San Antonio Spurs 101, Oklahoma City Thunder 74: That team defense looked sort of familiar

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I get the impression that Kevin Durant has the capability to score 80 points all by his lonesome, sort of like Kobe Bryant a few seasons ago. So for the San Antonio Spurs hold Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder under 80 points in a 101-74 win for the Spurs, well, that’s a big deal.

For most of the night, San Antonio’s defense of old ran the show. The Spurs chased the Thunder shooters off the 3-point line and stopped them before OKC’s men got to the basket, giving them shots in that middle ground known as inefficiency.

For the most part, you won’t see a Spur defender square up to the man he’s guarding on the perimeter. Usually, they shade more to one side of the other, inviting the man they’re defending to put the ball on the floor instead of take a 3-point shot.

From there, the Spur defender guides his man into the help defense and forces the opponent to either shoot the ball from the mid-range, a shot Gregg Popovich can live with, or get rid of the ball.

It takes a lot of trust in your teammates to allow yourself to give the appearance of being beat off the dribble. But against Oklahoma City on Saturday night, the Spurs were full of trust. The result was under 33% shooting for the Thunder and only 1-7 from the 3-point line. It was a bit of a defensive masterpiece.

Here some other assorted bullet points from San Antonio’s 29th win of the season:

  • The Spurs have run their pet alley-oop play for Richard Jefferson a number of times this season, but it seems like over the last two weeks they’ve run it at least once per game and gotten points. It seems like it usually comes in the first or second quarter, too.
  • Gary Neal didn’t check into the game against Oklahoma City for the first time until there were just four seconds remaining in the first quarter. Ime Udoka actually entered the game before Neal, which I thought was interesting.
  • Tiago Splitter celebrated his 26th birthday with six points and six rebounds in about 20 minutes of action against OKC, though he only shot 2-7 from the floor. Also, he still hasn’t figured out the whole defensive 3-seconds in the lane rule.
  • Some day, some day, George Hill will hit the roll man when he’s running the pick-and-roll. And when he does, all the land will rejoice and throw parties in his honor.
  • There were a possible 396 fourth quarter minutes that Tim Duncan could have played this season. I’m curious how many of those minutes he has actually played. My guess is about a third of them. I’d love to see a pie chart displaying the percentage of those minutes Duncan has played. Duncan played 27 minutes against the Thunder and put up 21 points on 10-15 from the field and grabbed nine rebounds. He’s still got it. [Update: I’ve been informed that Duncan has played in 140 of a possible 396 fourth quarter minutes through 33 games this season.]
  • TheRed&Black

    Our guys seem pretty focused right now. I think we will be fine, as long as we come out ready to play early on with NY, and not have to fight our way back into the game.

  • TD = BEST EVER

    @TheRed&Black

    “Let’s knock on wood, and hope our Spurs can avoid that injury bug.”

    I think that it will eventually catch up to us and we need to start bracing ourselves for it now. It happens to every team and and has to us for as long as I can remember. We need to get a 6-7 game lead up on teams and really start resting guys. Like telling Timmy, Manu, or TP that the ca n have a night or 2 off BEFORE they get injured would be great. We have enough depth and should pick EXTREMELY BAD TEAMS and wait for home games.

  • Easy b

    Looking at the schedule ahead- I think it is critical that the team really fights to keep the momentum going in Jan, and take advantage of a reasonable feb schedule. Can probably do 10 -2 in feb without major injuries. But 16 games in march ( 4 b2b) and 7 b2b combined march and April will eat into our record.
    Minus major injuries I see the schedule panning out like this:
    Jan: 2-3 losses
    feb: 10-2 record
    march: 11-5
    April: 3-4 losses
    that’s about a 62 win pace, and probably good for at least top of west. If we can split with Miami, Boston, Dallas and la, that might get us best overall. This upcoming b2b should help with the b2b crystal balling….

  • td4life

    butler for
    a) harrington and j r smith
    b) g wallace
    c) iggy hops

    all those guys are on the block as salary dumps, with charlotte wanting the most return… would any of that keep dallas afloat in the standings?

    I want dallas to potentially hand some losses to the lakers, heat, and boston… lakers are likely gonna move up in the standings, and miami is pretty much set to take over the top seed in the east, with boston in so much injury trouble.

  • grego

    Rondo is back in action for Boston.

  • Bentley

    Wow talk about us being lucky.

