San Antonio Spurs 110, Denver Nuggets 97: A second quarter run is the difference

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AT&T CENTER — The Spurs did their darnedest in the first quarter of their 110-97 win over the Denver Nuggets to lose the game. San Antonio committed eight turnovers and made some of the sloppiest defensive rotations they’ve had all season. The Spurs were fortunate to be down just four points after one quarter.

But a second quarter run that was kick-started by defensive energy from Tiago Splitter (yes, Tiago Splitter) and offensive aggressiveness via Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker turned the tides. The Spurs went on a 33-7 run in the second that turned a 12-point deficit into a 14-point lead.

“That was probably the best part of the game,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “Going down the way we did and then keeping our composure and digging ourselves back into the game.

“That was a good thing for us.”

Splitter started the run off with a reverse layup and then drew a charge on Al Harrington on the defensive end. Ginobili then scored at the rim after driving on a pick-and-roll with Splitter.

San Antonio ended up outscoring the Nuggets 37-20 in the second quarter, holding the Nuggets to 33% shooting and forcing four turnovers.

It was amazing to see how quickly energy on the defensive end and getting a few stops fueled the offense. All of a sudden the Spurs’ ball movement was crisper, guys were getting open shots, and driving and passing lanes magically appeared. In the first quarter, San Antonio’s offense seemed to settle for the first open look that came along instead of moving the ball and getting better shots.

“We made stops,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said after the game. “When you make stops, it creates opportunities for easy baskets.”

The Spurs extended a 12-point halftime lead to a 82-67 margin after three quarters, but missed a golden opportunity to rest their starters during the fourth quarter. San Antonio started the fourth with a lineup of George Hill, Gary Neal, Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter and Antonio McDyess, but the Spurs weren’t able to extend their lead.

The Spurs 15-point advantage dropped to 12 when the time came for Tim Duncan and Richard Jefferson to re-enter the game as a part of the normal rotation. With the game still in the balance, Coach Pop was forced to continue with the rotation instead of let Duncan sit out yet another fourth quarter this season.

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Tony Parker in the corner and another 3-pointer from George Hill in the opposite corner kept a 15-point lead for the Spurs with about two-and-a-half minutes left and Pop felt comfortable emptying the bench.

Halfway through the season the Spurs, at 35-6, are on pace for the best record in franchise history and home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Assuming they can stay healthy San Antonio is in prime position to make yet another run in the Western Conference Playoffs.

  • Rafael

    And the Splitter crazy fall dunk?? LOL he almost kill himself. TP and Manu make a very good game. GoSpursGo

  • Matt in OC

    Not bragging or anything, but I was the catalyst for the Splitter series. Not moments before I had posted on this very blog that he was blowing it. You’re welcome spurs faithful…

    (obviously posted with jest)

  • Matt in OC

    But on a more serious note, good game tonight.

    Good ball movement, good shooting during that run. 15 straight shots in incredible.

    Splitter changed my mind tonight. Really endeared himself to my wife and I. I like the kid I just think he lacks confidence.

    Seems like every year I fall in love with another guard. Last year was hill, this year I can’t get enough of Neal. Kid is a baller through and through.

  • Hobson13

    Spurs looked slow for the first 15 minutes of the game and then they just steamrolled the Nuggets. Tony really balled tonight and got big help from Manu, Neal, and Hill. Our perimenter guys are really something else. Against this uber athletic Denver team, those four had a total of 76 points, 16 assists, and 14 rebounds. The defense was at times very stiffling and we would have held them to under 90 points if our bench had been able to take care of the ball. This defensive effort came against a team that was averaging almost 130ppg over the last 3 games.

    Splitter played pretty well and capped the game off with a hilarious ass-busting dunk. I hope he’s ok but I have to admit that I laughed pretty hard on this one. Here is the Tiago monster dunk at the end.

    http://www.nba.com/video/games/spurs/2011/01/16/0021000597_den_sas_recap.nba/index.html

  • Rjr

    I’d like to see Nene in a Spurs uniform!

  • Ray

    Manu looks like his legs are gone now and he has no lift in any of his shots. When was the last time he had a decent scoring game that was around 50%. I just wish he would stop shooting so much.

