San Antonio Spurs 108, Atlanta Hawks 92:Because the Spurs have Tony Parker, and the Hawks don’t

by

AT&T CENTER–The Atlanta Hawks have the sort of defensive length on the wings and mobile bigs along the front line that coaches dream about having and opposing ball handlers fear facing. For a night, at least, it was enough to give Manu Ginobili nightmares–the Hawks forcing Manu into six turnovers against no assists.

But all the athleticism in the world does not matter if you’re still relying on Mike Bibby to defend the point of attack, as the Atlanta Hawks asked him to do for much of the fourth quarter. In a game that featured a sloppy (14 turnovers against only 20 assists) and unfocused (16-25 from the free throw line) Spurs team, it was enough of a mistake from the Hawks for San Antonio to turn a grind-it-out game into the blowout victory the AT&T Center crowd is becoming accustomed to. And they did it without the benefit of  Tim Duncan and only a brief cameo from Manu in the fourth.

The term plus/minus gets thrown around a bit through these pages, and admittedly, some of it is merely a running joke to get a rise out of Matt Bonner’s biggest critics. But while a player like Al Horford (-19) was far from the reason Atlanta lost, Mike Bibby earned every bit of the -17 he put up.

Both Bibby and Tony Parker checked into the fourth quarter at the 8:53 mark, and the Hawks spent much of the remaining time on their heels as the Spurs ran Bibby through repeated pick and rolls and isolations that ultimately ended in three-point shots–specifically Richard Jefferson from the baseline (5-6 from three, 18 points). The benefit of having so many mobile shooters this season is there is no longer a place to hide defensive liabilities like Bibby.

All things being equal, and looking through last night’s stats (in total rebounds, steals, turnovers, and assists) they were equal, what separated the Spurs from the Hawks was the proficiency in which Spurs guards ran the pick an roll, and the Hawks inability to do anything in such situations at either end of the court. Parker was able to blow by Bibby and the rest of his teammates were able to find open three-pointers against a scrambling defense.

Because it’s a Friday night game, and there is a quick turnaround with Portland coming in on Sunday, here are a few quick thoughts in bullet form from tonight’s game:

  • For all the complaints about the Hawks isolation heavy offense of the past, they really do not have a point guard or player on the roster that is a consistent threat on the pick and roll. Bibby lacks the first step to get to the rim or create passing lanes for teammates and Jamal Crawford–the lone player who can turn the corner in such situations–does so only looking for his own shot.
  • After a rough start to the season, starting “center” DeJuan Blair appears to be getting comfortable, recording his second consecutive double-double (16 points, 12 rebounds) for the first time this season. Of note was a two-play sequence in the second quarter in which Blair followed a nasty crossover dribble for a layup against Al Horford by receiving an outlet pass at half court from Tim Duncan and racing down and Euro-stepping Jamal Crawford for a layup.
  • Before the game San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich joked that more amazing than DeJuan Blair’s improvement at the free throw lines was NASA’s (with some help from Manu Ginobili) discovery of lifeforms from other planets. After tonight, both appeared to myths.
  • ThatBigGuy

    2 weeks ago, I advocated a Blair + future 1st + filler for Randolf. I figured Randolf couldn’t possibly play any worse than the way Blair started, so we could only gain from Randolf’s development. However, in light of the way Blair has looked recently, I would scrap that idea. Sure, Randolf can block shots at the rim, but Blair can steal the entry pass, keeping his guy from even shooting the ball.

    In light of Blair’s upswing, everyone suddenly wants to trade Splitter for Randolf now. That’s such a silly idea. Many people have said this before and I agree: Pop is intentionally not playing Splitter much because of how long his Euroleague season went. Hamstring injuries (like the one he had in the preseason) are highly indicative of over-exertion. Check out Pao Gasol. His hammies are bugging him because he’s been getting 38 mpg. Pop’s doing a masterful job of balancing playing time to get him comfortable as a Spur and rest to keep him healthy. I expect his minutes to become more consistent after the All-Star break.

    Also, Pop mentioned to the post game media that his line-ups are growing increasingly more chemistry oriented. If Manu and Blair are killing, they’re going to get heavy minutes together. If Bonner and Tony are killing, they’re gonna get the PT. Splitter’s minutes are somewhat inconsistent because he’s being rested and doesn’t get on these chemistry induced playing spurts like Blair or Bonner do.

