San Antonio Spurs 109, New Orleans Hornets 95: Gregg Popovich adjusts at the half, the Spurs roll


The Hornets beat up on the Spurs during the first half of Sunday’s matinee. New Orleans took a 61-44 lead into the half, and they looked like they would win this game walking away.  But Gregg Popovich started the 3rd quarter with a small lineup of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, George Hill, Richard Jefferson and Tim Duncan. The adjustment worked. San Antonio played small-ball for the remainder of the game and turned a 17 point halftime deficit into a convincing 14 point win.

Small-ball lineups are designed, at least in theory, to promote offense. Faster players, more possessions, dribble drives and shooters spread to the four corners of the earth all make small(er) lineups an ideal choice when the Spurs need to generate offense. All of that happened in this game , and none of it is particularly newsworthy. San Antonio, however, got something more interesting from their smalls against the Hornets. The Spurs’ smaller lineups were alive with energy and defensive hustle.

George Hill and Manu Ginobili sparked a strong second half from the Spurs by playing a style of swarming defense that lends itself to forced turnovers and transition baskets. The Spurs defensive energy seemed to spark an offensive rhythm, and San Antonio not only scored in transition, but found open looks from distance and, in general, shared the ball to find great halfcourt opportunities.

San Antonio’s forays into small-ball have seen mixed results this season. In Friday night’s loss to the Mavericks, the Spurs lost a small-ball battle in which they learned Gary Neal was not a good defensive option against Shawn Marion.

The Mavericks small lineups present match up problems for the Spurs. But tonight it was New Orleans who found their personnel mismatched against San Antonio’s smaller lineups. As with everything else, small-ball makes varying degrees of sense depending on whom the Spurs are playing. Small-ball is neither good nor bad in a vacuum. And relative to the whomever the Spurs are playing, it’s typically either very good or very bad. Tonight, the Spurs showed the very good side of their small-ball capabilities.

In the end, this was an impressive win for the Spurs. New Orleans is, by some measurements, the best defensive team in basketball. But the Spurs cut them up and now find themselves two games ahead of their division rival.

Golden State has next.

  • quincyscott

    We should also mention the defense of Richard Jefferson here, who was playing the 4 in the second half and played fantastic defense on West. Really tough D playing out of position on a guy with a size advantage. Very Bowen-like.

  • Jimbo (Oz)

    No mention of the run Manu put together at the start of the 4th Qtr ??

    Between the start of the 4th and the 8:38 mark, Manu either scored or assisted all of SA’s points, and had a rebound and a steal.

    So in 3 1/2 minutes, he had 5 Pts, 4 Ast, 1 Reb, 1 Stl

    The Spurs went from down 5 to up 6…

    Oh me, oh my, oh Manu !

  • Phife

    Keep it up, Spurs. Bynum won’t be the same when he returns.

    The human knees can only take so much cartilage damage.

  • grego

    As mentioned above, it should be noted that RJ’s performance was a big reason why small ball worked. This was one of his best games of the year. Probably in the top 3. If he plays this level defense the defense will reach those levels of teams past.

  • Hobson13

    I didn’t comment after the Dallas loss, but IMO, we had it coming. The streak was bound to end and we really weren’t playing well. Sometimes you learn more from an ass beating than you do from squeaking by with a subpar win. With that said, this was a big bounce-back game for the Spurs. I didn’t watch the game, but it was apparent our defense in the first half was again very poor along with our shooting.

    However, the second half was probably the best basketball we’ve played all year. The defense was sick and we began to knock down some shots. RJ re-emerged, Hill played well, and Manu and Tim were very efficient. A 14 pt win against a quality NO team is one of our best wins of the year so far. Several things of note.