  • rj

    i was hoping splitter wasn’t going to pull a bogut landing on his arm, but i did laugh. is george hill ever going to pass on a pick’n’roll?

  • Nima K.

    I wonder how this owens dude will turn out. They say many good things about him up in 66ers. 6’7” seems good. He seems mature, and has practiced with the Spurs b4. Always exciting to see yet another gem unearthed for the Spurs!

  • ruth bader ginobili

    Spurs are half-way through the season at a 70 win pace. Can’t argue that they’ve been fortunate with health and the schedule, but can’t argue with 35 wins and best point differential either. Closest team in the League is 4 games back, and in the West its 5.5.

    My guess is Pop lets off the gas pedal after the next 15 games. Good chance of going ’bout 12-3 in the next 15, which includes the rodeo trip. That would put them at 47 wins (with 25 left), and last year it took 61 wins to get the overall number 1 seed.

  • L-Man

    Ray,
    Manu gets open and is one of our best players. He should shot it everytime he is open. He also dishes the ball to open teammates woderfully and regularly. He is probably reason #1 we are 35-6. Wake up dude!

  • rob

    “I’d like to see Nene in a Spurs uniform!”

    It could be done with a nod/wink and giving up Hill depending on how the Nuggets want to handle their season if Melo and Billups are traded. That trade may be happening hearing that the Nets owner has been given permission to talk to Melo.

    Regarding the game…

    The Spurs looked to be heading into another close battle then put the lock down on defense and shot phenominally well in the 2nd period. Neal is fearless, confident, and only in his first year as a Spur. I’ve said it before…but imagine how good he could be after a couple of years? So depending on how well Anderson fits in the last half of the season…there’s going to be a log jam in the backcourt.

    I’ll hand it to Splitter. He played all right. Not spectacular, but well enough to help the Spurs not lose any ground. At first I wanted to laugh, but felt sorry for him in attempting to do a throw down then embarrassing himself with the fall. I hope the only thing bruised in that incident is his ego.

    Blair…it seems for every good thing he does, commits 3 or 4 really less than intelligent goofs. Which wouldn’t be a problem for a young player if they learned from their mistakes except…it’s the same unforced goofs over and over again. Tiago actually played better than Blair in this game.

    Anyway…35 and 6. Way to go Spurs!!! Played very well against a tenacious and very good team.

  • LPspursFan

    I guess I’m different from the rest of you because all I had was visions of Andrew Bogut’s horrific injury when Splitter hit the floor after his dunk. Even after he was able to get up on his own and shake it off I was still a little shaken. Maybe this incredible run we’re on has me worrying that some kind of injury is gonna come along and try to mess things up.
    In the end, all’s well that ends well.
    Glad to see that an offensive juggernaut like Denver was heading into this game was held in check.
    Time to take care of business over the next 2 home games and get ready for the rodeo road trip. Go! Spurs! Go!!!

  • Junierizzle

    Great win. I really liked how they kept up the intensity for almost the entire game.

    I thought Splitter had a decent game. Nice block.
    I took a deep breath on that dunk. Since nothing was mentioned about it in this article, is it safe to assume he is okay???

  • andy

    @LPspursFan

    i’m with you. this run of health is unprecedented for the spurs. i really hope that our low minutes for our stars reduces wear and tear injuries and helps keep us healthy, but you’re never far from a freak accident.

    @rob
    “Neal is fearless, confident, and only in his first year as a Spur. I’ve said it before…but imagine how good he could be after a couple of years?”

    i love neal too, but i think he’s not terribly far from his ceiling as a spur and nba player. while he craft and a dead-eye shooter, he’s a mediocre athlete and 26. i think he could be a great role player for us for half a decade more, but i don’t know that he could be a starter on a championship caliber team. that said, love that the spurs found him.

    and yeah, nene is one player i’ve always thought was underappreciated and could fit in well with the spurs. he and billups seem to be the happiest to be in denver though, and i wouldn’t trade too much for him considering his knees and age.

    great win, good to see tony show his newly developed range and go uberefficient on an opponent.

