A two-way tease
After losing three of their last five games, the Spurs regained their swagger tonight against the Wizards. In a game punctuated by crisp off ball movement and smart passing, the Spurs were able to put away Washington on the strength of 54% shooting from the field. The final score was 112 – 97.
The Spurs assisted 23 out of 28 baskets in the first half. After the game, Wizards coach Randy Wittman put his finger squarely on the issue. “They moved the ball as well as anybody. I think they are number one in the league in assists. You saw it tonight.”
It’s only one game, but there are two noteworthy talking points from the game.
In recent weeks—sans Ginobili—the Spurs have started Danny Green at shooting guard. In tonight’s victory, Ginobili started and Green did not make it into the game until the second quarter. Instead, Popovich went with Kawhi Leonard as the Spurs’ first wing substitution. Gary Neal, Matt Bonner, Kawhi Leonard, and Tiago Splitter all found their first minutes prior to Green.
The change probably has very little to do with Green and everything to do with the fact that Ginobili was simply ready to resume his place in the starting lineup. The takeaway was beautiful offensive chemistry.
When you have Manu Ginobili on your team, he’s allowed to cut to the front of the line. The Wizards defense is not winning any awards this season, but there is probably not a better high pick and roll guard tandem in the league than Ginobili and Tony Parker. When the Spurs’ backcourt is at full strength, San Antonio simply gets the shots they want.
Ginobili and Parker play wonderful two-man games with all of the Spurs’ big men, and when you add in the Matt Bonner option, the Spurs’ offensive possibilities outnumber their opponents defensive solutions. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker co-led the Spurs with seven assists. But Ginobili’s dimes came in a mere 20 minutes of action. And he didn’t commit a single turnover. Pure efficiency.
Even with as well as the Spurs have played this season, this game gave a glimpse of how much better their offense can be when fully healthy.
But, alas, that brings us to our other talking point. Manu Ginobili finished the game on the sideline battling muscle tightness.
In order for the Spurs to push their regular season success deep into the playoffs, there are but a few absolute essentials. One of those is a healthy Manu Ginobili. It’s been a long time since the Spurs have experience a prolonged stretch of Healthy Manu. Tonight’s contest was great reminder of how much of the Spurs’ eventual success, or lack thereof, is bound up in whether Manu Ginobili is on the court. Tonight’s game was a tease that went two ways.