    He’s good, he’ll be very good, but let him rest a little.

  • td4life

    I forgot to mention that Hobson13’s proposal is one I would certainly be on board with. It creates a minutes and development problem, but maybe it creates a competitive push between Randolf and the rest (although I have rarely seen that work out… generally, game minutes are what generates NBA maturity, and not practice gym rivalry. But at least we’d have the opportunity for to see who are the men, and who are the boys.)

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Len

    First off, Tiago has a 3 year deal.

    Second, Randolf seems to be the exact opposite type of personality that fits in around SA. Questions about desire and effort. You think he’s going to be disciplined enough to fit into the Spurs? I would have serious doubts about that.

    Third, Tiago has alot more skill than what he’s being allowed to showcase. It’s kinda hard to pass when the ball isn’t in your hands.

    Tiago is being acclimated to the Spurs, the NBA and the American rules. We have barely begun to see what Tiago can become. Trading him now would be pretty stooopid.

  • Regan Rahardja

    Tiago’s ceiling is as high as Scola’s was, if not higher.

  • tradeTP

    dont trade splitter we dont really know what we have with him right now. you know how pop hates to use logic and play the best players. dont scola him!!

  • lvmainman

    If the Spurs want to win a NBA championship they’ll have to beat 2 of 3 or all 3 teams, Mavs, Lakers, and Celtics. All 3 have massive frontlines that are hard to beat. I’m still skeptical of Blair, Bonner, and Splitter being able to match up come playoff time.

    Time will tell.

  • rob

    grego

    I for one have been anticipating and supporting Tiago’s rise to significance on the Spurs. And he’s not disappointed in his brief moments of play considering the circumstances surrounding the entire situation of joining the Spurs and being in the nba.

    If the staff… who are far more knowledegable than I regarding his development…think he is going to be a significant member of this team…then I have no problem with developing him slowly.

    But if the staff…considering past experiences with developing players…think Tiago just might not be a good fit for the Spurs…I would like to see some sort of trade made to help infuse the Spurs with a player that would break rotation on a regular basis. That player specifically being a post player that will spell Duncan and Dice from playing too many minutes.

    Randolph is a talented player. Playing on a team that doesn’t incorporate his talent to the fullest. And one which talents I think could benefit the Spurs. And not saying you ever said this…but those denying what he did in GS and comparing that to what he’s not getting playing time to do in New York is not a good base to form an accurate opinion in my p.o.v.

    But it’s all I’ll say about the trade proposal I mentioned. I know that not everybody (probably majority) would not like the idea. Heck..I would hate to see Tiago go for I believe he’s going to be a really good player in this league (If he’s used properly and to his strengths)

    Call it getting concerned that he isn’t being utelized more effectively while on the court even though his moments on the court are brief. Again…I think his minutes are fine this early in the season. It’s more of (to me) that when he is on the court he’s somewhat an after thought in that process instead of trying to utelize his strengths that made him so herolded to be drafted in the first place.

    We’ll see. I would like him to stay and develop into a great player for this team. But I’d hate not getting anything of value for him now if the team should ever think he wouldn’t be a good fit.

  • duaneofly

    I’m not too worried about the Lakers huge frontline. Bynum is constantly hurting himself, and I’d wager he’ll be missing this year’s playoffs, or play but be nowhere near healthy. Some guys just seem to be very brittle and are hurt, badly, every year. Two examples, Bynum & Greg Oden.
    As for Boston, KG is still good, and Perkins is Perkins, but both O’neals have been missing games due to slight injuries/fatigue/whatever, so expecting them to be 100% if we meet in the finals is not very likely.

    We have Duncan, nothing more needs to be said. And Mcdyess, has everyone forgotten his D on Dirk last year? I thought he did pretty good. Blair seems to be getting better, and it’s too early to comment on Splitter, due to his lack of playing time. Bonner… well hopefully Blair and Splitter are doing good enough by then that he is our 5th big, and hey, you can do worse for a 5th big than the Red Rocket. Overall, I don’t think are big guys are that bad.

    What I think about, instead of wondering how we’ll compete with other team’s front lines, is how the hell everyone else is going to try to compete with Manu and Tony?!?! They’ve been lighting it up! I think Hill is still getting better, and holy crap, let’s not forget about RJ! Can anyone see Shaq’s old ass keeping up with our small ball teams? Or Bynum’s knees holding up as he tries to keep up?

