El Conclusión: San Antono Spurs 117, Sacramento Kings 112
|Tim Duncan, C 30 MIN | 9-18 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 18 PTS | +14
Managed to hold his own in a battle of generations. There are nights when Tim Duncan goes to a post move, makes a hard spin off a defender, and does not have enough lift after the pivot to put up a soft shot. Tonight was not one of those nights, with Duncan pulling off that move late in the game and dropping a beautifully placed bank shot that settled softly into the net.
|Kawhi Leonard, SF 33 MIN | 8-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 19 PTS | +14
Kawhi Leonard has been allowed to be a special rookie mostly because the Spurs haven’t asked him to be. His role on the team has been simple, clearly defined, and well within the limits of his fledgling skill set. Since claiming the full-time starting small forward spot, however, we’ve seen Leonard experiment a little more on the fringes of his skill set, confidently taking shots from different locations, pushing the ball on his own accord, and trusting his instincts more on both sides of the ball.He’s not been in the league long enough to get a handle on what his theoretical ceiling might be, and yet, he’s constantly changing it with performances like this one.
|DeJuan Blair, F 23 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 8 PTS | +3
We might have to give up on the notion of DeJuan Blair being a monster on the boards. What he has settled into is an important cog in the Spurs pick and roll and motion heavy offense, and a woefully underrated interior passer, which fits nicely into the direction this team has taken.
|Tony Parker, PG 31 MIN | 4-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 10 AST | 10 PTS | +14
Tony Parker’s MVP run might be over, with the team no longer needing to lean so heavily on his scoring exploits. But the improvement is still visible on nights like these. Even struggling some from the field, Parker was able to create opportunities for his teammates far beyond what his 10 assists would suggest.
|Daniel Green, G 15 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-1 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 7 PTS | -2
The difficult part for someone in Danny Green’s situation, who flourished with the ample opportunities provided by injuries, is to still be a valuable contributor once those minutes and opportunities are reduced. It takes a specific mindset to do more with less, which might sum up why Green—a glue guy on stack North Carolina teams in college—has had a better go of things than James Anderson.
|Stephen Jackson, SG 28 MIN | 4-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +8
Critics worried about Stephen Jackson’s ability to conform to the Spurs offense and defensive schemes did not take into account that within those systems there is some built-in leeway to deviate. In fact, for a Spurs team that has always relied on textbook execution, sometimes that deviation can actually help that system flourish with its unpredictability.Jackson is a competitor and gives the Spurs an edge. Most of the time when we write about it, we look at the offense without acknowledging how it manifests on the defensive end. Where Jefferson merely tried to stay within the Spurs schemes, Jackson gets into his opponent and tries to create plays.
|Boris Diaw, PF 18 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | -4
Perhaps a reason for Boris Diaw’s perceived passivity is that he breaks down defenses far better than he breaks down his individual defenders. That is to say that while he struggles to create great separation from his defender, he has a keen sense of knowing that if he gets to a particular spot it will draw enough attention to free a teammate.I’m somewhat of a slow, out of shape point guard so it’s certainly something I can certainly relate to. Fortunately Diaw can thread gorgeous passes through small windows, and is on a team with enough moving parts to accentuate his strengths and hide his weaknesses.
|Manu Ginobili, SG 25 MIN | 8-12 FG | 1-1 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 20 PTS | -1
There are varying degrees of an effective Manu Ginobili. There is the Ginobili that has enough legs to destroy a team from outside with just enough guile to complement it with a healthy dose of free throws to boost his scoring. There is Manu Ginobili, maestro of the pick and roll. And finally there is the Manu Ginobili that combines the first two degrees with a supernatural ability to change directions at impossible angles and speeds. That guy is slowly coming back.
|Gary Neal, PG 15 MIN | 4-8 FG | 4-4 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | -6
Freed from primary ball handling responsibilities, Gary Neal can now focus on strengths, which are shooting and secondary playmaking skills against a broken defense.
|Tiago Splitter, C 15 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 7 PTS | -9
Not a bad return from back spasms, though I worry that we may never see the Tiago Splitter that was emerging before the first injury for the rest of this season. That guy was commanding double teams in the post and hitting that awkward hook shot with extreme confidence.
|Patrick Mills, PG 6 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | -4
If this is what the Spurs can expect from Patrick Mills, they’ll be more than thrilled. With so many passers and playmakers on board, all the Spurs really ask from their backup point guard is a commitment to push the pace, knock down open shots, and relieve Ginobili and Gary Neal of some of the ball-handling burden.
Five Things We Saw
- This team is deep. Now that Cory Joseph is back in Austin, every single player on the roster is a viable and valuable rotation player. It will be interesting to see, heading into the playoffs, whether Popovich trims the rotation down to seven or eight players or continues to utilize the full extent of the roster.
- It’s early, and we might not see extended runs this season, but lineups including Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw, and Tiago Splitter have the potential to be exceedingly fun. The entire roster, up and down, seems to have a great understanding of space and timing, but few in the NBA understand it as brilliantly as these three. So much ball movement!!!
- R.C. Buford, executive of the year. Just saying.
- Isaiah Thomas, joy to watch.
- Deep as the roster is, it’s going to be prone to uneven play at times, especially on the defensive end. Right now, when evaluating the Spurs, look for the various runs the team makes and how the lineups during those runs function together. That this whole mess is working right now is a testament to the basketball IQs of the players.I’m not going to say that this is the smartest team the Spurs have ever had, because they’re veritable geniuses year in and year out, but this definitely is the best combination of basketball intelligence AND varying, versatile skill sets that we have seen in some time.