San Antonio Spurs 111, Brooklyn Nets 86
My preferred recap format is “the margin,” in which we make a note for every point in the final margin of victory. Alas, I don’t have 25 worthwhile things to say about the San Antonio Spurs victory over the Brooklyn Nets tonight. However, I do prefer the bullet point style, so that’s how it’s going down.
- Tony Parker was dominant tonight. He’s playing at an unimaginably high level, higher than I honestly thought he was capable of a few years ago. He’s matured into an exceptional passer. He played 35 minutes, he probably had the ball in his hand for a full 33 of those 35 and he never turned it over once. He cut and spun his way to 29 points, a decent chunk of which came during a third quarter run that completely flipped the game on its head.
- In the first quarter it looked like the catastrophic defense that sank San Antonio in Detroit might be their undoing this evening as well. The Nets imposed their will physically. The backcourt of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace seemed beastly compared to Parker, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. Reggie Evans was bullying Boris Diaw in the paint. The Nets looked ready to make the Spurs work for this one.
- Even when the Spurs’ offense began firing on all cylinders, the Nets were still making them work for it. A number of third quarter possessions used nearly all 24 seconds of the shot clock. The Nets began trapping Tony off the pick-and-roll in an attempt to force the ball out of his hands or prevent the drive. It took Tony a while to find a good look, but it’d be an overstatement to call that defensive approach a success.
- All the attention Tony was receiving from the Nets’ defense made life easy for San Antonio’s shooters. The Spurs were 63 percent from 3-point range tonight. Remove Patty Mills’ two garbage time attempts from the equation, and that percentage creeps above 70 percent.
- Long before the Spurs were in firm control of this game, Gregg Popovich decided to toy around with some lineups I would describe as “imaginative.” Nando De Colo, Gary Neal, Stephen Jackson, Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair saw some solid minutes as a unit. In the second half, that same squad with Boris Diaw inserted in DeJuan’s place saw some time. Neither unit was a catastrophe, which is a bit surprising. Aside from Neal, none of those guys creates much offense for himself. (And honestly that’s only somewhat true of Neal.) And if you’re trying to talk up San Antonio’s improved defensive abilities this season, those aren’t the names you start with. But, like I said, they weren’t a total catastrophe.
- While I love the player Danny Green is becoming, one element of his game is still sorely lacking: he’s largely ineffective on the fast break. It wouldn’t be such a problem if his quickness and ability to create turnovers didn’t often make him the guy sprinting the floor alongside Tony when the Spurs do get out on the break. He struggles to initiate contact, or at least create the kind of contact that gets called. He doesn’t finish well at top speed. And he struggles to see the open man if there’s an easier layup to be had.
- However, Danny Green did shoot the ball well, making 4-of-8 3-point attempts. He had one especially noteworthy, poised play in which he paused to let a shot blocker fly by and nailed a quick 3 with less than a second left on the shot clock. He also shook off some early defensive setbacks and eventually became a nuisance to the bigger, stronger Joe Johnson.
- Kawhi had a solid, quiet, classically Kawhi night. His breakaway dunk in the first quarter is also tied with Danny Green’s shot clock-beating 3 for my favorite play of the game. I don’t love it cause it was a highlight reel dunk. I loved the play because, when he got out on the fast break, he attacked the rim without hesitation. He hasn’t always shown that confidence in the open floor.
- Before the game, I asked Popovich about Kawhi Leonard’s development as a player. Per usual, he brought up the great work assistant coaches Chad Forcier and Chip Engelland are doing to add offensive dynamism to Kawhi’s game. In particular he mentioned the corner 3, the rocker step and the floater as offensive weapons Kawhi continues to work on. I asked Kawhi about his work with Chad and Chip and, per usual, he said barely anything. He’s the quietest guy I’ve ever interviewed. There are monks who’ve taken vows of silence who make more of a racket than Kawhi.
- Tiago Splitter only shoots reverse layups. Just pointing that out.
- After the game, I asked Stephen Jackson about his role in 2013 compared to 2003. I also asked what his go-to karaoke song is. He said his role in 2013 is primarily about the defensive end of the floor, and energy. He said his go-to karaoke songs would either be his own music or Tupac.
- The Spurs were able to put things together defensively as the game wore on. After the game, neither Leonard nor Jackson claimed they made any strategic adjustments, that it was just a question of intensity. I imagine that’s not entirely the case, but it’s certainly part of the story. Still, despite an impressive second half defensively, I hungrily await the defensive consistency that Tim Duncan’s return will bring.
- While Parker continued to make the case that he should be an MVP candidate for the second straight year, Deron Williams struggled to impose his will on the game. Even that’s putting it lightly. The three time all-star completely disappeared for long stretches he was on the floor. He had a mere 15 points and as many assists as turnovers (three of each). He just hasn’t been the same player this season as the guy who, a few years ago, was readily mentioned alongside Chris Paul as arguably the best point guard in the league.
- Brook Lopez had the best evening of any Brooklyn player. He’s been the Nets’ best player all season, whether or not most people realize it. 18 points on 13 shots and nine boards was about as good as it got for any Net this evening. Lopez scored easily any time he found himself on the court without Tiago Splitter, and even then managed to score reasonably efficiently.
- But seriously, guys: Tony Parker.