    * Spurs again came from behind. This team, unlike last year, is a second half ballclub. We seem to get better as the game goes on.
    * We beat the Hornets on the glass 8 rebs. This is an improvement from the last 2 games.
    * Our defense is HIGHLY erratic, but when it is good, it is really GOOD.
    *Parker’s had two poor shooting nights in a row, but at least he had 9 assists, 6rebs, and 2 stls. Surely he’ll get his shooting stroke back soon.
    *Our bench came back to life with 36 points vs. 23 for the Hornets bench
    *Looking at the schedule, our next 3 games appear to be highly winnable. Perhaps we can run our record to 17-2 before playing the NO, Atl, and Portland.

  • Bentley

    Hobson 13

    “but it was apparent our defense in the first half was again very poor along with our shooting.”

    While our defense wasn’t the greatest in the first half, in the Spurs defense, the Hornets were hitting a bunch of contested jump shots for the majority of those points. Not only did our defense pick up in the second half, but they started to finally miss some jump shots you would have expected them to miss.

  • junierizzle

    Great win.

    The team looks great. Even the loss against the MAvs. Spurs had 18 TOs, TP had a bad shooting night, and Dirk shot 12-14 and they still had a chance to win that one with about 4 minutes left.

    They need to stay focused because they SHOULD win the next two.

  • zeanocril

    wohooooo.. We finally avenged our loss against these Hornets.. and LA just lost to the Pacers!!
    Hibbert looks like a legit big man.. If he can play consistently at the level he’s currently playing, I think he is the East’s second best center behind Dwight. And I think he is definitely way more skilled than the athletic Howard.

    Anyway, I hope we continue to pull away in the West standings. It would be nice to have a good cushion before the All-star break so that we can ease up a little bit because right now, I’m a little worried about Manu averaging a career high in minutes (a little over 33 per game).

  • Jim Henderson

    Some miscellaneous comments:

    — a game of two halfs – our 2nd half was better than their 1st half – our first half was not as bad as their 2nd half.

    — i’m not a particular fan of small ball, but it can work on some occasions — against some match-ups – tonight’s 2nd half was one of those times – good call by Pop.

    — glad to see that at least one of Blair/Splitter got more minutes than Bonner tonight.

    — heck of a job by our guards to assure that the team out-rebounded the Hornets tonight (19 of our 42 rebounds).

    — way to get a grip on turnovers after a shaky start — just 5 turnovers over the last 3 quarters.

    — our killer bee defense stung the Hornet’s into submission in the 2nd half – just 34 2nd half points.

    — nice comeback win on the road in the Hornet’s nest! 7-0 this year outside the confines of AT&T!

    — nice game by Manu, TD, RJ, & Hill at both ends.

    Lakers upset by Pacers tonight! Our lead in the West up to two games in the loss column — keep it up this week – any of these next three teams (GSW, LAC, MIN) can beat us if we don’t watch it. Back-to-back on the road coming up next.

  • ThatBigGuy

    We beat the Jazz a few games ago and we stole their comeback powers. Nice.

    No way our team last year would have won the Minny game nor this game. We stumbled (sorta, but not really) against the Mavs, but hey, no one’s perfect, right?

  • idahospur

    The Hornets did not have as talented bigs as Dallas, so small ball was effective. As I do enjoy winning, especially against the upper tier of the league, I think we need to establish a good line-up involving Duncan/Splitter on the court together, and possibly a 3rd big at the same time if necessary. It’s good to have many different modes of attack as we will need them depending on who we face in the playoffs (yes, thinking ahead instead of worrying about the present but this team is in the business of making the playoffs and hopefully contending for a championship).
    GO SPURS GO!!!

  • AmyfromLA

    During the first quarter with all the turnovers, I felt sick. It reminded me of the Dallas game. But as the game went along, we cleaned that up and we tightened the D and came up on top. Yay!!!! I watched the game hours after it happened because I had to help my brothers replace part of our roof so it was a nice way to end a hard day of labor. =)

    It looked like TP had another terrible game, but when I looked at the stats, he had 9 assists and 6 rebounds, so he was still contributing quietly. The Hornets commentators were saying they were trying to close the lanes from Parker, so I’m not sure if that’s what caused the bad game, but he seemed very reluctant to drive for the most part. I’m sure he’s just going through a normal slump. He’ll return to normal in no time! =)

    Also, the commentators were saying TD limped off court after the first quarter and that really worried me, but seeing how he finished the game, I’m sure it was nothing to worry about, right?