    Not only are we going to be playing Boston without KG this week, but there might be a chance that we play New York without Danilo Gallinari in the lineup as well

    http://sports.espn.go.com/new-york/nba/columns/story?columnist=sheridan_chris&id=5982334

  • robin

    about manu cooling down, well he deserved to get a cool down…he’s been waxing hot, after all, his teammates have been playing well, or shall i say the whole team is playing well…

    one thing great about manu, is he can cool down and still contribute, but when push comes to shove, definitely manu is our top man…expect manu to come up especially on our annual rodeo road trip…

  • Hobson13

    td4life
    January 2nd, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    “butler for
    a) harrington and j r smith
    b) g wallace
    c) iggy hops”

    Dallas has been known to wheel and deal so what you suggest might make sense for them. It makes even more sense considering the start Dallas got off to when they were healthy. A healthy Dallas team had the potential to contend for the top seed in the West. If Butler is gone for the season, Dallas is probably, at best, the 4 seed and this is assuming Dirk gets 100% healthy and goes into MVP mode to get them there.

    Of all these players, Iggy would be the absolute best, but I can’t see them getting Andre without giving up a young piece like Roddy Beaubois. Philly would want more for him than just expiring contracts. Giving up Rowdy Roddy would almost break Cubans heart, but if he wants to compete for a championship this year, he’ll have to give up something of value. (This is all assuming Butler is out for virtually the entire season)

  • Water Buffalo

    @DanielT

    “Manu was very hoarse in the interview after the game, so is not fully healthy. The “sinus” thing likely came after fighting allergies for a few weeks, cedar pollen in San Antonio being very heavy throughout the month of December.”

    It’s also often known as Mountain Cedar Fever. That explains a lot…

    “The signs are unmistakable: the eyes burn and turn fiery red; the nose runs; the insides of the ears itch. Incessant sneezing–up to two or three hundred times a day–leaves some victims exhausted. On top of this, an insidious malaise sets in, making it hard to do anything but stare vacantly at the wall, while at the same time a nagging little voice says, “Get up. It’s just an allergy.”

    “But cedar fever is not just any allergy. It’s a scourge, a plague that smites the just and the unjust who have the misfortune to live anywhere in a broad strip of Central Texas that stretches from the Red River to the Rio Grande.”

    From: http://pollen.utulsa.edu/cedar.html

  • td4life

    grizz are spanking the lakers at staples with the starters out for the game with six minutes left.
    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaaaa

    hobson13–

    sixers don’t need PGs nearly as much as they need to move iggy (they could subsequently trade butler for say carl landry)
    butler: partial tear = 2 months, full tear = season

  • Bentley

    td4life

    just when you think it cant get any worse for the lakers, they get spanked at home by a 14-19 grizzlies team.

    cant help but smile

  • Hobson13

    td4life
    January 2nd, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    You have a point regarding the 76ers not needing another PG, but there’s simply no way that they would part with Igoudala (at one point their franchise player) for an expiring contract who happens to be injured. In fact, looking at the Mavs roster, I don’t see anyone the 76ers would want. The Mavs don’t have a lot of young talent outside of Roddy and JJ Barea.

    Bentley
    January 2nd, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Isn’t it a bit weird to see out two main rivals blow up right before our eyes? Dallas looked formidable until Dirk and Marion got banged up and Butler seriously injured. They’ve now lost 3 of their last 4.

    The Lakers just can’t seem to get it together and have lost 4 of their last 6 games. Even though they have tons of talent (although on the older side) they seem more than ever to be a one man team with an aging Kobe. Things could turn around quick for the Lakers, but then on the other hand, we’ve been saying that about them for the first 1/3 of the season.

    I say this and haven’t even talked about the injury issues with Bulls or Celtics. Sure is a weird time in the Association. My God, I hope nothing happens to one of our big guns. This is an excellent time for the Spurs to put some distance between themselves and Dallas, LA, and Boston.

  • mac

    Hobson13

    Unfortunately, injuries aren’t that “weird” in the NBA. The Lakers story certainly is strange in that they can’t blame injuries too much right now, but have gotten away from the inside game that has worked so well for that group of guys. The Florida teams are looking tough, though. And even though Miami has had their share of injuries, they are starting to get scary. Having started 9-8, they are 17-1 since.

  • Bentley

    Hobson13

    Yeah I’m with you on your take. I would have never expected the Spurs to be able to separate themselves from the rest of the league, they are easily the best team in the West, and they are only going to create more separation for the number one seed.

    As you said its a great opportunity for the Spurs that both the Mavs and Lakers are struggling. But at the same time, I would like to also see these teams playing well and not being decimated by injuries, so that the Spurs can really make statements. But you take what you get I guess.