  • Manolo Pedralvez

    Saw the game on Philippine TV live from start to finish. While some have noted that 33-7 second quarter run, we go even further and say that the 22-3 blast in the same period was the key: 14 straight shots in that span without a single riposte from a dysfunctional Denver squad (after the first quarter that is).
    The Spurs went small ball in that stage with a three-guard rotation of Ginobili, Neal and TP, with Richard Jefferson as the power forward and Tim Duncan as the defensive anchor in the middle. What awesome and excellent defensive execution: killing off Melo, Harrington and Billups with their precise switching and triggering the scoring avalanche that was to follow.
    As for Splitter, he did well in the minutes that Pop gave him late in the first until early second when Timmy took over. He did steady the ship there.
    McDyess, too, did his bit as usual. He and the Brazilian looked good together on the floor. (Hope he’s okay after that game-ending dunk where he fell on his butt.)
    San Antonio even had the luxury of showing off its latest recruit: 28-year-old Larry Owens, up from the D-League, in 2:09 of garbage time.
    A truly satisfactory win; 41 more games to go.

  • Bert

    When Splitter fell I thought he was done like Bogut. He’ll probably learn that Spurs aren’t suppose to dunk. Just keep it fundamental with the lay up.

    Does anyone think that Ginobili is shooting more 3pters to save his body a little? I’m sure he would sacrifice his body during the playoffs. I think that’s why he is shooting more than trying to go for layups. I prefer that instead.

    After watching the terrible last 3 minutes of the game. I think this team needs a point guard.

  • MG20TD21

    Just checking if this gets published, tried many times before, to no avail. Go Spurs!

  • Manolo Pedralvez

    Another Splitter observation: He tends to set up the pick a bit too high from the key, while TD, of course, has it down pat. The Fundamental should tutor his Brazilian stand-in more on the nuances of this bread-and-butter play.
    As for TP: He sure is brushing up on his three-point shooting, going 2-for-2 for the night from practically the same spot. Manu, Parker, RJ, Neal, Hill, Bonner, Blair and, lest we forget, his Eminence: Pop must be be delighted he has so many weapons in his arsenal now outside of the “Big 3.” Should Splitter, Quinn and the comebacking Anderson also become offensive threats, combined with the much-improved defense, this squad, indeed, is going to be one San Antonio juggernaut. Fifth banner coming up.

  • Matt in OC

    Not sure what everyone on this blog seems to love about Quinn.

    Guy is a ball hog. Everytime he gets the ball (which is at every inbound) he dribbles to half court and let’s the clock run down then flings up a shot. The only time he doesn’t is if there is mad pressure and he has to give it up. Wondering why our second unit can never maintain the huge leads? It’s that guy. Of course “Quinn equals win” when he comes in with 2 min left and a 12 pt lead.

    Might as well be our version of Darko, the Human Victory Cigar.

  • grego

    @rob
    “So depending on how well Anderson fits in the last half of the season…there’s going to be a log jam in the backcourt.”

    Even before he was injured, Neal usually was in the lineup with Anderson. Anderson is the backup 3.

    The end result is the Spurs can balance out the minutes between RJ/Neal/Manu/Hill with Anderson.

    However, there’s not really a log jam because the Spurs really don’t have a back up for RJ. There are definitely games that the lack of Anderson have showed.

  • grego

    @andy
    “great win, good to see tony show his newly developed range and go uberefficient on an opponent.”

    Probably seen in the game film that he needs to take that shot. It makes sense that he’s worked to extend his range to the corner 3 so that the court is spread out.

    It’s nice to see drastic improvements from the summer from guys like RJ, Tony and Bonner.

  • Matt in OC

    I hardly think Parker improving his 3 ball can be considered “drastic.”

    He is doing what he has for years, which is driving to the cup and kicking it out. To be honest, I think his increased assist numbers have more to do with the shooters draining the shots, than with Tony finding the open man.

    No, Tony has been playing this great for a little while now.

  • r.l.manuel

    ginobli is a baaaad man,
    that layup was sic…
    GO SPURS GO
    GO SPURS GO
    GO SPURS GO
    35-6

  • Matt in OC

    Besides, it’s not like Parker is a renowned 3-point threat now. He has made 10(?) halfway through the season.

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  • grego

    He doesn’t need to be a 3-point threat. He just needs to be able to make them from time to time to keep the defenses honest. I’ll help space out the floor and keep defenses more honest because they have to watch him in the corners.

