San Antonio Spurs 109, Oklahoma City Thunder 105: Coach Pop has his [bleeping] bench

by

AT&T CENTER — It was the type of play that only Manu Ginobili used to be able to get away with. Gary Neal thought about taking the 3-pointer on the fast break, but thought better of it.

He took a couple of dribbles towards the basket; still mainly just Thunder defenders crossing halfcourt. Neal then dribbled back out to the 3-point line. And shot it.

“Might’ve been some furniture moving if I missed,” Gary Neal said after the game. Thankfully for him, it didn’t.

Otherwise, who knows what would’ve happened.

“I was wondering when the trade deadline was,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said when asked about his reaction to Neal’s shot.

Neal hit the 3-pointer, giving the Spurs a 88-80 lead late in the third quarter.  It was the standout play in a night chock-full of them for the Spurs rookie guard.

In the locker room post-game, Tony Parker marveled at the crowd waiting to talk to Neal. A crowd so big that Parker was able to sneak out without being bothered, only to be brought back into the locker room by a team official shortly after to answer questions.

Coach Pop wanted a bench this summer. After being swept by the Phoenix Suns in the playoffs last season, Coach Pop’s wishlist was simple: “a [bleeping] bench.”

Well, he’s got it. It’s not the deepest bench in the world. Most nights the Spurs go just eight or nine deep. But in terms of quality, it’s one of the best any Spurs team has had.

On Wednesday night, the San Antonio bench outscored the Thunder’s 45-32. Gary Neal scored 19 points and Matt Bonner had 12.

On the surface the Spurs bench looks one dimensional. They can shoot, but that’s about it. And there’s some truth to that, they sure can shoot. The Spurs second unit shot 8-11 from 3-point range against Oklahoma City.

But going deeper there’s an a full arsenal of skills for San Antonio. Neal’s ability to score in a variety of ways has been mentioned this season, but his playmaking ability was top notch against the Thunder.

“Gary Neal was super because he also assisted for about three or four layups in between making shots,” Coach Pop said. “He had a great run and played a complete game in that regard.”

Matt Bonner came up with a solid defensive performance on Jeff Green. Blair struggled early in the game on Green, but Bonner came in and, surprisingly enough, his defensive movement was great on Green.

The Thunder used Green frequently to set picks for Russell Westbrook, and Bonner was able to effectively help on the pick-and-roll and recover to Green, who was usually spotted-up on the perimeter.

George Hill shot just 3-8 from the floor in the Spurs win, but he put in some strong shifts defending Kevin Durant. Despite a disadvantage in both height and length, Hill was physical with Durant, and though 30 points doesn’t look great, it could’ve been much worse.

I’ve criticized Hill lack of court vision from time-to-time this season, but he made one play in the second half that really impressed me. In the third quarter the Spurs were in transition. Hill caught a pass near the free throw line extended and Neal was next to him, spotting up in the corner.

Hill could’ve easily just passed to Neal for a possibly-contested 3-pointer, but he didn’t. Instead, Hill took a dribble toward the basket, forcing a Thunder defender to commit to Hill. Then George passed out to Neal in the corner, who had all the time in the world to line up another 3-pointer.

Together the Spurs bench gives Coach Pop one of the best second units he’s had the fortune of coaching. If James Anderson is successfully integrated back into the rotation over the next few weeks, it becomes one stronger. All the better to take on the top of the Western Conference come April, May and June.

If only that Tiago Splitter thing had worked out better this year.

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ Colin
    “Knee-jerk trades with a 47-10 record because “the FO never takes a chance” is called being STUPID!”

    Before you call people STUPID just look at history. Having the Best record with suspect Defense/Rebounding issues haven’t led to many titles. With the exception of LA – whose D/rebounding comes and goes it hasn’t happened in an long time. So 20 years of history isn’t really knee-jerk. But that’s just common sense talking here.

    @ Len
    “The Celts just gave away a bench sparkplug and a big bruiser for a suspect player in Jeff Green. Rrrriiiiigggghhhtttt.”

