San Antonio Spurs 107, Los Angeles Clippers 95

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AT&T CENTER — Tim Duncan entered Wednesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers clouded in uncertainty. Duncan exhibited flu-like symptoms earlier in the day and his appearance was in doubt.

“I really thought he wasn’t going to come,” Manu Ginobili said. “This morning he was feeling sick and we thought he wasn’t going to play, so it was very important for us to see him, knowing that he wasn’t close to 100%.”

In the end, Duncan played just over 22 minutes of the Spurs’ 107-95 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. But for once, Duncan had little impact on the game. He finished with six points on 3-7 shooting and grabbed just six rebounds. He didn’t even commit a foul. The one and only area where he stood out was blocked shots, where he had three.

“We weren’t expecting a huge game from him of course, but it was important for the team to see him on the court playing,” Ginobili said.

Despite the quiet night for Duncan, the Spurs exhibited their balance for a national audience. Richard Jefferson and Manu Ginobili each scored 22 points and Tony Parker had 21. George Hill was the other Spur in double figures with 10.

Duncan? Oh he was tied with Tiago Splitter for sixth on the team in scoring.

It’s early, but San Antonio is showing signs of being a top-notch offensive team. Duncan wasn’t scoring and he wasn’t drawing double-teams to open things up for teammates. Gary Neal, the gun-for-hire with 15 points on Monday at Charlotte, played just one minute at the end of the game.

And still, the Spurs broke the century mark yet again.

Granted, these Clippers, even when fully healthy, are far from a defensive juggernaut. But with the vast array of weapons — weapons that are currently firing — these Spurs are overcoming their early-season struggles on the defensive end.

San Antonio has seven players averaging at least seven points per game so far this season. The Spurs had the same number of players averaging at least seven points per game last season, but total those seven players only averaged 89.9 ppg. The top seven for the Spurs so far this season are averaging 94.7 ppg.

The strong start to the season offensively also comes as Tiago Splitter is slowly cracking the lineup. Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich has warned not to expect any 20-point games from Splitter this season — he’s not that type of player — but Splitter’s skill-set should be the WD-40 to the gears of the Spurs offense. He may not score a lot of points but his presence on the offensive end should aid his teammates when it comes to scoring.

And if the Spurs’ defense improves as the team gains consistency and Splitter’s minutes increase? Well, it’s to early to make that projection. But good things could happen.

  • DaveMan77

    DaveMan is all about the dee. I love looking at the Spurs box score everyday and see the balence of scoring and how many points they score. It’s amazing. I love it. And I know the deeper into the season, as the TO’s go down it’s only going to get better. But in my heart I know the Spurs are only going to go as far as their dee. I know the Spurs can put up points with any team in the NBA. That’s real talk. But the real question is can they get stops when they need to? It’s hella(I’m from the SF Bay) early in the season. So I’m sure the overall dee in the league is down right now. And I know Pop and Company are trying to keep Splitter on the DL(down low not disabled list you squares). But I know in SA they play for championships. And in order for the Spurs to have a shot at a Championship they need Splitter to step in and be a force at the defensive end. I mean for real. I think Blair is dope. I look at Blair as an upgrade from Malik Rose. And that’s compliment to Blair. Championship teams need role players that go above an beyond the call of duty(aka Rambis, Bowen, and Fisher(don’t hate me)). And I think Blair can be that type of player. But the Spurs need Splitter to neutralize the opposing teams center at both ends of the floor to free up Duncan on both ends of the floor. And I just don’t think Blair can do that. Once again this is not a knock on Blair. And if I’m wrong well, I hope I’m wrong because that’s how much I like Blair. All I’m saying is that I love what I’m seeing with the Spurs right now and I hope Splitter can play dee.

  • miggy

    Interesting that Neal didn’t get any burn.

  • SpurredOn

    The offense will get even better when the guys stop over-passing and stop missing uncontested layups. Sometimes they seem to be in too much of a hurry, thus some turnovers and easy misses, but I think that will work itself out with better cohesion.

    Very much like that TD and Splitter both had three blocks. Let’s keep that going.

  • San Antonio Spurs Fan

    I was surprised by the disappearance of Gary Neal too. Solid contribution so far this season. Looks like there’s a plot to keep the rookie in check.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Thanks for the recap, Andrew. Nicely done, as ever.

