Denver Nuggets 97, San Antonio Spurs 91: Up close impressions

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AT&T CENTER — This won’t be your traditional recap from me. For the first time some of us bloggers were afforded the chance to sit and cover the game from the courtside section. Traditionally, we seated at the concourse above the lower bowl, but tonight we had a chance to cover the game from the floor. In related news, it’s still preseason.

With the change of perspective, I was given the chance to devote my attention to things I wouldn’t normally. So instead of a nice little story, you get bullet points. Oh, and the Spurs lost 97-91.

  • When I got situated at my seat, I was most excited to catch some of the chatter on the floor. The constant PA noise cut out most of what I would’ve liked to hear (probably better for the paying customers with kids), but I was still able to get a good grasp on those who communicate well on the floor. Tim Duncan, as you might expect, was a talker on defense. Training camp invites Josh Powell and Derrick Brown also communicated well.
  • Kawhi Leonard, on the other hand, was as quiet as you’d expect. On an errant pass he threw in the first half, I was expecting to see some sort of “My bad,” but there’s was nothing. No words. It wasn’t a problem defensively, big man usually need to be more vocal because they have a better view of the floor, but man, dude does not talk.
  • The Spurs rolled out a Tim Duncan-Tiago Splitter front court some in the first half. I still think this tandem could be one of the Spurs’ best defensively, especially when Leonard and Danny Green are on the floor well. That lineup finished even with the Nuggets, 12-12, during the few minutes they were together. Coach Pop said a couple of years ago that one of the reasons DeJuan Blair and Tim Duncan could play together, despite Blair’s lack of a jump shot, is because they are both smart players who can pass. Splitter and Duncan connected on a nice couple of big-man-to-big-man passes in this game. Then again, the Nuggets rolled out some big lineups featuring two centers, so that could’ve been the motivation for pairing Duncan and Splitter together. It could be a good closing lineup too if Splitter can exorcise his free throw demons this season.
  • Speaking of DeJuan Blair’s jumper, he hit another one today. This is good.
  • Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills didn’t play in this game due to injury. According to Pop, Manu will play on Sunday in Houston and Mills will return to practice next week. Matt Bonner and Wesley Witherspoon also didn’t get any game action. The Spurs will play their fourth game in nine days on Sunday, so there’s likely some resting and shuffling going on with the lineups. It’s not exactly a back-to-back-to-back, but it’s something when the players aren’t in tip-top shape.
  • Tiago Splitter needs to be more of a high jumper and less of a broad jumper. Whenever he goes up to catch a pass, especially on the run, he seems to cover 10-12 feet from takeoff to landing. And by the time he lands, he’s under the basket with no angle for a shot. If he jumped up more than out, he’d find himself in better position more often.
  • One interesting wrinkle that I’d like to see here and there is the 4/5 pick-and-roll. Both Duncan and Boris Diaw are good passers, and Diaw can handle the ball well. The pair ran something of the like in the first half on broken play, and it brought back memories of young Tim Duncan playing with David Robinson. I doubt will see much of it in the regular season, but it might be an unexpected look for opposing defenses.

I don’t think Spurs fans would accuse me of playing favorites around here (except Tim Duncan, he’s the best). I’m an equal opportunity critic/heaper of praise. People who know me well know that I get really into something for a week or two and then forget it and move on to something new.

Using that theme, I’m going to start writing after every game one player/thing I’m into at that moment and one that I’m not. Here is the first installment.

Hot on: Derrick Brown’s defense. As I said earlier, he is a talker on defense and he’s active. He has the ability to help-and-recover on pick-and-rolls, which most San Antonio big men have trouble with. He’s also versatile on defense, able to cover 4s and wings like Danilo Gallinari.

Cold on: Derrick Brown’s shooting. Man, dude cannot knock down an open jumper.

  • Spurholic Mumbai

    Whose the most likely player to close out the roster – Curry, Powell or Brown? Powell, seems to have had a quiet game tonight, unlike the previous two pre-season games. It would be an interesting choice to make for the FO.

  • rj

    what do you make of the frontcourt situation?
    powell, blair, and splitter all get equal minutes. around 7
    curry and brown each log 16
    matt bonner- DNP
    if i had to guess, i would say bonner and blair are on their way out. the spurs need another 7 footer in the event that duncan and splitter miss time this season and josh powell serves as another forward off the bench who provides better size than blair. we can’t affor to be pinned as “undersized” this late in duncan and manu’s career.
    since dunca and diaw are the only bigs who were consistently rotated against OKC, i would say the backup power forward/center positions are just as competitive as the backup pg.

  • assistmand

    I know it’s just the preseason and all, but these new guys are more intriguing to me than the certain big men already on the team.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Can’t make too much out of anything. The Spurs will be on their fourth game in 9 days on Sunday, which is a lot for preseason. They’re just shuttling guys in and out in order to get some playing time for everyone. I doubt Bonner is on the block or anything.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    The only one who I’d be concerned about is Wesley Witherspoon, who logged a DNP when he’s fighting for his basketball life.

  • STIJL

    Derrick Brown needs to either improve his J or become a good facilitator. Defense aside…to make this Spurs’ offense first mentality team I think he has to do a better job of either scoring from the perimeter or assisting.

    Speaking of Brown…what’s up with Kawhi? Playing great defense like Brown but also scoring like Brown…hardly at all.

  • STIJL

    To follow:

    To me Brown offers the most of what the Spurs could use. Great
    defender with a propensity to being at the right spot on offense. He’s
    not going to wow you with his shooting, but, playing with a unit that
    provides scoring from the other players along with his tenacious defense
    (him paired with Leonard and Green in situations would give opponents
    fits) is what the Spurs lacked the most in last years playoffs. That plus his ability to be in the right spot on offense paired with a good distributor of the ball as in Ginobili on the second team would reinforce scoring options in the post as well has having a defensive presence. Brown just seems to find the seams and do his best when cutting to the basket. He could be used effectively with good passers which the Spurs have an abundance of in Parker, Ginobili, Blair, Duncan, DeColo. And even (if it’s in a half court setting) Neal.

    Powell may be regressing to the means but has shown above average
    ability this training camp. Question…would he remain consistent as a
    member of the team and is he what the Spurs would need the most from a bench player?

    Curry would be a great insurance card for the Spurs to have adequate
    (true bigs) on the team just in case Duncan or Splitter could not play.
    But would he be redundant and take away from what the Spurs need as far
    as an athletic 3/4 player who could be inserted more often than having
    Curry as insurance?

  • Spurholic Mumbai

    In fantasy land, this may be a possibility – assign Cory Joseph to the Toros, waive Blair and sign all three – Powelll, Curry and Brown. In reality, only one of the three! Most likely Brown will be signed. Curry, though, to test him, could be offered a Toros slot, thus keeping him within the overal mix.

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