    The biggest question is, is how other teams are going to match up to us! We’re 19-3, number one in the league, and we haven’t even hit full cylinders yet. Just wait til Timmy starts making his shots again, Anderson comes back from his injury, and we finally get to see what Splitter can do.

    Right now, it’s damn good to be a Spurs fan :)

  • td4life

    duanefly–

    “The biggest question is, is how other teams are going to match up to us! We’re 19-3, number one in the league”

    Yeah, and Dallas and Boston are 19-4 and have winning streaks of 12 and 10 respectively, during which time Dallas beat SA.

    We already know what Splitter can do…
    he can score on the Pick and Roll, he’s great at setting screens, scoring when rolling to the basket, and off of tip-ins. He’s a mediocore rebounder but boxes-out very well. He has not shown himself to be a good post scorer, but we have Timmy. He simply NEEDS a facilitator, so he is wasted when not paired with tony or manu (and they must be looking for and utilizing him), as he cannot create his own offense and george is simply too poor a passer to find him in the right spots.

    He is a terrific PnR defender, big men facing the basket will not score on him, though he sucks guarding post-up bigs… over all he is far better defensively than either Matty or Dejuan. He also draws more charges than anybody on the team. Shows clear potential to lead the league in that area. He can be as good right now as Marc Gasol or Brook Lopez. But he will collect fouls early in his NBA playing time.

    He also sucks at the line, and that won’t change until after next summer at the earliest.

    He can help us greatly against Bosh, and maybe even Dirk, less so against Odom, Gasol, and Shaq… but he needs the minutes.

    Get him in there, Coach! Give him a consistent 10 minutes with Manu or Tony and whatever else there is to spare with the scrubs. He is already our best rookie but is getting the least tick. It’s great that DB is coming along, we need to start escalating Tiago’s usage now or in January, I’d rather not wait until after the allstar break.

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ duaneofly

    Have you been around the last 2 years – The Lakers have won it all with Bynum healthy both years……. So that’s what we should be preparing to face and if by some miracle they are not 100% – better for us…….

    Just keep in mind our big 3 don’t have the greatest durability records as well.

    We play the Lake Show later this month and Bynum should be back by Tuesday he says so we will get a real good look at what we can do against a Tier 1 front line……

  • Hobson13

    td4life
    December 11th, 2010 at 4:43 pm
    “I forgot to mention that Hobson13′s proposal is one I would certainly be on board with. It creates a minutes and development problem, but maybe it creates a competitive push between Randolf and the rest (although I have rarely seen that work out”

    Don’t forget that this is McDyess’ last year. Yes, Randolph would create a log jam at the 4/5 positions this year, but next year would be a different story. Anyway, Randolph wouldn’t be able to bang with Shaq, Perkins, Howard, Gasol, or Bynum, but he could matchup very favorably against Odom, Lewis, Bosh, and maybe even Garnett. He still needs to get 25 lbs heavier in order to play the 5, but that can come with time.

    He would be a very interesting player to have and could certainly be of tremendous value if his game ever materializes.

  • Manolo Pedralvez

    I concur: more patience for Splitter, kudos to Dejuan Blair, who’s getting his mojo back. Never mind about the ratings, what is important is that the Spurts get back to the NBA WCS – against the Celtics, the Magic, the Heat, or whoever else triumphs in the Eastern Conference. With a potential lockout looking more imminent by the day, its a fifth banner hanging above the A T & T Center is all that matters.
    As for Matt Bonner, the blonde three-point bomber, the guy has shown a bit more efficiency and intensity of late in limited play. His stats of the last game: 6 pts. (2-4 from the arc), 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal, 2 personal fouls.

  • mybloodissilverandblack

    No one’s getting traded. This Spurs team has the best chemistry of all Spurs teams ever. And the whole league, too. If it ain’t broken, why fix it?

    Well, if someone will be traded, Quinn is at the top of the list.

  • Manolo Pedralvez

    ‘Spurts’…hmmm. Mental slip again. But they really are spurting..