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  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Splitter was fine after the game. He will probably be a little sore after the game but nobody expected him to miss any time or anything like that.

  • The Beat Counselor

    Yeah f*%# the Thuggets.

    I used to like you and your game, Chauncey, but we all saw those TWO cheap shots you took at Tony last night. You deserved two flagrants and an ejection.

    I used to be sympathetic to your cause, but now?

    Haha your team’s gettin’ blown up!

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Timothy Varner

    Andrew,

    Do you agree with me that Splitter’s main two problems are a general lack of understanding and very little chemistry with any of his s/r partners? I liked what I saw. But last night sort of reminded me of a first date with a fine looking woman. The trajectory is pleasing and the view is nice, but it’s still all kinds of awkward. Right?

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    @ Tim

    Yes. And if you notice, Coach Pop has been running Splitter out there a lot with Manu Ginobili. Even in the fourth quarter of the Dallas game, when Tony Parker and Tim Duncan were already done for the night, Coach Pop still sent Manu into the game mid-way through the 4th quarter. Manu is the basketball equivalent of the girl with the bubbly personality that only someone with the charm of a tree stump couldn’t click with.

  • rob

    @grego

    “Even before he was injured, Neal usually was in the lineup with Anderson. Anderson is the backup 3. ”

    Yes Sir. I would agree and forgot about Neal and Anderson being on the court together early in the season. I retract my statement. You make an excellent point.

    That would be great to stave off minutes for Manu…secure a viable option to backing up Jefferson…all the while keeping the team’s ability to provide superior perimeter D.

    Now if only Hill could learn to pass when a better scoring option is available.

  • Spurholic in Mumbai

    12 minutes of perfect ball, that was the second qtr performance of the Spurs. Perhaps the beast quarter played so far in the season!

    If the Spurs remain healthy, in their current confident mode the next few matches are interesting v NY a shot to take revenge, roadgames against Utah, Portland and big daddy LA. Hope the squad remains healthy.

  • junierizzle

    Great to hear SPlitter seems to be fine.

    I agree that he doesn’t really seem to have chemistry with the players. But chemistry goes both ways. Splitter is actually open a lot but they rarely feed him the rock. When they do throw it in to him when he is in traffic. Which ultimately makes him look bad.

    A while ago this blog put up an article on Hill. Will he ever pass on the pick and roll? I think the same can be said of most of the team regarding SPLITTER.

  • agutierrez

    Regarding Tiago and chemistry. I recall screaming at my set time and again last year when Manu would send passes to Antonio only to see them go right through his hands and out of bounds because he wasn’t expecting them. This year it’s a whole new ball game. Give Tiago more time on the court with Manu and we’ll see the same kind of chemistry.

  • Rafael

    I would like to see Splitter and TD together like last game in Denver when he scores 12 points and grabb 9 rebounds…

  • Daniel T

    rob:

    There’s a $10M difference between Nene’s and Hill’s contract. A nod and wink won’t make up the difference.

    Matt in OC:

    I’d say that Quinn’s role in the last couple minutes of the game is usually to be a ball hog. Though he had a turnover last night, it was only his second this year compared to 19 assists. He is often in there for the purpose of running down the clock so that the other team has fewer possessions to cut into the Spurs’ lead. If they foul him, his career FT% is up there with Manu’s. If Quinn is able to run down the 24 second clock 3-4 times in the last 2 minutes, that gives the other team fewer possessions to score on.

    I think the Nuggets used a surprisingly agressive defense in the last couple of minutes after lacking such intensity leading up to that point. It seems the Spurs might need to work on their ball control in such situations, as when the man with the ball was trapped it didn’t seem the Spurs were always moving over to help out.

  • Gebo

    Several guys have mentioned that Anderson is the natural back up to Jefferson, and they are right. We will have a better and more complete bench when he is back. One of the reasons that this has’t been a bigger problem is that Jefferson is almost never in foul trouble. Jefferson did a very good job of staying with Anthony last night and consistently pushing him toward help (usually Duncan). I think Owens is just a stop-gap roster filler until Anderson gets back. I’d love to see Owens get an opprotunity to stay longer though. A long, athletic, defensive minded wing player is needed. He would help keep Hill from having to guard players 5-6 inches taller.

