A two-way tease

by

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.

 

 

  • junierizzle

    Just hang in there, Manu, we’re almost there.

  • Km114108

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot and after watching Manu tonight I think it’s time for Manu to retire.  As much as this pains me to say this (especially since he’s my favorite player) he’s never going to be healthy again.  Unfortunately what we’re seeing is his body starting to break down often.  It’s sad to see him not even get through several games before he inquires another injury.  He can’t keep doing this and it’s hurting our team too consistency wise.  I would love to see him continue to work with the team maybe as an assistant though like he has during the timeouts on the bench.

  • theghostofjh

    I presume you’re joking.

  • junierizzle

    Hold your horses. He’s actually been playing pretty good. It just doesn’t look that way because the Spurs have been losing lately. He tightened up, it happens. He’s far from retiring.

  • theghostofjh

    Blair actually got some 4th quarter minutes tonight. Let’s hope that’s an omen, not a momentary bout of eccentricity by Pop.

  • Zain521

    Km be patient and wait for manu to regain his swagger back it takes time. Also no he should not retire without him we are not championship contenders… the reason he gets injured so often is because he plays every gamelike it is the playoffs hard every time.

  • Bry

    That is one of the most misguided comments I’ve ever seen on this blog. Hurting our team? You’re certifiable. 

  • Titletown99030507d

    He is showing signs you have to admit.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Probably meant if he gets another injury it would put the chemistry of the team on hold again. Not that she wants him to retire.

  • Titletown99030507d

    And Spilitter got the least of the minutes of the Bonner, Blair, Splitter trio. These are the games Pop should just let him loose and have at it if they are winning and to give Timmy rest time.

  • Bry

    It’s telling you’re assuming km is a she. She said ‘it’s time for him to retire’. That’s an incredibly stupid recommendation just because a guy is having an injury-riddled season. And to say he’s bad for our chemistry is bafflingly out of touch. Injuries happen in sports, especially to older more reckless players. Manu will have forty years to be a retired ballplayer and sit around drinking lemonade. To advocate his retirement now is literally the most misguided thing I’ve read on here apart from earlier this season when a couple people were bizarrely (and treacherously) advocating for Duncan to retire (to clear up cap space and – and I’m not kidding here – to ‘free up’ a roster spot) and/or to tank the entire season. You genuinely have to question the sanity of the people behind these statements.

  • Tyler

    Andre Blatche = the antithesis of Spurs basketball. He’s a taller, fatter, slower, and worse shooting version of Antoine Walker.

    Watching him play makes me mad.

  • junierizzle

    Not to mention he just had back-to-back great games against the Clippers and Knicks. You don’t notice it because they lost the Clipper game and the Knicks stink. Plus TP is the one in the spotlight theses days.

  • junierizzle

    Exactly. It’s hard to get your swagger when the team is losing. Manu said it himself. “We’ve been playing good and I come back and we start losing, it’s not a good feeling.”

  • Titletown9903507d

    Slow down Bry,Im not saying he has to retire but in my opinion as for me dont you think if he keeps getting little nagging injiries it makes it harder for pop to get his rotation down since we are at this point of the season. If this continues to limit him because of injuries do you think it hiders optimum flow of the team come playoff time and Manu isnt 100% on board with the. And no I didnt say he needs to retire. It wil just be akward if hes not in sync with the team. How many more injuries? And how many games will he miss? Does it affect the team as a whole?

  • Titletown99030507d

    Finally Tiago gets on track again after coming back from injury several games ago. How about some more minutes Pop?

  • Bry

    Sure it does. But, what affects the Spurs more; Manu getting injured often and missing games, or Manu retiring when he’s still an extremely effective basketball player and thereby giving absolutely nothing ever again to the Spurs on the court. It’s like saying “I’m worried about getting my new shoes dirty, so I will never ever wear them. I’ll keep them safely in storage so they don’t get ruined”. It’s horrible advice. In fact, it would be horrible advice even if Manu were 39 and only playing limited Grant Hill/Ray Allen stints; instead of being a starter and 2nd best player on a very good playoff team. km’s ‘advice’, just like all the other advice trying to rush skilled players into early retirement is a reflection of neurosis, rather than any logical thinking. I mean, Peyton Manning right now, and T.J. Ford for the past 7 years play with actual life-threatening injuries, but Manu should hang it up? Madness. 