    @DaveMan77 – I appreciate your comments about Splitter and the Spurs’ defense. (And bonus for the gratuitous use of “hella” as a superlative. How very 1988 of you…)

    You reminded me of something I noticed in J.A. Adande’s very silly article questioning whether the Lakers would win 72 games. (Here’s a hint, J.A.: When Phil Jackson, the current coach of the Lakers and the only coach ever to win 72 games, doesn’t think it’s realistic, it’s probably not a good story. Unless of course this was a tongue-in-cheek shot at everyone who predicted the Heat will win 72, in which case their first two losses had already made that point.)

    L.A. has of course started off with an 8-game winning streak but, unlike the Spurs and the Hornets, nobody has really questioned the value of that streak, even though 6 of the games were at home, 6 were against teams with losing records, and the toughest team they’ve faced has probably been Memphis (or Portland with a gimpy Brandon Roy). Compare that with New Orleans, who have already beaten Miami, the Spurs (on the road), Denver, and Milwaukee–twice. But you don’t see any articles speculating about the Hornets’ chances to win 72!

    Obviously the Lakers are the defending champs, so Adande is only getting a little bit carried away. But look at his comments and see if they don’t fit the Spurs just as well:

    “[The Lakers have] enough prowess to lead the league in scoring… The Lakers are also in the top 10 in shooting percentage, 3-point shooting percentage and assists.

    But they’re in the middle of the league when it comes to points allowed… So far, the team’s identity has been its offensive efficiency….

    Here’s the thing: The Lakers don’t have to be as good a defensive team as the 1995-96 Bulls (who allowed 93 points per game) because defense isn’t as important a part of the league right now. Among the rule changes and emphasizes since then, the NBA has disallowed the use of the forearm to defend players facing the basket and has prohibited defenders in the low post from using both their hands and their forearms simultaneously against a player. The offensive stats have been trending upward for the past 15 years, and so far this season, scoring and possessions per game are on track to be their highest since the mid-1990s.

    …And if the Lakers lack the abundance of No. 1 overall picks and surefire Hall of Famers as the 1980s incarnations, if they’re not quite as awe-inspiring — they don’t have to be. They don’t face an abundance of competition in the current Western Conference. And they don’t have any fundamental flaws. They have a little of everything and will get even taller and tougher to score inside against when Andrew Bynum returns, perhaps at the end of the month.

    …But the Lakers do have the components Bryant seeks in a great team.

    ‘Intelligence, toughness and unselfishness,’ Bryant said. “We have all three. Everybody can make plays. Normally we have one or two guys who are playmakers. Here, everyone can make plays.'” [Excerpted from the 8 November edition of ESPN's Daily Dime.]

    Naturally I disagree with the basic premise of the article–that the Lakers don’t NEED to play well on defense to threaten the 72-game mark. That’s so off-base it doesn’t really need to be debunked. I just find it fascinating that there’s such a different perception of the Lakers’ start in comparison to the Spurs’ start when, really, the teams have been playing in a similar fashion against similarly weak schedules.

  • New York City

    Damn, Tim. That is some hella good analysis. You should write an article.

  • bduran

    Yeah, I didn’t seen the game last night but it looks like our Defense was terrible last night. We gave up 95 points on 93 possessions to a team that only average 96.2 points per 100 possessions. Luckily we’re currently 5th in Offensive Efficiency according to ESPN and 4th according to basketball reference. If our D improves as the season continues we will be really good.

  • Bankshot21

    I echo those sentiments from New York City (I am from nyc btw). Great write Tim in Surrey. I know it’s early but the east is not looking as strong as projected. That’s not even a shot @ Miami or Orlando (Boston is living up to expectations in my opinion) but teams like Milwaukee, Chicago, Atlanta in the midst of a 3 game lossing streak after looking like the Hornets of the East are all looking just blah. Teams like the Pacers, Cavaliers are actually playing better than most expected.

  • NoUse4aName

    @ miggy
    We all know that the clips is a bit marginal team. So experimenting is not gonna hurt in this game. Check the defense that anderson made and tiagos’ game and you’ll get the burn that you and I were looking for.

    Man, Splitter is really something. He still on the pacing period and his per 48 mins is wicked right now.