    No one saw this amazing start from the Spurs. You have to give Pop and the FO credit. Pop has had these guys focused and ready since before training camp and these guys are on a mission statement. At the same time, the FO never blew up our big three, even though it seemed like that would be the right decision to bring in new, better talent. The Lakers blew everything up by trading for Gasol, and while they have two titles, LA will be an afterthought after Bryant retires, meanwhile the Spurs have young players like Hill, Neal, Splitter, and Blair to build around. You cant say enough about how good the Spurs have been.

    And the best part is, theres so much more room to improve

  • grego

    @mac – This is because Pau is struggling. They overplayed him early on. Unfortunately, they are paying for overplaying their guys, especially with all those deep summers and summer play. That’s the Laker story. That and Kobe is starting to see age play its part like it has with Duncan.

  • Easy b

    Agree with grego about lakers story. They are really winded right now, but will likely have a strong surge after the all star break to claim a top 4 spot. Ginobili has been a bit winded too- it seems to be manifesting in weird ailments- hopefully his minutes are managed through the short term so he doesn’t break down. Can’t see a butler trade going down- it’s a no-show of support for their players if Cuban pulls the trigger like that. The west looks weaker overall than the east right now with all the teams that have been decimated by injuries. Has anyone ever wondered if the floorboards were laid incorrectly in Portland, going by the run of injuries they have had?

  • td4life

    hopefully Manu’s minutes get cut back a little, not only once Anderson gets going, but after the knicks-celtics b2b…

    manu is probably the most important player on the team, and Pop seems unwilling to go without him, but I’d rather be without him by choice versus neccessity. With neal and hill playing pretty well together, with quinn being serviceable, and surely even ime is capable of playing some first half minutes… I’d like to see Manu get some shortened minutes over the indy, minny, minny, bucks stretch… those teams can beat you on a given night, but our team is deep, and have guys who can step up for a collective 10 extra minutes of court time for a few consecutive games, don’t you think?

  • soulidefy

    the only time a win means more in april than it did in december is when you didnt get those wins in december. moving along at this pace will make those games towards end of the season just a way for pop to grease the wheels for the playoff run. usually the matter so much because its a dogfight for position.

  • jwalt

    Manu hasn’t been feeling well, that’s part of his “decline”. But he also historically doesn’t put up numbers in games where the Spurs dominate. He gladly takes a back seat when the team is flowing, he doesn’t care one iota about his personal stats. He’s fine and everyone should stop worrying or complaining. Yes, he isn’t driving as much, but I’m glad for it. He’s playing for the first time in his career like there is a tomorrow.

    And it isn’t like he hasn’t been contributing. Against Dallas he was the only starter with a positive +/- score (+8). And against OKC he had the top +/- score (+21). Even when he shoots poorly he contributes to the team in a hundred other ways, he’s still the team’s MVP.

    Here is some perspective for Spur fans. To match last year’s record we will have to go 21-28 the rest of the season.

  • jwalt

    td4life — I agree with your idea of cutting Manu’s minutes. Best he be fresh for the big games. And I also agree he’s the most important player on the team, though George Hill is a close second in my mind.

  • Ed

    Wondered how many of the “complainers” would be out complaining about the spurs defense again. Not many. The “D” is getting better, as predicted. 3 qrtrs undr 20 points allowed and only 21 in the 4th. C’mon. As far as the “back to back” thing goes… I agree we have to take it into consideration. A little. After all nobody considers it when the Spurs are on the back-to-back game and lose or don’t play well. Let’s see how much consideration the Spurs get after the Celtics game, win or lose. Just hope Spurs don’t look past the Knicks. They’re better than they have been but at heart they are still a D’Antoni team, so they’ll score and play no defense. As far as the media goes? C’mon, they haven’t changed at all in the last 12-15 years, why should they now? They idiot-sheep. No original thought and even less insight. Don’t lose sleep over it.

  • mac

    With the whole country talking about the 6th seeded Knickerbockers, I would love to see the Spurs and their D put a beat down on that team. The Spurs got some practice time in, and I don’t think they can get caught looking ahead to Boston as a win against either team helps the cause equally, and you know New York will be up for this game.

    Go Spurs!

  • td4life

    jwalt–

    if there was an all-NBA team for reserves (or even for underrated players), Hill is far-and-away my first choice for that roster. In SA, what he brings is priceless… it’s hard to pick a close second to Manu in terms of importance though. Both Parker and TD bring something equally unique and much-needed. Neal is unquestionably right there in the conversation, and we can’t forget about RJ… no getting around the fact that it’s a team game, and this group is terrrific.

