San Antonio Spurs 111, Houston Rockets 103: The preseason is over

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AT&T Center–A little lighter on the roster, and a little lighter on their feet, the San Antonio Spurs ended the preseason with a 111-103 victory over the Houston Rockets literally running full speed ahead into the regular season.

The run and gun Spurs nearly doubled up the Rockets in fast break points, outscoring them 19-7 on transition buckets in the second half (30-18 overall).

That the Rockets shot over 50% in the first half brings cause for concern, but overall San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was pleased with the pace.

“We would certainly like to keep up the pace a bit, get a little bit longer outlets and attack a little more after makes,” Popovich said. “We will continue that, I think it helped us.”

To watch the Spurs run this preseason, and the lack of locally televised games has made it difficult for some, has been a drastic turnaround from recent years. Far from the lip service played to running each preseason, the Spurs are noticeably pushing the ball up court at a torrid (for them) pace, getting into sets quicker, and finding that offense near the beginning of the shot clock can be much easier.

While the long outlets and risk taking mindset has led to a few sloppy plays at time, to watch Duncan or Blair rebound and quickly outlet to a Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili, with Hill and Jefferson flanking on the wings and Matt Bonner or Gary Neal trailing behind the three-point line can be a thing of beauty.

Even Tim Duncan and Blair got into the act, with Duncan pulling his best Manu Ginobili by threading a cross court bounce pass through defenders to a cutting DeJuan Blair on a fast break. Blair later ran his own break, finding Hill for another layup.

“Timmy is going to do that once in a while,” Popovich said. “DeJuan, I don’t know him well enough; I don’t know what’s going to happen when he has it.”

The increased pace also has two quiet advantages, the first being eliminating the pounding on Tim Duncan’s knees. The added ball movement and easier buckets reduces the amount of contact Duncan takes in the post, and in some cases tonight the Spurs were able to score with Duncan never even having to near half court. A small note to be sure, but one that adds up over the course of the season.

Second, in running the floor, undersized center DeJuan Blair is able to beat the defense to the block, earning favorable matchups and position.

The faster pace naturally seems to suit Richard Jefferson much better, the small forward finally putting together all the different facets he worked on over the summer while scoring 16 points on 5-7 shooting (3-4 from the three-point line).

All preseason Jefferson has been doing a great job of attacking off dribble handoffs, off the catch, while in motion. By getting into their offensive sets early, Jefferson has found cleaner driving lanes and tonight was able to take advantage, getting to the basket and earning a few free throws.

It’s yet to be determined what carries over to the regular season, and certainly the defense still needs to be fine tuned. But this is a team that consistently ran all preseason. These Spurs, quietly, were built for this.

  • The Beat Counselor

    As long as this doesn’t turn into “7 seconds or less” or Nellie-ball, I’m all for it.

    Defense Defense

  • Jim Henderson

    No, this will be nothing like Nellie-ball. Pop would retire before he’d ever resort to that. He’s just looking for ways to catch the defense off-guard when the opportunity presents itself. Trust me, we will not be running on every change of possession. Pop has probably drawn up certain parameters and circumstances that serve as triggers for when a break opportunity should be exploited. There might even be certain line-ups that have quicker triggers, but the whole point is to look for easy offensive opportunities to best maximize our personnel in the quest for a “W”. I mean, let’s face it, we don’t have the personnel right now that can play “D” like we did in the past. As a result, I would suspect that Pop’s game plan for this year is to get a little better offensively, and a little better defensively, and hope that’s enough to get us further than we got last year. I think that’s the most pragmatic way to look at it.

    Just a couple brief comments on the game tonight:

    Yao did not play, but Houston is a very good and deep team even without Yao, so overall it was a decent performance tonight. Their starters pretty much played most of their minutes in the 1st half, and part of the 3rd quarter. We fell behind them by double digits for a good portion of the 1st half, but that was mostly due to 11 turnovers in the half. Also, our shooting was off, and the box/play-by-play suggests that our “D” wasn’t particularly good. For example, Kevin Martin torched us. Nevertheless, we closed the gap to 6 by the half, as heretofore dismal shooting started to pick up some.

    I was impressed by our 4th quarter, and how we finished the game right out to the end. Playing good when it matters the most (near the end of games) is crucial, and it was a good idea to set a precedent for that in our last preseason game. It is true that the Rockets had there second unit in the game in the 4th quarter, but as noted previously, Houston has a very talented 2nd unit. Also, Tim & Manu did not play in the 4th, TP played just a few minutes, and RJ played about half of the 4th.