  • Andrew

    Feasting on weak competition is what the Spurs are supposed to do and they are doing it well, building a lead. I am concerned about a few things, though. George Hill seems a little off these days but mainly, my man DeJuan is looking lost, uncomfortable, and just bad. He has his moments and I think he’ll shake it off and have a monster game soon but his +/- was horrific last night in a 12 point win.

    I imagine Pop is pondering on whether or not to juggle the starting lineup, but Dice has been so strong coming off the bench and Splitter probably isn’t ready just yet.

    Odd that Neal didn’t see much court time but the way he’s been going, it seems like he could come off the bench firing at any point. I love what he brings to the Spurs, someone said Mason in his first Spurs season the other day.

    Its looking more like a long time before the Spurs see the lottery again, though, once Duncan and Manu hang it up, they’ll not be an elite contender but a 6-8 seed for a good long while.

  • Andrew

    Also: anyone catch that dig by Jalen Rose during half time?

    “Not that the Spurs are no longer a title contender…” in reference to Duncan playing out the twilight of his career.

    Hrmm…No. Certainly, they are not the favorites to win it all but with a core that has won 10 rings between them and some solid youth infusion, they have as good a shot as many. How are, say, the Celtics any different? Old core of veteran title winners that they are….

    Not a big Jalen Rose fan anyhow but thinking back, how many of the titles the Spurs won were situations where they were favored? Never. Sure, as defending champs, they carried a certain amount of credability. Lesson is, don’t sleep on this team. If the Celtics can take the Lakers to 7 games, the Spurs are plenty dangerous and offer hope for their fans.

  • zainn

    andrew, splitter is more than ready to play. And I do agree that blair is not being the force he was last season. I think it’s because he’s thinking too much about his shot, the form and whatnot. Last season he just played like a rook, and he played well. Also he’s working too hard on the boards drawing fouls, and he’s not getting them. He needs to realize when to back off and when to go for the rebound. If ur already boxed out by your opponent, you don’t try and jump over him for the rebound, unless your yao min or 7 foot tall. But overall a good game. Deepest bench of any duncan era ever is this one.

  • rob

    Some said Splitter wasn’t a good shot blocker while playing in Europe. But it looks as though he can be “trained” to become a good shot blocker for the Spurs.

    Splitter is coming along very nicely. Eventually I think Blair needs to be allowed to be Blair in order maximize his inherit talents. Even if it means he fouls out in 12 minutes.

  • spursfanbayarea

    @rob
    I do not think that splitter will ever be that prototypical shot blocker that cleans up weakside messes. But he plays solid positional post defense on his man and has an uncanny ability to draw charges. He has good lateral movement but limited hops. Don’t expect him to be a tyson chandler type of shot blocker. Instead expect him to be a very good positional defender.

  • td4life

    this team is gonna get exposed soon if we don’t dramatically improve. We have only played one good team so far and lost. I thought we could iron out the kinks against a bunch of scrubs, and Philly will be a bigger challenge, in the first back to back of the season. I predicted a 7-1 start to the season, but then we visit OKC, followed by Chicago and Utah. Then Orlando, Dallas, and N’awlins.

    Blair’s minutes will likely be limited, and the sooner we get Tiago’s up around 20 the better, but we will have to lean on Dice to get us through November. Offensively, we have a lot of weapons, but I would like to see more screens and ball movement. We are a middling defensive team, and that needs to change yesterday… what the dilly?

  • http://www.bpifanconnect.com Alix Babaie

    Tim in Surrey, the media has always been to donwplay Spurs success, that is the way it will always be…..even if we had a LeBron or a Carmelo….we would still be frowned upon as a contender. Jalen Rose is a jealous douchebag who wishes he could have won titles at the clip Tim, Tony and Manu have done. Perhaps if he wasn’t such a greedy bastard and hung up on small market vs. big market teams, he could have played for Pop and won some jewelry. Jalen, don’t hate the players, hate their game….and as it would be, their ability to see through the bullshit perceptions and stick with a winning organization no matter its location on the map or the ratings its team draws.

  • Tyler

    We sleep walked through the game. Whether it was careless turnovers, defensive lapses, or just bad offense at times, we just didn’t look totally focused. I’m sure once the team heard that Kaman, Gordon, and Davis weren’t playing, they thought they’d have an easy win.

