in this game. It was a vintage performance, complete with clutch shots, crazy playmaking, reckless abandon, passion, and plenty of ‘what the hell?’ moments. Make no mistake, though: Ginobili won this game for us. Without his energy and refusal to lose, the team rolls over and takes the L.

Patty Mills and David Lee also came along for the ride. Mills, while still struggling to shoot consistently, was his usual firecracker self, a bundle of energy and freneticism on both ends of the court. David Lee continues to be perhaps the biggest revelation of this season (non-superstar division), showing out on both ends of the court. He gets the team at least 2-3 cheap and easy baskets every game. Tonight, his fight helped bring us back.

Beyond those three, it was a trio of deep bench players that had the fight to bring the team back. Anderson, Murray, and Bertans all played big minutes off the bench and kept pounding that rock.

With Kawhi and LaMarcus sitting, a loss wouldn’t be completely unexpected. Nor really that big of a deal. Once down 28, it seemed like the loss the team had been so artfully eluding over the last 5 games was finally coming for them.

And yet, with tonight’s win and Golden State’s loss to the Celtics, that 1-seed is in sight. Almost unthinkable at the beginning of the season, it now seems almost like a 50/50 proposition. With Durant down, the Warriors struggling, the Spurs surging, and two games left head-to-head, the Spurs could easily overtake the Warriors in the standings.

After tonight, they are just 1 1/2 games back. We’ll see where that stands after the two teams play on Saturday. With The Rockets almost certainly lodged into that 3-seed, the 1-seed has a distinct advantage in the Western Conference this season. While I value rest and health, I would like to see the Spurs go for it (without pushing any player too hard). It could be the difference between another disappointing second round exit and a chance to play for the title. Seriously. Those are high stakes.

First things first: the Spurs face Westbrook and the Thunder in OKC Thursday night.

Go Spurs Go.

The High Road

Season 50, Game 58
San Antonio 119, Los Angeles Lakers 98
45-13, 2nd in the West

After a bit of a sluggish start to the Rodeo Road Trip, the Spurs ended it with a bang, posting consecutive impressive wins over both teams from Los Angeles.

While Friday’s victory over the Clippers was impressive, Sunday’s win over the Lakers was expected. However, it had all the hallmarks of a trap game: Sunday matinee in Los Angeles (after the team had been there for a week); last game of a long road trip; playing against an inferior team that doesn’t inspire focus and preparation.

Luckily, the team seemed determined to get the easy win and return home on a good note. After a bad game (by his standards) on Friday, Kawhi Leonard got things rolling early, hitting just about every shot he put up and getting into double digits about 8 minutes into the game. After going up 36-18 late in the first quarter, the game was essentially over. The Lakers never got closer than double digits, and the Spurs cruised to the win.

Not only was it an easy win, but the team looked good doing it. The offense just seemed to click. (The Lakers’ defense can have that effect on a team.) I don’t know if it’s a long-term thing, but Dewayne Dedmon once again was impressive as the starter, using his athleticism to impose his will on both ends of the court. The starters have a tendency to begin games in a bit of a rut; Dedmon shakes them out of that.

Likewise, Pau Gasol looked great again on the second unit, where his scoring prowess is too much for most second units. And if he never misses from 3-point range again, he’ll be pretty potent in the playoffs.

Everybody was just clicking. LaMarcus Aldridge’s shot was falling. The second unit’s passing was infectious and effective. Danny Green’s defense was great, as usual. Tony Parker was playing his role to perfection, with 8 points and 9 assists.

It’s hard to take too much away from a game against the Lakers. But we’re getting close to that time where it’s time to shake off the doldrums, and start tightening it up and turning it up.

The Spurs looked good finishing off the RRT. 6-2 was my hoped for their record, and they hit it. The losses weren’t pretty, but I was impressed with the wins against Detroit, Indiana, and especially the Clippers. The team is in prime position to snag that 2-seed and head into the playoffs healthy and playing well.

The team returns home to face the Pacers Wednesday night.

Go Spurs Go.

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