    Do any of you guys even watch the games. I mean really you all can’t be that dense. OKC just upgraded 2 positions. Center and back up PG/SG. They just got better on the Boards, defending the paint and scoring off the bench. And these were 2 of their biggest weaknesses. So that’s not to be made lightly of.

    “The Thunder need a POST PRESENCE. A big bruising body with bad knees is not enough to put them over the SA, DAL or LA. Gimme a break.”

    And they now have that on D – With Ibaka/Perkins starting – they can enough on D to stop anybody. And they never needed a POST scorer to beat the best teams. Between Westbrook, Harden, Durant and Ibaka chiping in 10 a game they can put up 100 points as easy as anybody can.

    “Your name should be “Chicken Little”.”

    I would rather be a over paniking chicken with brains than a complete airhead(ie…DeDe from Dexter’s Lab) who gets all my basketball knowledge from Q-cards or via a quick glance at a Wiki link.

    @ justin-ray

    Same to you dude – when you actually have a valid point to argue – then we can talk. But until then you can just keep blowing hot air out of your you know what.

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

    Well texasj,

    OKC’s moves are the exact reason RC shouldn’t trade Tiago. Didn’t Tiago outplay Cousins when he tried to take it right at Tiago? Isn’t DeMarcus a more skilled (raw) offensive player than either Nazr or Kendrick? Yes and yes. Tiago has shown that he can bang with other big bodies and do well.

    It’s not like OKC got Nene or anything like that.

  • Hobson13

    Len
    February 24th, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    If Perkins is indeed seriously injured then I agree. However, don’t forget how important Perkins was to their playoff run and against the Lakers last year. In the end, even if Perkins is 100% and a great fit for the Thunder, they are still behind SA, LA, and Dallas. However, I still think this trade makes them a better team.

  • irongiantkc

    TD=BE
    What do you do for a living? Perhaps you’re in the front office of an NBA franchise? Maybe, you’re a pro basketball coach…Or maybe you’re just CRAZY.

    “I just need a place to vent my frustrations at the FO because SA should have more than four rings now but our FO is always too catious and have really never taken a chance.”

    How many rings should the Spurs have won if they hadn’t been so busy sitting on their hands? Perhaps with the talent the Spurs have, they should have been winning every year. How long has TD been here? Shouldn’t we have 10 championships by now? At least 8. Just think, if we hadn’t had such stingy guys in the front office and if we’d only had more big men we could have won every single championship since ’98. With your brilliance, I bet we could have found a way to get KG, LeBron, Carmelo, and Amare here. We probably could have swung Shaq and Pau Gasol if we hadn’t bee so gun shy. But, who knows? Maybe Troy Murphy could make us into something other than the mediocre 47-10 team that we’re subjected to night in and night out. If only we had gotten Yao Ming (he’s pretty big, right?), he could have just lain down in front of the basket and been a better inside presence than Splitter. The FO are idiots for not offering Anderson, Splitter and all future picks for him. If we’d pulled the trigger on him, we’d be 56-1. Ya know, cuz’ ya can’t win ‘em all.

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

    “And they now have that on D – With Ibaka/Perkins starting – they can enough on D to stop anybody. And they never needed a POST scorer to beat the best teams. Between Westbrook, Harden, Durant and Ibaka chiping in 10 a game they can put up 100 points as easy as anybody can.”

    Didn’t Timmy go right at Serge a couple times last night and do well?

    And yes, they do need a post scorer. Or at least somebody who can catch the ball in the post and be somewhat of a dual (pass, score) threat. They still don’t have that.

    How about OKC actually plays a few games and dominates some good teams before anybody concedes to them?

    Too funny.

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ Len

    “Let the panic commence, right TD?”

    One more time with feeling for all the other poorly informed guests.

    OKC doesn’t NEED a POST SCORER… They are not a great 3 point shooting team. Durant doesn’t need help getting off quality looks and neither does Westbrooke. SO why do they desperately need a post. Oh I get it, you read it off some blog site and now you are passing it around like you know something. Sorry, not cutting it.

