San Antonio Spurs 112, Boston Celtics 100: Tiago Splitter crashes a rivalry

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Kevin Garnett was incredulous. A night with the San Antonio Spurs is supposed to be a night between him and longtime rival Tim Duncan, and in that regard neither disappointed.

Garnett notched 14 points to go with his typically stellar defense, and Duncan anchored his team on both sides with 20 points, 14 rebounds, and four assists. And each had their one-on-one showdowns in the fourth quarter.

But throughout this rivalry, even as both big men ceded offensive responsibilities to their dynamic point guards, the Rasho Nesterovic’s, Joe Smith’s, and Fabricio Oberto’s of the world were supposed to know their place. Sure, each brought subtle contributions, but the night always belonged to Duncan and Garnett.

So who was this Tiago Splitter guy attempting to cross him over on a fourth quarter drive? Incredulous I tell you.

Splitter crashed the longtime rivalry with perhaps the essential perfect Tiago Splitter game. The scoring was efficient to an extreme, 23 points on 9-11 shooting and 5-5 from the free throw line (!). The rebounding? Much to be desired, especially given the opponent, but Splitter is who he is on the boards—average at best.

And though Splitter receives his share of criticism on defense, anchoring a defensively deficient second unit, there’s something to be said for being really tall and putting your hands straight up in the air.

Against the Celtics it was enough to draw a charge from Rajon Rondo, alter several others, and block Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger at the rim.

As we’ve noted several times throughout the season, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is turning to the Splitter-Duncan lineup more this season, working out the kinks in spacing and roles that could prevent this from being a viable combination in the playoffs.

Now in his late 20’s, Splitter is largely fully formed as a player—there appears to be no major leaps ahead.

Perhaps visions of throwing the ball to Splitter in the post were always deluded; the footwork and craftiness remains, but the ability to hold his position and a lack of range on that ugly hook shot will always prevent him from being a force in creating his own offense.

But knowing how to play and where to be on the court are underrated and important skill sets.

The threat of Splitter diving on pick and rolls balances the floor and actually spaces things for shooters. On one play in the fourth quarter Splitter received the ball on the move in a pick and roll, quickly noted the collapsing defense, and made a pass out to Danny Green for a corner three-pointer.

That specific pass is one NBA All-Stars like Amare Stoudemire or Dwight Howard still struggle to comprehend.

And while many wish Splitter would simply dunk the ball more, the man understands finishing around the basket like few others, using the rim to protect his shot and his length to create separation while taking contact.

Splitter has always been able to draw contact and generate free throws, converting them is the difference between him being an adequate backup or a difference maker. Last night it worked.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Hail Yeah! He is an athletic Fab Orberto at best. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Fab turned out ok with Timmy. He may not ever be an all – star but I’ll take these kind of games from Splitter on a daily basis. Not saying this will happen every game but if gets time we could se more of those. There’s hope now for the playoffs. Your on the right track Pop!

  • Quietly winning every night.

    Duncan had 20 and 15 with 4 assists not 20/14/4 while Garnett had 14pts and a weak rebounding game. Right now Duncan is third in the league in PER by a hair behind Bryant and Lebron. He has the leading active career winning % +500 games at 70% with 4 rings and is STILL avg. 2.5 blocks a game while his Personal fouls are DOWN. ARE YOU FRICKING KIDDING ME. IF only he would self promote you would get sick of hearing him connected with greatness. He gets “the greatest power forward ever” tag as a kind of backhanded compliment. I hear Kobe’s name spilled every second line of NBA dribble along with a lakers team that is BEHIND GOLDEN STATE while SA and Duncan get the “never count them out” by the way lead into a knicks story. His career makes Ewing look like a clown and Shaq a cheap street hooker selling himself out to any superstar/team that can get him another ring. His career has not been defined by ridiculous athleticism so his longevity of effectiveness will endure until he is 40 if he wishes. I’m watching one of the 5 greatest of all time, canning a three at the buzzer before halftime like it was a called play. One thing Im sure of….Duncan for 9 million a year was robbery WITH assault and Battery.

  • Bruno

    +999999999999999999

  • DorieStreet

    That’s another thing that makes Tim so outstanding–he remained with the franchise and took the hometown discount. Safe to say his style on the court, plus his lowkey demeanor and loyalty to the Spurs off it, will be discussed and praised just as much as his basketball skills and accomplishments when the end comes to his time in the league.

  • DorieStreet

    You can see by his effort, in addition to his production that he’s willing to step and do his thing with more time on the court.

  • Graham

    See? All you had to do was let Pop do his thing and move pieces around to find optimal lineups.

  • Titletown99030507d

    2 years ago would have been a nice time to start. Hed be that much ahead by now. Like TDBE said 5 bigs getting minutes is counter productive especially if one isnt showing consistent production. Sorry winter shoes I really like you but if this 4 man rotation starts kicking some more a$$ we’ll just have to put you on standbye. Get it stand-Bye.

  • Titletown99030507d

    9 mil per = robbery. Im sure he’ll survive. Having made over a 100mil putting a round object through an orange ring especially when people are losing their homes doesnt get any sympathy from me. Cheers from me instead is what he’ll get from me. Besides he agreed to it.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Who will be the most loved Spurs big man of all time? I said beloved not better. Timmy or Big Dave?

  • Titletown99030507d

    About a year ago I said he is a rhythm player takes him more than 5 minutes to get going. Just the way he’s wired. He had 4 points in the first half and for some miracle Pop sticks with him in the second half and he explodes. This is a confidence booster for Tiago. I think Pop gets it now.

  • Marcus

    President Obama is that you?

  • Tim in Surrey

    Really? So you think Pop “gets it now”? The four rings and the 13 straight 50-win seasons don’t do it, but Pop playing Tiago a few extra minutes in the second half does? Thank God you’re around to educate clueless idiots like Pop…

  • leben

    I think this was Splitter’s best all-around game in a Spurs’ uni. Yeah, he only had 3 boards, but his help D was some of the best yet. And even when guys scored on him, the shots were tough and well-contested. If he continues to shoot free-throws this well, Pop will be able to go with Tiago & Timmy late in games.
    And on a side note: just when I thought we’d lost Diaw, he finally showed up.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Sore loser.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Look idiot I was talking in regards to Tiago and Pop finally giving in to the reality that sitting Tiago is a big waste and you know it. Yeah the core 3 won those rings.

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