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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.

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

Almost Symmetrical

Season 51, Game 07
San Antonio 94, Boston 108
4-3

I miss Kawhi Leonard. And I know I am not the only one.

The Spurs fell to 4-3 Monday night after a 108-94 loss to the Boston Celtics. While it certainly wasn’t the worst loss in Spurs history, clearly this team is without its superstar and it’s never been more obvious.

The Spurs actually played fairly well and managed to keep it close for most of the game, save that ghastly 3rd quarter. The offense is humming along and the Spurs had several good looks. Pop has said numerous times that the players can’t worry about making the shots. That part will come. What they can and should worry about is taking the right shot and making the right play.

For the most part, the guys seemed to do this. Unfortunately, we continue to see plenty of “deer in headlights” plays. Too often, the Spurs are passing up a good shot for a worse shot. It’s fine to go from good to great. It’s another thing to omit the good completely. There’s been quite a bit of extra passing that isn’t exactly beneficial to this team.

The Spurs shot a rough 41 percent from the field, 46 percent from 3 and a mere 50 percent from the charity stripe. Those aren’t good enough numbers to beat the Magic, let alone the Celtics. Brad Stevens has done splendidly in getting the Clover back to reality after losing Gordon Hayward on opening night. Also, it doesn’t hurt that he has Kyrie Irving.

There was about a four minute stretch where you could almost see it on the faces of the players: we miss Kawhi. They needed a bucket a few times and looked like a team playing on a SEGABABA in the middle of March. They looked gassed. Mentally, it takes a toll on you. You miss a few shots, over the course of a few games and then the defense starts to slip. Guys shots turn up short and then they miss a rotation. It’s almost symmetrical.

For years, the Spurs have been kind of a running joke around the league. Everyone talks about how old they are and we all laugh and chuckle about it. But the reality is, this team is young and against the Celtics, without Manu, that youth showed.

It showed when Kyle, Danny, Bryn, Brandon and Sweet Honey Dejounte all refused to shoot, desperately looking for LaMarcus at the end of shot clocks. There is an unnecessary deference taking place inside the offense right now and it’s driving me nuts. These guys are on the court because they can play basketball – well, the jury is still out on Kyle – but without them having the guts to let it fly, the whole team suffers.

Kawhi will help immensely and his return is looming. Parker will also help control the flow of the game and settle things down in the chaos. But until that happens, we will experience some growing pains along the way. For now, we need to take the bad with the good and expect there to be a few headaches.

A few more takeaways from this game…

LaMarcus Aldridge is still really good at basketball.

He received way too much criticism last year, partly for not being Tim Duncan, and partly for not being Portland LaMarcus playing in a spread offense with a penetrating and ball dominant point guard. It was all unfair. He’s been great for the first six games of this season. But he was rubbish last night. In 26 minutes, he shot 39 percent, had a +/- of -19 and shot 1 of 5 from the line. He finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, a block, a turnover and a foul. Sounds like Aron Baynes.

LaMarcus showed some real maturity this offseason by letting the trade rumors fly and then eating some humble pie and having a heart to heart with Pop. This is good and necessary, but tonight was his first game since the opener where I didn’t like his effort. Well, not at least until he started getting the ball at the elbow versus the low block. He’s much more effective there.

Dejounte Murray is not Kyrie Irving.

This was a little underlying drama to the game. Remember when I was telling you guys all summer on my Twitter that Kyrie Irving was not being traded to the Spurs and you guys wouldn’t listen? I do. Good times. But that trade was only even on the table for the Cavs because of Murray. He was the young piece that had the Cavs interest. And Dejounte shares the same agent with one of the Cavs players. I forget which one.

This game was essentially a showcase of who made the right choice. And clearly, Kyrie was ready for this. He ate Dejounte’s lunch and popped the bag. Murray had five turnovers and two of them were pretty much Kyrie just taking the ball away from him.

Look, Murray is going to be a good player in this league. Maybe an All Star one day. But that day is a long way away. He’s still a 21-year-old, second year player, subbing for a Hall of Famer. It remains to be seen how the rotation will shape up when Parker returns, but for now, Sweet Honey Dejounte will match up against the cream of the crop for point guards every night. We should all accept that it might not always be that pretty.

Rudy Gay is kind of our best player.

I’ve been on the “Rudy Gay for Sixth Man of the Year” bandwagon for a while now. He was the only player to play more than 20 minutes AND score double figures and not finish with a negative +/-. And he’s a scorer. Personally, Sean Elliott can do better than “Natural Born Scorer” as a nickname for him, but it at least remains true. He’s been the only help for LaMarcus in these first seven games and it’s hard to find a real weakness in his game.

Nothing looks rushed. He has incredible size (I didn’t realize how long and bulky he was), an above average handle and is the only player on this roster not named after a Hawaiian Island who can create his own shot, which coincidentally is also a good shot. I love Rudy. I’d buy his jersey.

I don’t know what Brandon Paul is yet.

I have this joke I never got to make when we signed Brandon Paul. I wanted to make a meme of Pop yelling at RC Buford saying, “No! I said CHRIS Paul.” Guys, it would have been hilarious. Point is, I knew nothing about BP3. But uh, hello? He’s nice, y’all.

Defensively, he’s been pretty solid filling in for Kawhi and spelling Green at times. But he has easily been our best shooter as well, shooting a blistering 64 percent from behind the arc.

The next closest person? Former NBA Finals Three Point Leader Danny Green at 44 percent. Paul can Ball and I’d fully expect him to get a lot of Jonathon Simmons’ old minutes, just like Pop said he has earned.

The Spurs get a day off and then get six games at home. They start off with the Warriors, then get the Hornets, Suns, Clippers, Bucks and Chicago. I’d like to see them get four of those six, but it won’t happen unless someone starts shooting the ball.

Hopefully that someone wears number 2.

Photo credit: Michael Dwyer/ AP

Round The Horn

Magic Hand Spurs First Loss of Season in Rout

Season 51, Game 05
San Antonio 87, Orlando 114
4-1

I suppose it’s good to get the first butt-kickin’ out of the way early.

When you shoot under 34% as a team, you’re likely to lose. When your opponent shoots a blistering 57% from the floor (and that went down in garbage time; it had been well over 60% for most of the game), you’re likely to lose. When both happen, you’re likely to lose by almost 30.

The Magic started the game with force and energy, and it completely took the Spurs out of the game. Yes, sometimes the shots don’t fall for you and they do fall for the other guys, but the effort begat the shooting performance, not the other way around. The Magic swarmed on defense and pushed on offense, and the Spurs just didn’t have the counter to keep up with them.

Ball game.

That marks two straight subpar defensive performances, both troubling in different ways. While the Heat were able to break the defense apart in the half court, the Magic caught the Spurs’ defense napping by pushing in transition. To be a great defense, you need to be solid in both. You can guess what happens to your defense when you’re poor in both.

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