  • jwalt

    I have nothing against Anderson and think he will be a good NBA player, but it will be hard for him to get a lot of minutes upon his return. How do you break up a rotation that has gone 35-6 and looked great while doing it? Yes, he is a natural backup for RJ, but the Spurs have done great with their 3 guard look. It’s been a complete nightmare for the opposing teams, and Manu and Neal have both shown they can handle most small forwards defensively.

    If Anderson helps, great, but I think it’s a long shot this late into the season. Remember, you win in this league with men, not kids. Anderson is 22, Neal (in Europe), Manu, TP, and Hill are all much more experienced.

  • Hobson13

    jwalt
    January 17th, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Good points. Anderson has missed 35 games and counting so far this season. In his absence, we have seen Pop consistently use a three guard lineup with some combination of Parker, Hill, Manu, and Neal. Those 4 have proven themselves time and time again. Let’s not forget that Anderson is still a rookie that has played in a total of 6 NBA games. There’s no way Pop will expect much from him now that we are entering the second half of the season unless we start blowing teams up by 20+ points (which I don’t see likely).

    Perhaps he can grab a few minutes at the backup SF position, but in all honesty, we haven’t had a backup SF since he was injured. Obviously it hasn’t killed us so far. Anderson, however, will be a very good player and a key part of the team NEXT season but there’s no need to mess with something good.

  • AS

    The difference between Tiago with the starters and Tiago with his bench-mates, was pretty obvious yesterday.
    The second quarter run was ignited by Tiago (a layup and a couple of excellent defensive plays, block included) and Manu taking the ball to the rim. This plays led to a mind-set change of the team, wich looked sloppy at that time.
    Then, in the four quarter and playing with the second unit, he looked terrible.
    I dont understand how someone can say that Tiago doesn’t have skills. You dont need to be a scout to see that he has skills.

  • betsyduncan

    I think Manu is often out on the floor with Tiago because they both speak Spanish. Manu might be ‘coaching him up’.

  • Dr. Who

    Tiago’s dunk should have it’s own write up! Did you see his face afterwards? He looked kinda stunned and in disbelief. Priceless… Kinda like tripping over your own two feet in the hallway at middle school. Get up quick, play it off, look around really fast to see who saw you bust @ss and pray that no cheerleaders or the hot read head was around!

    Speaking of redheads… Bonner still continues to help the team. He’s not shooting 3′s at 50% or being the PER monster right now, but with Bonner out Tiago finally will see some meaningful minutes by default. 6th man of the year award goes to Bonner! Somehow finding a way to contribute even when injured. McDyess walking around gimpy in the 2nd qtr only solidifies the position to give the older knees of Duncan and McDyess some rest during Bonner’s absence. There will be a game or two in the futre (either a loss or near loss) where posters will point to the lack of spacing and Bonner’s timely 3′s that doomed the Spurs on that given night, but the trade off of forced Tiago development for Bonner sitting out some games is a good trade off in my book. Get better soon Bonner but don’t make it too soon if ya know what I mean ;)

  • Dr. Who

    BTW… to those of you that recall my superstitious rant about the Miam “Heat” network’s (ESPN’s) power rankings curse and the Spurs fall from grace only because they were given the #1 spot… Thank you for all of those that did the anti-voodoo and we re-wrighteded the ship (inside joke… :) ) after only two losses. If you keep up with such foolishness, you may have noticed the “Heat” were anointed the #1 spot after we hit our first 2 game losing streak, followed immediately by….. wait for it….. a sobering 3 game losing streak for the “Heat” and losing both Lebare and Bosh! Coincidence??? I think not! The curse appears to be alive and well. Exhibits A, B, C, D and E. The Fakers slide, Hornets losses, Ponies (losing Dork and Butler), Spurs devastating 2 game losing streak and now the “Heat” all after the #1 ranking. The defense rests your honor.

    The bad news is that the Spurs are now the #1 team again. Maybe the curse loses it’s mojo after being named #1 once? Apparently the Spurs are fully aware of the curse and taking it seriously. As a precaution, Pop has already publicly sacrificed a small portion of Bonner’s knee and a bottle of Opus I to the ESPN power ranking gods. And Tiago is on record stating he tried to sit on the curse last night after his Moooonster Jam! “I have exxxxxxerciiiised the demons!” Let’s do our parts this week too OK. Instead of rally caps, I have decided to wear all of my clothes backwards to work this week (ala Kriss Kross). Please think of other ways you can help in this preemptive strike against the curse. I’m glad the Spurs are taking the curse seriously especially #22. Attaboy! I have the utmost confidence in you guys/gals.

