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