    Speaking of talented groups, I wish we could just go ahead on write off the Lakers. But somebody mentioned Artest being under-used. I imagine if he switched roles with Barnes, and joined Odom in the second unit, they would be frightening again. Doubt Phil will do that (to his discredit), but what’s worse they don’t need to, they just need to rest Pau a little and get Bynum going. At least they are struggling right now, so I’ll take what I can get.

    One step a time… looking for Spurs’ A-game in New York.

  • AS

    Today Manu is 2nd in +/-, behind Bosh and tied with LBJ at +289. So every minute Manu is out we are losing advantage. Pop needs to be very careful balancing rest and w%.
    ADVISE: Spurs number 1 on ESPN Power rankings = jinx?
    Maybe Manu should share his quantonium with his teammates (Monsters vs Aliens) lol

  • Cam

    “Some day, some day, George Hill will hit the roll man when he’s running the pick-and-roll. And when he does, all the land will rejoice and throw parties in his honor. ”

    HAHAHA, I’ll bring the streamers.

  • irongiantkc

    @soulidify-
    “the only time a win means more in april than it did in december is when you didnt get those wins in december.”

    Yes, I did just laugh out loud. Very funny and accurate statement.

    btw, am I the only one who feels just a little bit sorry for Nowitski? Could any other active player be more snake bit? First, the freak knee thing and now Butler? I thought he was such a joke when he came into the league and have I been proved wrong. Not that I want them to beat the Spurs. Just saying.

  • jwalt

    td4life — I agree again. Yes, Parker and Duncan provide great things. Parker has never played better, and I think signing him was the last piece needed for this team. TP doesn’t have to and so won’t be playing for his next contract. My criticism in the past has always been his habit of having sticky fingers, this year there is a lot less than that. And Duncan’s intelligence and defensive skills make him invaluable as well.

    But right now Hill does even more for me. He provides a lot of offense, guards the best offensive player from Brandon Jennings thru Kevin Durant, and plays with a lot of toughness. He’s the one player outside of Manu who makes everyone better — mainly Manu and Tony, because on account of him neither has to guard anyone who is the other team’s best offensive player.

    Duncan and Parker are great and are needed, but I think Hill is the most underated player in the league.

  • AS

    Is there any kind of filter in this blog?
    I submitted two comments today and none as posted.

  • rob

    @td4life

    I like this philosophy of trying to rest Manu during the stretch after the Knicks and Celtics.

    If others on the team can help provide the Spurs with productive minutes during this stretch, it will go a long way to securing a productive Manu for later on.

    Also, depending on how efficient Anderson can return, how many minutes he can play, will go a long way to relieving Ginobili until later on in the season.

    It will be a great year if the team can still win games with it’s youth during the second half of the season while giving rest to it’s proven vets while developing a team that can provide a high measure of dependable lineups for the playoffs.

    Health….I pray for health. We’ve already seen what any injury to one or two key players can do to a team.

  • grego

    @jwalt
    Manu hasn’t been feeling well, that’s part of his “decline”. But he also historically doesn’t put up numbers in games where the Spurs dominate.

    Manu’s been struggling through the month of December in his shooting numbers. If he makes those, he has solid numbers, even when the Spurs are dominating. He’s just not making shots. That’s pretty much the only difference between November and October.

    Hopefully as he’s on the road, those allergy issues he’s been having subside.

  • DorieStreet

    That’s probably why Manu’s been settling for 3’s– 1) the new offense; 2) his physical ailments; an 3) curbing his recklessness to the basket to prevent injury. Whether coach-induced or inner wisdom reflecting on his career, I am somewhat glad he has curtailed the drives this season. He’s been a streaky 3pt shooter in December, but other than Neal he’s the best we got (Bonner-do it on the road & I will believe). Anderson, we need you back ASAP so we can rest Manu. We need to run more sets for RJ to relieve scoring pressure on Manu & Tony. First team t0 30 wins on Tuesday–let MSG & Spike see our best!

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

    @ Cam

    Excellent. And can we ask that every bring some sort of appetizer or dessert? Tim, Jesse, Graydon and I will handle the main course. Any requests for music?

  • AS

    I dont think Manu needs more rest, actually I think he needs to play over 30 minutes to keep it rolling.
    He once said that 33/34 min/game is OK for him.

    @Andrew
    I can bring Argentine malbec. It’s OK?
    Music suggestion: Hit the roll George, and come back for more, for more, for more…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST8z3cuHi5g