  • andy

    i for one am glad that the spurs are not american idol. if all fans had a say, we’d have voted this championship-caliber team to pieces, not to mention chase after every big name and fling bad contracts willy-nilly.

    look, trading splitter is foolish. first, you’re trading away a spanish league mvp. the last, scola, we traded, which i’m pretty sure 100% of the people calling for trading splitter regret. want to do that again? we kept the other euro mvp, and he turned into the force that is ginobili (ironic that he also came to the spurs when he was 25). give the guy time.

    randolph is all potential. granted it’s a pretty high ceiling, but for every euroleague mvp, there are 100 guys with his potential. the other problem is that randolph only has one year after this on his contract. we’d have to tender him an offer for a smidge over 4mil if we wanted to sniff him for ’12-13. we can’t reasonably expect him to contribute this year, and if there’s a lockout for any significant amount of time next season, our window to evaluate him in our system narrows that much more. i’m sorry, but i’ll pass 9 times out of 10.

    2 other things:

    1. Francesco
    December 11th, 2010 at 11:25 am
    It is of course dangerous to throw around comparisons to Westbrook because the guy is playing out of his mind, but sometimes watching George Hill I wonder if that’s the kind of player he could have been if he hadn’t entered the league behind Parker and Manu…”

    that’s crazy talk. i love hill. he seems to be a great kid with a good head on his shoulders and work ethic. that said, he is not westbrook, not by a mile. westbrook is starting to approach deron williams and chris paul territory.

    2. NYC
    December 11th, 2010 at 5:28 am
    “I’ve always said that we’ve got to keep RJ involved… And always a good sign to see RJ calling for the ball. Keeping him involved will be key to our championship aspirations.”

    rj has been consistently great, and this is something with which i heartily agree. the fact that he’s being assertive, and not just trying to blend in like last year speaks volumes to his commitment and the staff’s coaching. one of my favorite feel-good stories of our young season.

  • Bankshot21

    A few random thoughts:

    -Splitter is neither GREAT nor TERRIFIC at anything. We’ve laready come to the conclusion that we haven’t seen him enough so how can we give him such praise?

    -James Anderson contributed, but not as much as all of you seem to think. The man was in a handful of games and is still in need of learning the system. Very mature but not let’s say James Harden just yet.

    -Duncans scoring most likely will not crack 15 a game. But his shooting average will increase. Right now he’s at about 48.5%. That wouldn’t even be his lowest career average.

    -Bonner does more than shoot and Blair does more than rebound. I think the majority of us, myself included, have pigeon holed these players due to how good they are at their BEST attribute but it is by far their only attribute.

    -George Hill went from second in Most Improved Player voting last year, to IMO (biased of course) the head candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.

    -RJ should have more than just 3 point plays ran for him. I’d love to see more back door cuts, and even pick and roll’s with him as the respective cutter and roller. He still has above average leaping ability and though he is much improved then last year there is more to his game that we can tap into.

  • rj

    i would have to say pop is really doing an excellent job distributing minutes for our deep frontline. duncan gets his minutes, unless we are in control of a game or blair is playing well which allows him to rest for nearly entire quarters. bonner gets consistent pt to keep his shooting touch, blair gets to start games and depending on his productivity and matchups, stays on the floor. splitter gets heavier minutes against lesser teams so he doesn’t register dnp or spot minutes on a nightly basis, and dyess gets his time against elite teams and he’s always ready to play. pop has done well

  • td4life

    bankshot21–

    I suppose it’s too early to say that Splitter is a crappy FT shooter? Or that he’s solid at a drawing fouls? If you score the two thirds of the time you cut to the basket, or if you keep your man the vast majority of when he tries to face up and shoot it’s a pretty good basis for conclusions. Sure, the samples are coming against second units, but that’s just another reason to give him minutes.

    Hobson13–

    I’m NOT forgetting that McD is retiring.

    But it’s still a logjam… How do you develop 3 young bigs, when you only have 96 minutes to split between 5 guys, one of whom is you HOF starter, even if he’s only averaging 25 mpg, and the other is the stretch 4 that Pop insists is integral to the offense and sees AT LEAST 17mpg? Currently, McD and Splitter are getting scarce minutes… if you have 5 bigs again next year, and none of them are a veteran backup center, then you have a logjam!

  • Pingback: 1-on-1 with the previous no. 21

  • Pingback: Spurs Stats | Advanced Scouting | Atlanta Hawks 4/5/11

  • Pingback: The 4-Down Podcast: 60/30 Road trip with Andrew Unterberger