San Antonio Spurs 111, Toronto Raptors 100: The Spurs and the walking dead

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To quote my colleague and Editor Timothy Varner, another night another ho-hum victory for the San Antonio Spurs.

There is a reason why, in Detroit, Varner and the contingent of travelling Spurs media were quizzed by perplexed beat reporters on what exactly makes this team so damn good at 44-8. For over three quarters in Toronto it was impossible to distinguish one team from the other before the Spurs pulled away for a relatively easy victory.

But the San Antonio Spurs will not be, as suggested, the first team in NBA history to accidentally back their way into 65-wins. Though they might be the first to stumble their way into it, this is no accident. This is purposeful.

Because the offense-oriented nature of this Spurs revival, there have been comparisons to the Phoenix Suns of recent memory. But those Phoenix teams injected life and a frenetic pace into the game, if only to burn out every season. These Spurs offer no such charisma, speed, or energy. They simply march forward at a steady, unrelenting pace.

What makes these Spurs so good? Simply put, they won’t die. Or, in another theory, they are the walking undead. Zombies.

There are certainly more frightening beasts than those that so famously graced George A. Romero’s films. The original zombies (not the new age ones that sprint like a million Tony Parkers and scare the hell out of me) were never so fast that one could not simply outrun them. Sometimes comically so. They were never so physically strong that one could not fight one or two off.

What makes the zombie so appealing, so apocalyptic and final, is that they come tirelessly and in numbers. Wave after wave of them, even if at times clumsily so. Until the survivors that so effortlessly maneuvered around them find themselves overwhelmed and cornered in a shopping mall.

And so it was that for three quarters the Toronto Raptors outran and outmaneuvered the Spurs. DeMar DeRozan running circles around defenders to the tune of 25 points while Andrea Bargnani managed to attack the defense from a distance, peppering jumper after jumper (29 points).  The Raptors actually enjoyed a three-point lead heading into the final quarter.

But the Spurs kept coming, and coming. Wave after wave. A Gary Neal or Matt Bonner three-pointer here, a DeJuan Blair tip-in there. And Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili everywhere. Four starters scored in double figures with George Hill contributing 18 points off the bench.

And that’s the strength of these Spurs. They simply outlast other teams, staying step for step with opponents in tireless pursuit, until the fourth quarter when, at the point of exhaustion, opposing teams have nowhere else to run. Then the Spurs simply feast.

  • pacoloco

    Hey, grego: dem spurs, man, dey ain’ no 2nd half
    team; dey da First Place Team. You no can be jus’
    a 2nd half team and stay most a hunerd percetnage
    pints above da leage. Maybe muddle school, man;
    but not the NBA. Por favor, credit where due.
    y gracias por esse, pacoloco

  • LonghornMike

    @titletown

    “What’s exciting about all this is we don’t need to depend on him just yet, we have the luxury to bring him on as Pop sees fit. ”

    Well said. You know his contribution this year is just gravy, for now. What we’ve seen indicates a pretty bright future to me.

    @Andy
    “i agree that duncan’s line was outrageous. if there’s any dip in production from him, it’s merely a facade. i get the feeling he could crank it up and destroy opponents for 36 minutes in the playoffs.”

    Holla! I think the balanced minutes will pay off for everyone. Their efficiency with those minutes benefits the most from their steady, zombie-like team contributions.

    “Do you think he’ll accept a kevin willis role towards the end?”
    In my dream scenario, Duncan plays several more years, with his greatest value is serving as a vocal leader. Does Coach Duncan seem feasible???

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

    The Spurs are very good but it like Pop says they are not the best team in the league yet. Spurs defense is going to have to be a lot better at playoff time for them to win a championship. To be honest I’m not really that worried becuse with thier history by the time playoffs come around they will be

  • rob

    I’ll have to give credit where credit is due. DeJuan Blair is averaging per 36 what he averaged last season. These last 4 games has helped bring him up to par. To what level he can sustain his recent performances is what will determine how good he can or will be.

    I always believed (even as a rookie) when some didn’t think it would be the case that Blair would be the starter on this team. But some talk had it that he would be a perinial all star which I think won’t be the case due to certain physical limitations as well as talent throughout the league in the postion he plays.

    All things said…as long as Blair can sustain the level of play he has been exhibiting lately… he’ll always be a solid contributor. Will he become the game in game out “go to post player” like the team has in Duncan? That remains to be seen.

    For now I am relishing in his solid performances and hope he can sustain that from now through the playoffs and the rest of his career.