    Reminded me of the Houston game last week.

    But, a win is a win. We’ll certainly take it.

  • Tyler

    @Alix

    Tell how you really feel about Jalen….

  • Hobson13

    Tyler
    November 11th, 2010 at 8:35 am
    “We sleep walked through the game. Whether it was careless turnovers, defensive lapses, or just bad offense at times, we just didn’t look totally focused.”

    Exactly. This was one of the most boring basketball games I’ve watched in a long time. Clippers couldn’t win the game since they were missing too many good players and the Spurs didn’t look motivated enough to blow them out by 20+ pts. Here were a few of my take aways:

    *Blair didn’t have the breakout game I had called for but at least he had a marginally better game than his season average. He really needs to stop going over player’s backs in an attempt to get the offensive rebound. That cost him 3 fouls.

    *Manu and Tony were good and RJ rediscovered his shooting touch from the Bobcats game.

    *Splitter had 3 impressive blocks to go along with 6 points and 4 rebs. in 16 minutes. He’ll be pretty good here in a month or so.

    *Again, the defense was nothing to crow about. The hapless Clips shot almost 47% against us.

    *So far, it would appear that our 3pt shooting has been fixed. Bonner or Neal didn’t play yet we shot over 61% from distance. We were also great from the stipe shooting 87%.

    In the end, it’s tough for me to take much away from this game. The Spurs just seemed very disinterested in the Clipps last night.

  • rob

    spursfanbayarea

    “I do not think that splitter will ever be that prototypical shot blocker that cleans up weakside messes.”

    I don’t think one can be correct to say that. He’s just starting in the league with some of the best coaches at teaching and training their players.

    Maybe he does…maybe he doesn’t. But he appears on the surface to have the tools, IQ and physical makeup to become that kind of player in this league.

  • rob

    spursfanbayarea

    Sorry I forgot to insert “will ever be” as the focus to my response.

  • Tyler

    @ Hobson13

    “Exactly. This was one of the most boring basketball games I’ve watched in a long time.”

    I concur, and I was at the game….

  • Andrew

    My only thoughts on Tiago being ready/not ready was his conditioning from missing so much time in camp but I believe you’re right, he has a high basketball IQ and is ready…and I think that is what we will end up seeing, Splitter as the starting 5 and Duncan at the 4.

  • Jim Henderson

    Tim in Surrey
    November 11th, 2010 at 5:43 am

    “Naturally I disagree with the basic premise of the article–that the Lakers don’t NEED to play well on defense to threaten the 72-game mark.”

    The Lakers are a very good team, but they’re not going to threaten 72 wins, whether they play better defense than what they had been playing this year or not. I sometimes wonder if anyone has a clue about how hard it is to win 72 games in one season in this league. The 95-96′ Bull team was special for many reasons, not to mention the GOAT, and they also benefited from competition that was simply NOT as deep as it is today. We have NO teams this year that will even threaten 70 wins. If anyone wins 65 it will be surprising.

    And about defense? Overall scoring may be trending higher, but more than half of the title teams over the last 12 years were top-five ranked defenses, and almost all were in the top-ten (I think the Heat team, and one of the 5 Laker team’s were the only anomalies).

    You’re right about the Laker’s schedule. It’d be surprising if they weren’t 8-0 at this point. They beat Portland without Oden & Przybilla, now they face Denver tonight without Martin and Andersen. And they beat a Warrior team that’s not nearly as good as its record. The rest of the teams are all under .500, and as you said, 6 of 8 of their games have been at home.

    Unfortunately I’m afraid the hype for LA’s record could be with us for awhile. They’ve got to have the easiest, most back-loaded schedule of any two-time defending champion in history. They’ve got mainly clear sailing through the middle of January! In fact they don’t play even once 4 of the top 8 teams in the league until Christmas! (Boston, Orlando, Miami, SA). If they’re not about 32-4 in January, they have no chance at 70 wins. I personally doubt that they’ll have only four losses by mid-January.

    bduran
    November 11th, 2010 at 6:26 am

    Yeah, I didn’t seen the game last night but it looks like our Defense was terrible last night.

    Yeah, you’re right, the defense sucked. I’m pretty concerned that our progress has been slow-to-non-existent through 7 games. We have til Sunday when we play OKC to make progress, or we could get our ass kicked.