    SO Len any other poorly conceived ideas you want me to knock down for you.??? I will be here all day.

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

    TD,

    You are a legend in your own mind. How could I possibly compete with that? I will bow out of this childish tit for tat humbly.

  • http://www.espn.com texasj

    well ya, but a minor reaction would to play tiago more(when healthy) because we will need is size.

    im sure that okc didnt trade for these big bodies for their offensive prowess, but for their size and what comes with being “big” (defense, rebounding, blocks, etc..) and those reasons are exactly what has plagued the spurs somewhat during the season especially against okc. we will struggle with rebounding against them. we already have. so ya dont over react, but make some adjustments to prevent from being “man handled” against them. making use of tiago is one of these.

  • TD = Best EVER

    Also Portland just got better picking up Wallace from the Bobcats. So they are now a bigger threat in the West.

  • justin-ray

    td=best ever

    a better name for you would be chicken shit.

    Please just stop typing things…. You dont make any sense

  • jwalt

    Ian — I’m sure you are right regarding Peja.

    Hobson13 — of course you should look to get better all the time. But the better way to do it is thru coaching, for instance, demanding that Blair play the game with two hands instead of fumbling so many balls away by playing one-handed.

    And to everyone high on the Perkins deal for OKC. He never closed games on the Celtics, never. And it’s not because he simply isn’t a low post scorer, but rather that he’s a complete offensive liability. There’s a big difference. You don’t have to guard him at all, which will leave the Spurs able to provide more help on Durant and Westbrook. Perkins can’t play a lick on offense, and it’s why the Celtics were willing to deal him. Think Ainge and Rivers are a couple of dummies?

  • Bentley

    @TD=Best Ever

    “Having the Best record with suspect Defense/Rebounding issues haven’t led to many titles.”

    Actually, seven teams have had a similar or better record than the Spurs to this point. Six of them won the championship(Portland didnt, but that was because Bill Walton had suffered an injury)

    So history says that this team and the FO is actually doing quite well.

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ justin-ray

    What ever you say ignoramus…….. How pitiful it must be to be so unknowingly stupid……

  • Titletown99030507

    Hello anybody? Is it safe to post?

  • jwalt

    And Nate Robinson might be the single dumbest player in the league. I know Celtic fans here who for months have been calling for his head. Talk about someone who just doesn’t get it, Robinson is THE first example to use. How many players try a between-the-leg move while in the air when wide open for a layup that is going to tie the game in the last two minutes? D’Antoni, and now Rivers, were totally thru with Robinson.

  • Titletown99030507

    Tiago isnt going anywhere folks. Better yet, why don’t we transfer our energy towards getting Pop to play Splitter instead of watching Blair sit the pine in the 4 quarter when things are hot and Timmy and Dyess are playing for their lives!

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ Bentley
    “Actually, seven teams have had a similar or better record than the Spurs to this point. Six of them won the championship(Portland didnt, but that was because Bill Walton had suffered an injury)”

    We are making 2 different points here. So let me clarify mine. Best record the last 10 years.

    99-00 Los Angeles Lakers 67-15 Won NBA Title 4-2 Pacers
    00-01 San Antonio Spurs 58-24 Lost Semi-Finals 2-4 Lakers
    01-02 Sacramento Kings 61-21 Lost West Finals 3-4 Lakers
    02-03 San Antonio Spurs 60-22 Won NBA Title 4-2 Nets

    Dallas Mavericks 60-22 Lost West Finals 3-4 Spurs
    03-04 Indiana Pacers 61-21 Lost East Finals 2-4 Pistons
    04-05 Phoenix Suns 62-20 Lost West Finals 1-4 Spurs
    05-06 Detroit Pistons 64-18 Lost East Finals 3-4 Heat
    06-07 Dallas Mavericks 67-15 Lost First Round 2-4 Warriors
    07-08 Boston Celtics 66-16 Won NBA Title 4-2 Lakers
    08-09 Cleveland Cavaliers 66-16 Lost East Finals 2-4 Magic
    09-10 Cleveland Cavaliers 61-21 Lost Semi-Finals 2-4 Celtics

    Only 3 teams in 10 years have won it all. And we are even in there as one of the teams that did win it back in 03

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ Titletown99030507
    “Hello anybody? Is it safe to post?”