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • rob

    Following up on Blair and the Spurs bigs, I think it safe to presume the Spurs will stick with the roster they have without making a trade this year. As long as the monitoring of minutes for McDyess and Duncan can remain as succesful as it has been…the development of Blair to consistent play…the return of Matt Bonner… and the steady increase in Tiago’s minutes…any new member at this time would be disadvantageous for the team going into the second half of the season and into the playoffs.

    Looking ahead to free agency what I would hope happens (or may be the best scenario regarding who’s available via free agency) and seemingly having solidified the backcourt, is looking at making Samuel Dalembert an offer to play for the Spurs next season. His per 36 is still around the same but wouldn’t be called upon to play as many minutes and would help solidify the front court with a defensive presense many of us think is still needed.

  • Tim in Surrey

    @rob – I’ll pass on big Sam. I really admire what he did in helping raise attention to the plight of his countrymen in Haiti after the earthquake. And he’s certainly talented. But when it comes to playing basketball, he just doesn’t have the kind of mind and personality that you need to play for the Spurs. Maybe Pop could work with him, but I don’t know.

    Personally, I’d love to see them make a run at possibly the most overlooked free agent in the upcoming group: David West. He would fit in perfectly as a Spur. I doubt they’d have the money for him, though, without some sort of sign-and-trade deal–which is hard to see working with a division rival. But it would be nice.

  • Titletown99030507

    What your seeing now is what we’ll see in the playoffs but with the increase in preparedness in Splitter for those times Pop needs him. Yes if Blair keeps playing with that kind of energy and learning that he doesn’t need to foul in certain plays when he’s at the disadvantage then he can recover and stay on the court longer and be more of a factor, but he’s been doing well. Knock on wood. Also if the beast can develop that 10 footer between now and the playoffs oh my I think Timmy will stick around for a few more.

  • bong p.

    Didn’t we tell you that Blair was the second coming of Wes Unseld?: a mobile 6-foot-7 center with a remarkable jumping ability, a tenacious rebounder, huge basketball IQ, solid post moves and, later as he grew older, an efficient mid-range shooter. His battles with the great Willis Reed of the New York Knickerbockers (now shortened to the Knicks) were legend. And he was a major reason why the Washington Bullets – as they were known then – won their one and only NBA championship, which also had star guard Earl “The Pearl” Monroe – the original shake-and-bake man.

  • Colin

    The Spurs are a very good ball club that is simply a pleasure to watch.

    @ Bong Hits

    Lets stay away from hall of fame comparisons for Blair. He has the POTENTIAL to possibly be an all-star some day, but he’ll be no Wes Unseld.

    Unseld carried his teams, Blair never will.

  • Dr. Who

    @ Rob and IT guy

    Man you guys are ooooold!!!! I am too :)

    My Spurs fandom goes back to the Hemisphare as well. Although I never snuck into the place, I did always snag better seats since there were usually prime seats available much lower than the tickets we bought (or should I say my brother and dad bought). I take this next drink and salute Stan Albec’s fro! Good times…

    Go Spurs Go!

  • Dr. Who

    Ok Wes Unseld… C’mon man….. Let’s not anoint Blair and the next savior. That didn’t work too well for Elson or Mahimi. Keep in mind Unseld played in a very different era not ruled by 7 footers aplenty like the NBA is today. If Blair ends up being a soid NBA’er and on the cusp of All-Star I’ll be more than happy.

  • JustinFL

    WOW! What a difference a year makes.

    Looks like the East got stronger, but the West is still the best.

    Every year we wonder about the same old teams and this year has been very weird. Every time the Spurs have won a championship we’ve got some things to go our way during the season. With that said, let’s look at some teams we worry about each year:

    Utah: Doesn’t look good for them after losing
    Sloan and apparent chemistry issues.
    Still can’t get over the hump.

    Denver: Wins “The most overrated overtalented underachieving team award” yet again. They are still a pain to play because u never know when they might want to show up. Good news it looks like we won’t have to worry about them for awhile.

    Houston: No Yao means No chance yet again.

    Portland: This is another team that every year people tout and ends up being much ado about nothing. Although, I do like their team, players, and coach. Just some of the worst luck for a team I’ve ever seen. And until Timmy retires I hope they still continue having bad luck.

    So that pretty much leaves us, LA, and Dallas as who comes out of the West. People talk about Spurs being old should watch LA and Dallas play. They some old jokers. Not saying it’s going to be easy, I’m just saying……

    H

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