    Andrew
    November 11th, 2010 at 7:14 am

    “Feasting on weak competition is what the Spurs are supposed to do and they are doing it well, building a lead.”

    I don’t see it that way. I see them “playing to the competition”, which is dreadful, and not a sign of a team that’s playing “serious” basketball.

    spursfanbayarea
    November 11th, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Right on about Splitter, although even his lateral movement is only mediocre. But again, he’s just the type of player that is generally more productive than he looks on the surface. I’m just hoping that he’ll be a good enough rebounder.

    Tyler
    November 11th, 2010 at 8:35 am

    “We sleep walked through the game.”

    Now that’s a great way to put it. And I agree.

    rob
    November 11th, 2010 at 10:21 am

    “But he appears on the surface to have the tools, IQ and physical makeup to become that kind of player in this league.”

    Rob, Splitter simply does not have either the innate quickness or jumping ability to be a very good shot-blocker in this league. If over a full-season he ever exceeds 1.5 blocks per 36 minutes I’d be very surprised (he’ll only get that high because of good anticipation & technique). Last night’s game was an anomaly, I’m afraid.

  • Jim Henderson

    Andrew
    November 11th, 2010 at 11:56 am

    “……. and I think that is what we will end up seeing, Splitter as the starting 5 and Duncan at the 4.”

    That might very well be tried at some point, but it is far from known whether that combination will work too well. Since both TD & Splitter are on the slow-side for NBA 4/5’s, they will inevitably have match-up problems defending out on the perimeter.

  • rob

    Jim Henderson

    “Rob, Splitter simply does not have either the innate quickness or jumping ability to be a very good shot-blocker in this league. If over a full-season he ever exceeds 1.5 blocks per 36 minutes I’d be very surprised (he’ll only get that high because of good anticipation & technique). Last night’s game was an anomaly, I’m afraid.”

    I’ll respect that you have that opinion and refer to it at the end of the season if he proves one way or the other to be different.

  • Bankshot21

    rob
    November 11th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    “I’ll respect that you have that opinion and refer to it at the end of the season if he proves one way or the other to be different.”

    Kudos to you on knowing how to respectfully acknowledge someone’s opinion even though you disgree.

  • Jim Henderson

    rob
    November 11th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    “I’ll respect that you have that opinion and refer to it at the end of the season if he proves one way or the other to be different.”

    Great, I’ll look forward to it.

  • rob

    Bankshot21

    “Kudos to you on knowing how to respectfully acknowledge someone’s opinion even though you disgree.”

    Thank you. Sometimes I agree with Jim and sometimes I don’t. But I really do respect his opinion. His arrogance sometimes leaves a bitter taste…but his insight often backs up his thoughts.

    Jim Henderson

    “Great, I’ll look forward to it.”

    I do too. But not to prove anybody wrong…more so than to see Splitter become more than what some think he can become. It’s there. And with patient training and more repitition…I think he will become better at shot blocking/rebounding than some might think he could produce.

  • Jim Henderson

    rob
    November 11th, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I hope Splitter becomes the very best he can be, in all areas. Splitter is fairly limited athletically though, but he’s a very good player and “could” become a Varejao-type in the next 2-3 years: and these are the type of players that are often under-appreciated for their true impact on the game.

  • Bankshot21

    Rob,

    I can agree with that. And actually don’t mind the arrogance. It’s the hunches. A hunch is a hunch whether you slice it diagonally or through the middle. Your hunch on Splitter is tyhe same as Jim’s hunch on Blair. None more valuable than the other. There in lies the flaw in Jim’s thinking. But that’s just my opinion. My opinion plus a quarter can only buy you 1 small bag of chips. And when others realize this then they’ll lives will sail more smoothly.

  • Bankshot21

    *they’re lives

  • Jim Henderson

    Bankshot21
    November 12th, 2010 at 6:41 am

    “A hunch is a hunch whether you slice it diagonally or through the middle.”

    No, I don’t offer “hunches”, which are essentially “intuitive” guesses. I offer rational assessments based on all kinds of information: data analysis, careful observation, historical knowledge, personal experience, and sound logic. ALL individual assessments are not all equal in terms of value and/or predictive validity. Perhaps one day you’ll come to understand that.

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