  • TD BestEVER

     I agree it was very encouraging to see him get it back going.  As far as minutes go, we have been over this 10000000000 times.  Even when Blair was playing very well POP was cutting into his normal minutes. Bonner is POP’s favorite player and he will always look to get him involved in games even when we have ZERO NEED of his 3 pt shooting.  We needed defense last night and POP still went to Bonner 1st. 

    If you recall at the start if the 3rd qt POP quickly pulled RJ and then Blair a minute pater to talk to them about something that he didn’t like.  Although I’m not too sure what they were doing wrong because I was watching and they seemed to be making the right moves on D.  But if you are gonna get into Blair for not playing Defense why in the hell would you call in Bonner?? All time head scratch-er there.

  • Bry

    I’m no fan of heavy Bonner minutes, but you guys are freaking out about a guy who gets 20.8 minutes per game and calling him “POP’s favorite player”. Pop pulled those guys; talked it over with them, and them put them back in the game to correct their mistakes. That’s good coaching. I’ve seen him yank Bonner as well. (There’s no player, apart from possibly Duncan that hasn’t been on an extremely short leash with Pop at one time or another). Again, I wish Bonner would play less minutes, but every he goes over twenty everybody starts screaming that Pop has some conspiracy to play him every second.

  • TD BestEVER

     It’s not as much his minutes as it is how much he gets and how little Blair/Splitter gets at times.  So ya it’s over stated, but it keeps happening.

  • theghostofjh

    Agree. Splitter should have played more as well.

  • theghostofjh

    He’s had a rash of minor injuries during this strike-shortened season. This is nowhere near enough for any sound mind to suggest that he’s knocking on “retirement door”. He may need to upgrade his training regimen year-round, and get with Nash’s trainer ……. but retire? Way too premature for that, particularly when noting his production when on the court. The Spurs just need to have good back-ups at that position (which they do), and hope for the better as far as how often Manu can stay healthy.

  • theghostofjh

    We scream because we have NO chance to advance far in the playoffs with Bonner averaging 20+ mpg. It’s a big problem that’s been going on for years with no change on the horizon. IMO, Pop overvalues Bonner compared to Blair & Splitter.

  • TD21MG20

     The sky is falling! They lost a couple games. so what. He is the best player on the team.

  • Bob

     The Spurs really need a 3 big man rotation like most teams with the 4th big playing ~10 minutes or less. The problem is Pop’s desire to conserve minutes for TD screws up the rotation. If he knows TD will be needed for 35+ a night in the playoffs it would make sense to start moving towards that rotation sooner. And TD will be needed for 35+ minutes.

  • Hobson13

    Here’s the deal:  When Manu is healthy, he is probably the 3rd best SG in the entire league (behind Kobe and Wade).  The guy is just a very rare ballplayer.  I do understand the point that he is injury prone.  In fact Manu has only played in 80 regular season games only once (last year ironically).  On the other hand, Manu makes $13 mil compared to Wade’s $15.6 mil and Kobe’s cap killing $25.2 mil. and he has only 2 years left on his contract after this year.  I think he should look at retirement after his contract is up, but not before then.  

  • Len

    Spot on.  Although I don’t know the man, he strikes me as the kind of guy who will do everything he can to honor the contract he signed.  There is no way he will quit in the middle unless a leg falls off.

  • Len

    Yes, yes, yes and hell yes.

  • Doctourj

    Sure would love to see Diaw replace Bonner’s 20 minutes…

  • LPspursFan

    so the ENTIRE playoff hopes of the Spurs rest on whether Matt Bonner plays 20 minutes or not?

  • Bry

    Hear, hear.

  • Bry

    I agree that it was absurd to suggest a player with Manu’s talent and drive should retire any time soon. But, he’s hardly the best player on the team. There are very strong arguments that both Tony and Timmy are better, especially if you factor in how often Manu has gotten injured for the playoffs.