    Note: The team name “Heat” is the exclusive property of the ESPN network and used solely with their permission. No laboratory animals were harmed during the scripting of this blog post.

  • J-Spur

    Great win for the Spurs. They started out looking slow and sloppy, but it was nice to see the guys get their act together in the second quarter and maintain for a win. This team is special when they play with max effort defensively.
    I have to admit that the previous two seasons I was not a Matt Bonner fan. It drove me crazy when he played big minutes last year, because the other team immediately exploited him on defense for easy points. And our rebounding always suffered when he came in the game. But I have to admit that this year he has played great. His shooting is really helping us space the court on offense and his defense and rebounding have improved a lot to my eyes.
    That being said, I am really happy that Tiago Splitter is getting some real minutes with Bonner out. I think it is a shame to have a skilled 7 footer, who can play defense, rebound and pass and not ever let him play. All Tiago needs is consistent playing time. And not just garbage time, he needs time with the first unit, so he can learn the proper spacing for pick and roll, with guys that will actually get him the ball (no offense G Hill, I love you even though you don’t pass in the pick and roll). Splitter needs PT now so that he can be ready to compete in the playoffs. When the Spurs play the Lakers, or Celtics, they will NEED another defensive 7 footer next to Duncan to slow down an Andrew Bynum, or Shaq, or Dwight Howard etc.
    Go Spurs Go!! I believe we can win raise the 5th banner this year if everything continues to come together!!

  • grego

    @Jwalt,

    It’s nearing the midpoint of the season. Anderson went through training camp and look like he understood what he needed to do in those 6 games. It’s not like he hasn’t played at all. He’s played and played well.

    Spurs have had success going small, but there have also been games where the missing sized did show. Spurs found ways to win, but less minutes for some of the guys on some nights is important.

    Games where RJ/Neal/Hill might be struggling are games that Anderson could see big minutes. There are definitely times when a taller/longer guy might be more useful on an opposing player than Hill.

    And then Hill can focus on another guy, for instance.

    Basically, if Anderson does what he did before he was injured, then he is a big plus and should be in the rotation.

    There’s a reason Spurs are taking it very slow with Anderson (even though he’s fully healed) and playing him in d-league. They know he’s important to their bench, especially against the bigger teams like Lakers, Celtics and the Magic.

  • Dr. Who

    @J-Spur

    100% on the money!

    In regards to Mr. Anderson… he did seem like a good fit in his short time. I’m not expecting an All-Star this late in the season but the kid seemed very comfortable. If anything else, he can give RJ and especially Manu a break in some minutes. I realize Manu will play more minutes due to his point/distributor role but I’m all for anyone who can come in and give Manu a breather. I can’t think of a more important player to the new look Spurs than Manu. Plus we’ve seen several players “go off” on nights when one or more of the big 3 struggle. It’s been Neal on some nights, Blair/Bonner provided a lift on other occassions. Anderson has potential to chip in his share of those nights when the basket just seems big.

  • Matt in OC

    @ Dr. Who

    I will gladly shave my jets playoff beard if it means good mojo towards the power rankings curse.

    Think that helps?

    It should at least offset all the lakers junk I talk seeing as how I unfortunately live in the greater LA area…

  • rob

    @DanielT

    “There’s a $10M difference between Nene’s and Hill’s contract. A nod and wink won’t make up the difference.”

    You’re very astute, but the nod and wink I mentioned doesn’t involve Hill. Rather another player from the Spurs that would be involved in the trade only for Dunver to release him and then the Spurs resign him. Tiago would be involved as well…but he’s not the player that Denver would release.

  • Gebo

    The problem with the three guard line up is not that Manu or Neal has to guard the small forward. The problem is that Richard Jefferson has to guard the big forward. I don’t want RJ spending big minutes guarding Pau Gasol or Kevin Garnett in the playoffs. Anderson may or may not be up to the task, but he will get a legit chance to earn back up minutes at small forward.