  • SpurredOn

    Loving the diversity of this team. They can win in more than one fashion, and can make a ferocious run in a short amount of time. Turnovers are the only thing holding the team back at various times.

  • Len

    Just a beautiful win. So many great things to take from this game.

    This team looks so confident on the road. Not surprising that the Big 4 are, but the young guys are doing a fine job as well. Spurs beat the last remaining unbeaten home squad. It was a division rival. It was a huge comeback and it evened the season series. They don’t get much more impressive in November.

    Richard played a tremendous game. He played his best ball at the 4 against a notorious Spurs killer (West).

    Manu was simply Manu. If he isn’t an all star this year he might just make up for it, by being the MVP. He is playing lights out.

    Georgie and Timmy were the quiet killers. Timmy did what he’s done for a long time, he was the rock. He drew fouls, he made a couple pretty post moves and he kept the Hornets honest, defensively. George got to the rack and played stellar D against Paul.

    The scary part? The Spurs can play better.

    Lovin it!

    Go Spurs Go

  • ITGuy

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • rob

    1 and 1 against two top teams (division rivals) in the league. I’ll take it.

    Brilliant plan by Pop. Even Monty Williams was quoted as simply being out coached in this game.

    The Dallas game was more about the Spurs beating themselves than the Mavericks beating the Spurs. Unforced T/O’s and a cold shooting night will lose you most games even against subpar talented teams.

    Beating the Hornets after that performance against Dallas just shows how tough the Spurs really are. Last year they probably drop both these games.

    And small ball worked in this instance. But it’s not always going to work against other teams.

    That said…this team …as in the Dallas game…still needs some sort of major improvement in it’s front court (via improvement by it’s exsisting players in Blair or Splitter) in order to seriously contend against teams where small ball won’t win you the game. Or…some how via trade get that kind of post player from another team if Blair or Splitter can’t seem to develop into a dependable option in those types of situations.

    Great second half come back. Great game.

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • ITGuy

    Blair seems to be going backwards on his development as a player.

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • agutierrez

    The most important move that Pop made was putting Hill on CP3 in the second half. Hill completely neutralized Paul and that is the key to beating NO. Tony was being killed by Paul and that’s how West went off in the 1st half, although props go to RJ for his second half defense against him as well. Pop pulled Bonner after about a minute when NO went straight at him with West as soon as he was inserted in the game. Timmy looked like he got pissed at some point and showed some real passion and energy and looked like he can still bring it when he needs to. Manu, of course, was his awe-inspiring self. He began the turn around in this game just like in the Minnie game with a three to start the second half. It probably helped that he didn’t have his nose stuffed with cotton.

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  • Alix Babaie

    The Spurs just provided a great win against a very solid home team. I think I am more impressed with the unbeaten road record over almost every other factoid! The Spurs are playing so well as a team. They don’t get too high or too low, they focus and buckle down when their backs are to the wall. The game against the Mavs was one that they did not deserve to be in but were still in the mix at the end. When all of the fellas start settling in and Anderson gets back, this team could be quite scary.

  • Alix Babaie

    Not that they are not scary already, just ask the teams that lost those 14 games to them so far.

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  • catty

    Am I the only one to continually notice when Manu is playing point and Parker is on the bench the Spurs always seem to…..yadda, yadda, yadda……and we end up winning? But not just winning, playing a truly exciting game of basketball. Manu is a treasure! Talk about “work ethics”!!!!!