    Yup it sure is….. just trying to clean up the place a but after some of our lets say less than graceful posters have left.

  • jwalt

    td best — you should appreciate this. Duncan is probably the best help defender in the league. Agreed? Well, if it’s K. Perkins he’s guarding, he will be nothing but a help defender.

  • DNITCH

    Just got slammed by some espn analysts (namely Jalen Rose) for our lack of size and age in the front court. They’re all about OKC now.

  • bankshot21

    C’mon guys…let’s play nice. We all know the only thing that makes sense about TD=B.E. is his name. Splitter will contribute. Anderson will contribute. Actually they both have already. You heard that MVP word and expected Scola 2.0. Oberto came in as a 30 year old rookie and contributed to a Chip. Let’s stop panicking and start relishing in the fact that we are number 1 and guys like Jason Terry wants to spend all his energy chasing us.

  • Titletown99030507

    I speak the truth my brothers.

  • Daniel T

    The news yesterday had mentioned Perkins would miss at least the next 3 Celtics game with a knee injury. Looks like he’ll miss all of the Celtics games now, but presumably will miss some time with the Thunder as well. I guess that Ibaka will be moved to PF, with Nazr playing center until Perkins is ready? It does seem that none of the remaining Thunder bigs pose much of an outside threat, and their defenders could sag off of them to pack the paint. Durant and Westbrook could score 60 per game between them, but would the others get more than another 20 between them? They could go with a small lineup with Durant playing the 4 for a good portion of the game, but then what is the point of acquiring all those center-types?

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ jwalt
    “Duncan is probably the best help defender in the league. Agreed? Well, if it’s K. Perkins he’s guarding, he will be nothing but a help defender.”

    Yes he is and he will get to help out alot. But keep in mind anytime TD leaves his man and chases a block shot he leaves a rebound eating machine alone under the basket. That’s why we need the extra height.

    bankshot21 – The league was different when we had Oberto. That was before Boston’s 3. LA’s 3 Dallas adding 2 starting centers and and other pieces to sure up them being too soft. Though I still suspect they are gonna be too soft. So a 30 year old Oberto would help. But a 26 year old Oberto would be PERFECT.

  • soulidefy

    lets not forget that okc lost jeff green. he was a great glue guy, a matchup problem, versatile defender, 15ppg, and young. he was part of the durant westbrook core thats made them up and comers. very durable. he looked great against the spurs last night too…..who on the spurs can guard him when they use him as the 4? i think the lakers should be more worried about this move, because nazr and perkins can bang with bynum, gasol and odom. the strength of the spurs is team offense, defense, and GUARD play. this doesnt make okc better against our guards. it puts even more offensive burden on durant and westbrook. i guess look at it this way, green could hurt us, perkins and nate, cant.

    if shaq, big baby, nenad, and kg stay healthy, this makes the celts better. im curious of the erden trade for a pick…….seems like theyd want to keep the extra big around. giving rondo an athlete like green will be pretty interesting…….green didnt have a facilitator before.

    wallace to portland for two centers? now they have Lamarcus and Sean Marks down there……..and thats it. wallace i guess gets a lot of pf time.

    and td=best ever, you are about as knee jerk and well, moronic as ive heard.

  • soulidefy

    @soulidefy

    +100 for jumping on the td=be is stupid bandwagon.

  • Titletown99030507

    Getting killed in the paint is no fun. And depending on 3 point shooting is nerve wrecking. This team needs to win the old fashion way come playoff time. A big dude swatting away shots by those pesky little flies (slashers) and standing your ground against those bigs. you really can’t do that when your undersized even if your young and athletic. Sorry. The reality is Timmy and Dyess can’t go a 7 game series playing more than 30 min ea game they’re going to be worn out for the next one. That’s what’s gonna happen or you lose, don’t expect Bonner and Blair to go to the next level and challenge the better teams with better bigs. Just not going to happen. Put the the big man from Brazil on the court now since really you have no other alternative. Better now than later to see what you got to offer in the playoffs.

