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.