Bart Herridge
@BartTBF

Who were those guys in Spurs uniforms? And where have they been for the past few weeks? Of all of the possible outcomes of this game, the one I would have bet against before the game started would have been “Spurs blowout by 20″. Yet, there it was, in all of its wondrous glory. A return to the Spurs that we saw at the beginning of the season. It’s only one game, but let’s hope it’s the beginning of another streak of playing really well.

Song of the Game: Live, “Lightning Crashes”

If there is a band that epitomizes the 90s pop-grunge angst-filled teenager vibe, it’s Live. All of that sounds totally derogatory, but, honest, I loved this band. If you were breathing in 1994, I can virtually guarantee you heard this song one million times on every radio station in the world. Listening now, it really holds up over time, in a 90s kind of way. The album is good, but can’t sustain the intensity of this song (how could it?).

I chose this based on the line of the song I used in the title because the Spurs just saw the Grizz a few days ago. More importantly, I chose it because this was the game where the Spurs returned to what they do well and executed offensively. That’s particularly significant considering they did it against the 2nd ranked defense in the league (based on defensive efficiency ratings) and without Manu Ginobili running the bench.

Play of the Game: Early Layup for Danny

1Q, 9-6 Spurs, 8:40 left. The Spurs were running one of the standard Spurs sets and Tony Allen took a nap.

Tony moved down the left wing with the ball. Tim was at the free throw line, Danny is at the top and the other 2 (Kawhi and Tiago)  were all weak side, out of the way. Tony Allen was covering Danny, but was also cheating a bit to help Conley for the inevitable Tony Parker drive. This was a defensive strategy for the Grizz all game: they were not going to let a scoring Tony Parker beat them and with good reason, as he’s averaged a million points against them recently. Tim sets a “cluster” screen, basically using himself and his man to cut off Allen when Danny makes a hard cut right down the center of the lane. TP times the pass perfectly and Green scoops in a layup past Allen and Gay who dropped to help (but way too late).

This play works because the Grizz play overly aggressive defense. They always help on dribblers with the ball and count on their bigs rotating quickly to help off the ball. Tony Allen tries to go over the top of the coming screen and gets caught on the wrong side of Tim and Gasol. Gasol, for his part, refused to leave Duncan and Danny correctly identified that path to the lane (opposite from where Tony Allen was cheating). It’s not a play that’s always there, but the threat of it is enough to keep the Grizz honest. If Green gets covered, Duncan is open at the free throw line and Parker also has a driving lane without Allen to dig and help.

Trending Up: The Killer T’s

It’s hard to identify any Spur who played poorly in this game, but I’ll briefly highlight three studs:

Tim was back in a big way. It’s amazing what two full days off can do for a older player. Tim’s legs were great, which was obvious in the first half with all of the 15-footers. Also, I can’t say enough about his defense this season. In short, he is a monster. It’s not just the blocks, but his footwork and getting into position has been amazing. And, he blocked Z-Bo’s shot so hard, Randolph injured his back.

Tiago was fantastic. Solid defensively, great offensively, tough rebounding, and good decision making on both ends. One of his best games as a starter.

I can’t say enough about Tony in this game as well and his maturation as a point guard in general. When it became apparent that Memphis was not going to allow him to score early on, he began taking what was there, pushing the ball in transition, and orchestrating rather than scoring. Then, in the mid-3rd, when the Memphis defense relaxed, he went back to scoring and finishing. He’s so underrated right now it’s ridiculous.

Trending Down: Matt Bonner

I like Bonner a lot. But it’s almost hard to watch a guy who was such an important part of this team become a human victory cigar. He played the last 3:37 last night and is averaging 11 min/game, after averaging 23 in the ’09 season. I still think there are matchups for Matt that make sense, but part of me hopes Matt gets traded to a team where he can contribute. Because it’s not going to be this one.

Stat of the Game: Pick ‘Em

Would you like the 33 assists on 44 made baskets? Or maybe that the Spurs won a game handily only shooting 10 free throw attempts, while Memphis shot 28? Or, my favorite, the quality shot count, where SA took 51 of its 76 shots from either the paint or from 3? And got 79 of its 103 points from those two spots, plus the free throw line? Statistically, this was a game where you could look at the box score and “see” what kind of game the Spurs played.

Random Thoughts:

I think I saw something against the Wolves that I’ve not seen in a long time (or at least noticed). The Spurs looked like they were trying to run the old RJ dunk play, with Tony on the sideline and Kawhi screening and rolling to the paint for a lob. Against Minny, he didn’t throw the pass, because Pekovic faded back to the paint, but Tony was clearly looking for Kawhi. I didn’t see it against Memphis, but I’m looking for that play now for Kawhi to see if that’s been added to the package. Anyone seen that particular play before the Wolves game?

Looks like Patty Mills is the #2 guy at point guard. Tony played the entire 1Q and Patty started the 2Q  as the primary ball handler, continuing a trend recently. I think with Manu’s injury, Gary Neal becomes the primary 2, so Patty makes sense as the next PG. I’m a big fan of this move. Patty’s energy is infectious and, when he plays in control on offense, he’s a great 15-20 minute/game player. And, as we know, he’s not afraid to shoot the rock.

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