I know you turn to TBF for hard-hitting, insightful basketball analysis and you may have noticed that I completely ignored the Warriors game. So, let me share with you some hard-hitting, insightful basketball analysis: that game sucked. The loss to the Warriors was preordained sometime around the 6 minute mark of the 4th quarter of the Clipper game the night before, when Vinny finally emptied the benches and threw out the towel. So, we’re skipping right to the Suns game, which was both more interesting and more representative of the Spurs this season.
Song of the Game: Pink Floyd, “The Show Must Go On”
When I found out Tony was sitting, I was very curious how the team would respond. Yes, we’ve played games this year without him, but I think this is the only game he has missed all season where both Timmy and Manu were playing (he’s only missed 4 all year, including the Miami and Chicago “bench games”). So, naturally, I was wondering if the Danny Greens, the Nando DeColos, and the Tiago Splitters of the world would simply defer to Tim and Manu and get out of the system which has worked so well. Alas, the show goes on. The system rolls along, regardless of who is in it. I thought the Spurs opened the game a little tentative, like they were waiting to see who was going to take charge. But after Tim’s putback dunk, they settled down and played Spurs basketball, with everyone getting involved.
This short little song, by the way, is my favorite on The Wall, simply because it’s so out of character for Pink Floyd. It sounds like it would be way more at home on a Beatles record than a Floyd record, but that’s what made them so great.
Play of the Game: The Play That Wasn’t Made
A great example of why the Spurs offense is what it is and why it’s hard to integrate newer players in: at the 3 minute mark of the first half, Tim and Patty are running high-screen at the top of the key (which they did a lot in this game – way more than usual). Patty feeds Tim, who takes two dribbles to the free throw line. Dragic has slid over from his man to contest Tim’s drive and cut off the lane, so Tim does exactly what the system dictates you to do – pass to Dragic’s man. Which he does. Except Dragic’s man is Nando DeColo, who would have been wide open in the corner, either for a 3 or for a swing pass back to Patty at the top. But he left his spot to try a backdoor cut, which was covered by the weakside help of the Suns. Tim throws to the spot where Nando should have been and a fan in a corner courtside seat ends up with the ball in his lap.
It’s a basic principle of Spurs basketball: move around the court, but don’t move into coverage. The Spurs offense is totally predicated on player movement, but there are times when inexperienced players think that moving is the goal. It’s not. Open shots are the goal. Nando left an open spot on the floor to move to a more crowded one and Tim sailed the ball to where he should have been, because that’s where the open spot is, as dictated by the defense. If you want to yell at Tim for throwing the ball without really looking, go ahead. But I suspect it was Nando who got the tongue-lashing from Pop at the next timeout.
Trending Up: Kawhi, Patty
One thing I’ll remember about this year’s Rodeo Road Trip: it was when I became convinced that Kawhi was going to be the next Spurs All-Star. It may not be next year or even the year after, but it’s coming. With every new challenge, he calmly, quietly steps up and declares that he’s ready. This offseason, the Spurs have some interesting decisions to make about Manu Ginobili. And a good deal of that decision has to do with Kawhi’s steady progression into a third wheel to the Tim and Tony show. There’s a whole post in here somewhere that I’ll find time to do now that the schedule is slowing.
If you had Patty Mills as being tied for the leading scorer in this one, you cashed out in Vegas big time. For what it’s worth, I thought he was better than Nando (and the +13 for Patty vs Nando’s -7 is some indication of that).
Trending Down: Timmy
I’m just throwing it out there: Tim doesn’t look right. He’s still good defensively, but even running up and down the floor, he still looks like he’s favoring his leg. He also seems to be lacking explosion in his legs, particularly on post moves. One of you posted on Twitter during the game that every Tim post-up felt like a wasted possession and there’s some truth to that. If his leg needs more rest, I wish Pop would shut him down for another week or two.
Stat of the Game: Paint Points and Rebounds
If I told you that the Spurs were outrebounded in a game 47-36 and lost the points-in-the-paint battle 40-36, you’d have thought they lost, right? I would have. Yet, this was a comfortable victory, helped by the fact that defense held the Suns to 37% shooting and the offense made 28 of 35 free throws (and yes, there were 68 free throws total in this game; if it seemed like it took forever, it’s because it did).
Hat tip to J.E. Skeets of The Basketball Jones for pointing this out, but the “Good Move, Bad Move” notes in the game story on NBA.com are hilarious.
I find the tide has turned this year on Gary Neal. Whereas the last two seasons, the Twitterverse loves his guts and ability to take and make big shots, this year, it’s all about his lack of handle, inability to pass into a pick-and-roll, and his below-average defense, which hasn’t changed in the 3 years he’s been here. I’m still in on Gary Neal and here’s why: I think his shot is coming back and I think he’s one of the guys who is not afraid to shoot it when open. Every time I see Bonner pass up a 3 to drive in with that “short armed t-rex flinging its own poop” hook shot, it makes me wish Gary was playing more. He’s been injured a lot this season, with a nagging calf, and Wayne thinks that and his appendectomy at the beginning of the season have affected his shot. But there were possessions last night when I wish he’d been on the floor, because the Spurs would have at least gotten a shot off.