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ soulidefy
    “this doesnt make okc better against our guards. it puts even more offensive burden on durant and westbrook. i guess look at it this way, green could hurt us, perkins and nate, cant.”

    Good to see you join the list of other idiots on here who know absolutely ZERO about basketball. Saying that adding a legit defensive Center will not help contain guards is like saying it’s not the PG’s job to run the offense. Just Stupid. If any guard has to run into a healthy Perkins/Ibaka wall all night they will have issue. Our guards have done well against OKC mainly because of Kristic/Green’s weak interior D. Or do u expect Perkins to be out at the 3 point line while TP/Manu drive to the basket. Just dumb. And Perkins can’t hurt you. Again really. Can DJB hurt a team on the offensive end. HELL YA he can. If you don’t stay close to him and keep a body on him he will eat rebounds and get put backs like BLAIR. Or do those not count as hurting the other team, idiot.

    “wallace to portland for two centers? now they have Lamarcus and Sean Marks down there”

    DUDE what planet are you from MARS – Do they not have “The Google” on that planet. Camby is still a Blazer last I check and will most likely play Friday. dumber and dumber.

    soulidefy
    February 24th, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    @soulidefy

    “+100 for jumping on the td=be is stupid bandwagon.”

    Nice job stroking your self off – what a simpleton.

  • irongiantkc

    TD=BE
    You have just stolen your own ability to enjoy a regular season win. Does the score have to be 75-70 for you to enjoy it? I don’t know if we’re going to win everything but you are so sure the Spurs can’t win unless they look they way you want them to that you won’t enjoy any of the games…and you’re bumming everybody out. If we lose, you freak out. If we win, you freak out.

    STOP FREAKING OUT!!!

    Enjoy a good win over a tough team. Haven’t we beaten OKC every time we’ve played them? We must be doing something right.

  • Ian

    Do we have new Jim Henderson (aka the HoF troll in 48minutesofhell.com) in this blog? I think you should stop posting comments TD=BE – you make Jim Henderson look like an intelligent basketball analyst in comparison.

  • Colin

    @TD=BE

    I didn’t call you stupid. I called the inclination to make a trade based off of what the rest of the league is doing as stupid.

    Please keep talking because you are only digging yourself a hole on this one.

  • bankshot21

    I said this dude was a little Jim Hendersonish when he post on here the very first time. Lmao

  • justin-ray

    td=best ever is just a clipper fan in disguise… Im telling you guys. He is super thrilled to have mo williams on his team now.

    Seriously dude you are something else :)

  • TD = Best EVER

    Never met Jim but because So many think I remind them of him i will say he must have been a really nice, smart guy. But since the Deadline has come and gone, and SA didn’t make a move. I will hope that it for the best and that all works out. Besides its far more enjoyable to throw the TD=BE bomb when talking to all my friends come playoff time than it is to ruffle the feathers of you all. And that 5th ring will hurt them far worse than anything I have ever said to date.

  • rj

    the spurs biggest personel needs are on the bench. splitter provides another solid low post position defender, pick and roll defender/threat , and anderson provides another sf option, manu rest, and wing defense. i really think we should look no further then our bench, but it’s too late in the season to see this come to fruition.

  • badger

    Alot has been written about Splitter in this sequence. I would like to add 2 points that I don’t think have been mentioned.

    1. Splitter will undergo a great deal of strength training (NBA caliber strength training) in the off season that he has not previously undergone. This will be immensely important in getting him to his best.

    2. Splitter WILL undergo the Chip England (or however his name is spelled) summer shooting work. He will undoubtedly increase his range and his consistency. This too will be immensely important.

