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