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  • viper160

    The game yesterday was a tale of 2 different halves. In the first half the Spurs could not match up against the Hornets and as I have consistently pointed out DeJuan Blair is a problem that needs to be addressed by Pop and RC. DeJuan could not match up against Dirk on Friday and he could not match up against West yesterday. Pop sent DeJuan to the bench after West was just shooting over him yesterday and he never made it back to the floor. DeJuan is not going to grow, he is 6 foot 5 and has no outside shot. This makes him a liability on the floor on both ends of the court. If DeJuan wishes to remain a Spur he should start living in the gym with the Spurs shooting coach-otherwise he is trade bait. The Spurs are finding different ways to win by using different players in different situations. This is Pop being his best. Everyone is jumping on Splitter for not being more -more something, but Tiago is in his 1st year as a Spur. He will get better and Pop will utilize him more as he gets stronger and more knowledgable of the defense and offense. The Spurs fought their way back from a huge deficit and took the lead which they never gave back. The Spurs last year would never have fought back, they simply did not have the players and were not healthy enough to have clawed their way back. This year so far they have showed that they still can play defense. Tomorrow the Spurs face the athletic Warriors who can still light it up, but we should still manage the win. We shall see….


    Good points Viper about Blair, I feel the same way. Blair’s problem does need to be addressed soon otherwise he’ll be spending alot of time on the bench. To bad he can’t get that jumper to fall, I heard he worked on it all offseason. With Blair just being an offensive rebounder with no jump shot and a defensive liability he seems useless. What else can we use him for. To draw fouls. LOL.
    Glad to see Splitter got more playing time and got to contribute to the team a little. Hopefully he ‘ll be able to knock down those freethrows better, especially when they count the most in the playoffs. I know that drives Pop nuts.
    BEAT L.A.


    Does anyone know the timetable for Anderson’s return??

  • Jim Henderson

    November 29th, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    “….as I have consistently pointed out DeJuan Blair is a problem that needs to be addressed by Pop and RC..”

    As I have consistently pointed out you don’t know what you’re talking about on this issue.

    “DeJuan could not match up against Dirk on Friday and he could not match up against West yesterday.”

    What a scoop. Neither can 80% of the veteran PF’s in the league when either of those two get it going.

    “DeJuan is not going to grow, he is 6 foot 5 and has no outside shot. This makes him a liability on the floor on both ends of the court.”

    Why do you continue to make this same silly comment post after post?

  • Jim Henderson

    November 29th, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    “Good points Viper about Blair, I feel the same way. Blair’s problem does need to be addressed soon otherwise he’ll be spending alot of time on the bench. To bad he can’t get that jumper to fall, I heard he worked on it all offseason. With Blair just being an offensive rebounder with no jump shot and a defensive liability he seems useless. What else can we use him for. To draw fouls. LOL.”

    You obviously have very little understanding of Blair’s true value. I guess Pop started Blair all season, averaging 20 mpg., and we’re 14-2, the best start in franchise history because he sucks so bad. Don’t quit your day job. Player evaluation is obviously not your strong suit.

  • Anoop


    Given the strong performance RJ had in the second half against davi West, have the Spurs stumbled upon the answer for the future. Playing RJ against the lanky PFs like Nowitziki and even Gasol. Given Nowitziki’s dominance, if I could use the term’ against the Spurs, it might not be worse than what we could throw at him any way. Also smaller forwards like TrailBlazers – Nicolas Batum played very good defense against Nowtiziki, Taj Gibson of Bulls and Sefalosha of OKC have shown good defense against the lanky PF. Hopefully, coach Pops will try this at the next outing on Dec 30th. This would necessitate playing a small line up.

  • AmyfromLA

    I don’t know if anyone cares, but I’m going to the game on Wed. vs the Clippers!!!! Just bought my ticket tonight and wanted to share. =P Laker tickets are too expensive, so this is my only chance every season to see the Spurs live.

    GO SPURS GO!!!!!!!!!! =)