    Two guys carried the biggest load in the 4th: Bonner & Blair. I guess we can call them the BB guns. Bonner bombed in 8 points in the first 6 minutes of the fourth, while Blair had 11 pts & 3 reb in the quarter, on 5 of 5 from the field and a free throw, and he had a run of 8 pts in the last 7 minutes. Three of Blair’s 5 FG’s during the quarter were away from the basket; a jumper, a jumper bank shot (I guess TD’s rubbing off!), and a “running bank shot”. Blair got off to a slow start in the first half, but finished strong. I like that!

  • mikrobass3

    i expect the faster pace will help in free throw percentage since jefferson, hill et. al. will be shooting more free throws for the team. that will be nice.

    i wonder how the faster pace will work out in the playoffs?

  • VP of Common Sense

    The Run-N-Gun Spurs…

    What planet am I on??

  • DieHardSpur

    Did anyone notice Richard Jefferson last night?

    He quietly was the key to the game. He is much more of a rythmn shooter. When he trailed coming up the floor on the break, I believe it was Tony who kicked it back out to him for the step up 3 pointer… his action was much more fluid than that of his spot up jumpers.

    Mr. Blair is gonna be a nightmare for opposing teams if he can make that jumper reliable. I like the hell out of what I have seen from him.

    Am I the only one waiting to see Tiago? enough already. let him play 2 minutes or something… give me something – anything!!!!

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  • http://www.bpifanconnect.com Alix Babaie

    I am so excited that Blair is getting love as a starter! He was a very big acquisition in the draft. To me, getting him ranks right up there with other 2nd round steals like Rashard Lewis and Carlos Boozer! Once we get Splitter going this team is going to be much tougher and a difficult team to beat. This is OUR TIME – 2010-11 NBA World Champions, boy that looks good coming off the keyboard! GO SPURS GO, DRIVE FOR FIVE!!!!!

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  • doggydogworld

    Running also favors the deeper team, which in the vast majority of cases will be the Spurs.

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  • SG20

    After Tim Duncan and Manu retires, this team will probably lose a step, but not many. If Dejuan can continue to grow up, and George Hill gets better each of the next 4 or 5 seasons, James Anderson plays like he did in college (or better), this team is going to be VERY scary. And I can’t forget Tiago. Forget the Heat, their egos are way to big. I’m looking for a Spurs championship this year, and then a repeat the next. and who knows after that.

  • tradeTP

    Sad to see all the so-called Spurs experts havent gained a step in the preseason.

    1. Blair should have been starting last year. All the “experts” on here claimed he couldnt play with Tim and Pop was making the right choice. That was false.

    McDyess continues to produce less than Blair on a nightly basis and Blairs energy should only reinforce this fact. Unfortunate that EXPERTS can grasp this concept

    2. Pop cant coach. All the “experts” on this board claim that he can, but in reality he duped someone out of a job (who was no better or worse than Pop) and took over at the right time. Still no one can overcome or justify this.

    What I am waiting for in this season, is the same thing I have been saying for three years. We dont have the horses (TD) to dominate a game from the post and have to change the method to our madness. A good coach can adapt his system to fit his players and unfortunately for us, ours cant. And even more unfortunate the “experts” on here continue to praise early exits and make excuses.

    You all laughed when pop said if he didnt win the title last year he should be fired. Unfortunately no one took him seriously.
    We are a fourth quarter failure and have been since TD cannot dominate every game. If any of the “experts” here knew what they were talking about this would have been addressed with Pops coaching.

    Unfortunately it looks as if we are settling for a playoff spot and not trying to be legit contenders….AGAIN.

    Parker continues to be a non threat from deep and a TO liability… and DURING THE PRESEASON….

    Its odd that the same delimmas plague the Spurs for 3+ years and you all have some sort of different outcome for the team. I am extremely excited to debate the current strengths and weaknesses of the Spurs team. I only wish the “experts” on here would become more objective…..

    Fire the coach

  • mac

    TradeTP–
    who do you nominate to take over instead of Popovich? Coach K ain’t coming to the league. Avery and Tom T have jobs. Jeff Van Gundy? Terry Porter?

    Also,what do you think of James Anderson? Let’s say we could trade Parker (he may just walk for nothing this summer- ouch!) to make room in the backcourt for Anderson. Who do you trade him for? Keep in mind that his next team has to be legit, or Tony could balk and kill the deal.

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  • http://arkansas66radio.sosblog.com/-b/Arkansas-fm-radio-stations-b1-p1.htm tom torlakson

    As long as this doesn’t turn into “7 seconds or less” or Nellie-ball, I’m all for it.

    Defense Defense