  • Bry

    Yeah, I don’t think it hinges that much on Bonner’s minutes (again, he consistently spends more than half of every game on the bench). If Timmy’s gonna get 35 minutes per game in the playoffs (which is very doable) and the Spurs occasionally play smallball, then there are only about 50-55 minutes per game to be divided up among Blair, Bonner and Splitter. That’s no problem at all. In fact, when you take smallball into account I understand somewhat why the Spurs haven’t been too concerned about picking up another big this season.

  • Bry

    How would the Spurs get Diaw?

  • Doctourj

    Looks like the Bobcats might buy out his contract and release him. His agent has requested it.  He can sign for a playoff contending team before March 23 if the Bobcats  release him.  Apparently NY wants him pretty badly also, but I would hope Tony could have some sway there….

  • TD BestEVER

    No its just if Bonner is getting big minutes then you are getting less of Splitter and Blair……. both of whom are better players…….

  • Bry

    Is he known for defense?

  • theghostofjh

    It’s the difference between having a CHANCE to get past the second round. With Bonner getting 20 mpg. or more there is, IMO, NO chance of this.

  • theghostofjh

    Not really, but he’s very versatile, has very few glaring weaknesses, and many things that he does well.

  • theghostofjh

    IMO, in the playoffs they should keep “small ball” to an absolute minimum. An overall average of 6 mpg., max. And then hope you get a sustainably productive 34 mpg. of playoff intensity basketball out of the 36 year old Duncan. That leaves 56+ minutes for the other 3 bigs. I’d like to see an AVERAGE (will vary some based on match-ups – but please, don’t micro-manage!) distribution of minutes as follows: Blair – 22+, Splitter 22+, and Bonner 12+/-. If everyone’s healthy this would give us a “chance” of getting past the 2nd round.

  • Tyler

    Just because one player plays for 20 minutes, the entire team has zero chance of advancing past the 2nd round? I think you’re over exaggerating the contributions (or lack thereof) of one player. 

    Surely, our playoff hopes don’t rest squarely on the guy who’s 9th in minutes played per game lighting it up?

  • Tyler

    Unless of course you count his weakness for twinkies and the like. 

    Might be a good time to invest in Mexican food restaurants if Diaw comes to town.

  • Bry

    I agree. It’s funny how a few less minutes for Bonner, and a few more for Blair and Splitter (who are clearly better post-players) would drastically appease Spurs fans.

  • Bry

    Is he really only 9th in minutes per game? That’s a persuasive argument, if so.

  • Bry

    Also, if he’s only 9th in the rotation (which would be a little surprising) that stands to disprove the theory that Pop ‘has a love affair with Bonner’.

  • theghostofjh

    We have SEVEN guys averaging between 20.5 (Splitter) and 23.2 mpg (Leonard). I can tell you, NO other team in the league has even close to that many players grouped so tightly in a 2.7 mpg. range (Bonner has gotten 0.9 mpg. less than Blair, and 0.3 mpg. more than Splitter). For that reason alone, Bonner being 9th in minutes is a misleading data point. In addition, at least two out of the three of Green, Neal, and Leonard would have lower avg. mpg. than Bonner if Manu wasn’t injured most of the year.

    If Manu is healthy, Neal, Green, and Leonard will likely average less minutes in the playoffs than all four of our bigs, including Bonner, unfortunately. We can forget about getting through round two playing small ball (more than a minor amount), or playing Bonner 20+ mpg. The point is, we should be increasing Blair’s and Splitter’s minutes (4-5 mpg. bump at minimum), and reducing Bonner’s right now and through the playoffs (by 5 mpg. minimum). Bonner’s value in the playoffs is even lower than what it is during the regular season, for a variety of reasons. We need to adjust the rotation/minutes accordingly.

  • theghostofjh

    See my reply to Tyler.

  • theghostofjh

    See my reply to Tyler.

  • theghostofjh

    It’s the EIGHT fewer Bonner minutes that would be most helpful. Ideally, I’d like to see even a few more minutes for Blair and Splitter than what is suggested above, and even less, or NO small ball.

  • Ace Smith

    The spurs have some bad luck having to face OKC tonight! they arent gonna win and ill tell u why in my blog here check it out and comment! http://nbawagers.com/2012/03/rickys-tips-for-the-sports-gambling-man/