  • mikrobass3

    i’m reposting this for grins and giggles…and what i believe to be a quite valid point: “there is no viable trade scenario that would not be so disruptive to the current team chemistry as to totally destroy whatever chances we have of winning a title this year.” thank goodness the trade deadline is past!

  • Droach

    I don’t think The great 3 pt% wasn’t just San Antonio, OKC’s D was terrible. San Antonio will hit threes if no one is close.

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

    Well TD,

    The comparisons to Jim are not flattering, sorry sport. Jim became a know it all; Somebody who spent far too much time in this blog, patrolling every comment with no appreciation for the fact that other posters have intelligent observations. Not to mention, many debates boil down to opinions and everyone is entitled to one.

    So, looks like you remind people of a blog nazi with no life. congratulations

  • TD = Best EVER

    @Len
    “So, looks like you remind people of a blog nazi with no life. congratulations”

    But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong so I will still take it as a compliment…….lol

  • big al 29

    all I can say while houston is doing a fire sale GET LOUIS SCOLA BACK NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE

  • bong p.

    @badger: It’s Chip Engelland, my friend, one of the purest shooters you’ll ever find during his prime.

  • bong p.

    So San Antonio stuck with the status quo, retaining its line-up without deeping into the trading pool. For all our collective armchair wisdom, it would be best not to second-guess what the Spurs management, whose “corporate knowledge” – to borrow Pop’s term – has produced four championships. If we were better than them, we would be in their shoes and theirs in ours: writing and anguishing interminably, sometimes snarkily, about the Spurs. Reality check: The opinions expressed on this blog are not and will never be the bases for the actions and decisions of the San Antonio front office. This isn’t fantasy basketball, after all.

  • rob

    Don’t look now…the Thunder just got even better.

    Kendrick Perkins from Boston and Nazr Mohamed from Charlotte at trade deadline.

  • badger

    bong p.,

    Thanks for the spelling correction. I knew I wasn’t right on the spelling, just too tired and lazy to look it up. From what I’ve heard, he (Engelland) is one of the greatest tools in the Spurs’ toolbox. Parker’s a much improved scoring threat, among others, because of the guy’s work.

  • Espoon

    @bong p.

    “For all our collective armchair wisdom, it would be best not to second-guess what the Spurs management, whose “corporate knowledge” – to borrow Pop’s term – has produced four championships.”

    How many championships or even Western conference finals has that gotten the Spurs in the last 3 years? Remember the Spurs got destroyed in the playoffs 2 years in a row. This is a team that 3 years ago R. Horry said needed more help for Duncan and the biggest addition has been A. McDyess and MADE MATT BONNER the starter the next year. This is team that tried to make Roger Mason Jr. into a PG, when it was obvious he couldn’t play there.

    It’s okay to talk about the merits of a trade. However, please stop thinking that this organization is perfect and can do no wrong. They have made mistakes, kept players they shouldn’t have, gotten rid of players they shouldn’t have, and given roles to people who couldn’t handle them. Let’s not use this tired argument to make a point.

  • SG

    these comments are getting very useless…I used to enjoy commenting and reading other comments…now, everyone is just insulting others. No more intelligent basketball talk…just trash talk…I think that I will only read the articles from now on.

  • http://espn.com Ed

    @Espoon
    I remember Nazr winning a ring….how long ago? He did barely enough NOT to screw it up for the Spurs, that’s it. Now all these years later I doubt he’s better than he was. I would take him as a FA or maybe for a 2nd round pick, but give up Splitter? No way.

  • Mike

    @Espoon,

    The Spurs beat the #2 team in Dallas last year, don’t think that would be considered “getting destroyed” in the playoffs. Also, keep in mind injuries have killed this team more then any fiction FO non-move could have helped.

  • http://espn.com Ed

    I could be wronng but I think the Spurs path got easier after all these trades. Who got better? OKC? Maybe a little on defense but they lost scoring and they’re easier to matchup with now. Fakers? No. Mav’s? No. Boston? No. Who else is really a threat this year? Next yr may be different but I think the path just became a little clearer.