San Antonio Spurs 116, Philadelphia 76ers 93

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AT&T CENTER — Corporate knowledge be damned, the San Antonio Spurs have been taking a new approach to the season. Those seeking evidence need look no further than starting center DeJuan Blair.

Neither a floor spacing big man, or shotblocking menace, Blair might be the shortest starting center in Spurs history, give or take a Malik Rose. Having struggled in a starting role through the first few games of the season, the second year big man earned his first double-double tonight by doing what the Spurs have found success in all season — stepping outside of their system.

After a quick flurry of jumpers from fellow undersized big man Elton Brand, Blair eschewed the tried and true positional defensive schemes of the Spurs and got proactive.

“Elton’s a man. He’s amazing. That’s who I looked up to when I was coming up and right now he’s just amazing. It was good to get my groove against him,” Blair said. “He made a couple shots and I started playing around a little bit, fronting him, and I got the edge there.”

Allowed clean catches and minimal pressure, Elton Brand hit three of his first five shots by simple turning and shooting over the top of the shorter Blair. Not deterred, Blair made a simple adjustment, taking the fight to Brand.

Fronting, swiping, showing quick hands to go with quick feet, Blair displayed a new defensive style these Spurs are increasingly becoming more comfortable with.

No longer blessed with two dominating shot-blocking presences or elite defensive perimeter defender in their starting lineup, the San Antonio Spurs have to find other ways to keep opposing offenses in check.

Tonight the Spurs created 10 steals and numerous other deflections on their way to 36 fast break points.

While the team is not actively trapping, or abandoning their rotation schemes, their newest personnel, and the additions of Manu Ginobili and DeJuan Blair to the starting lineup, have created more chaos for opposing teams.

For the 76ers, bringing the ball below shoulder level in the paint resulted in several hands swiping at the ball. Lazy or poor-angled entry passes turned into deflections. And rushed passes turned into layups at the other end.

“I thought for 48 minutes we played with a lot of energy,” Head Coach Gregg Popovich said. “We played good team defense with a lot of good individual efforts defensively.”

In a faster tempo, Tony Parker continues to thrive balancing his own scoring exploits with his teammates touches, leading the team in points, assists, and steals with 24-7-3.

For the game, five Spurs scored in double figures, four of them starters, none of them Tim Duncan.

But perhaps the most important number in a night of statistics was 27:35, as in the number of minutes Parker played in leading the Spurs in playing time. Only he, Ginobili and Richard Jefferson totaled more than 25 minutes.

Reading too much into tonight’s game is fruitless. The 76ers are a poor team who fell into the Spurs hands by making long 2-point pull-up jumpers their shot of choice.

Unlike this time last year, however, the Spurs are taking care of business. Even if it’s not business as usual.

  • Hicksman

    Not too read too much into it but the SPURS played well tonight and Blair/Hill and Splitter all looked much better. Lks like no international ball was an extremely smart choice for Tony and Manu. Man did Tony look fast and Manu looks like Manu from 07. I think it’s going to be a good year!!!! Lkng forward to us playing OKC
    GO SPURS GO!!!!

  • td4life

    “Reading too much into tonight’s game is fruitless. The 76ers are a poor team who fell into the Spurs hands by making long 2-point pull-up jumpers their shot of choice.”

    Is the plan to outscore OKC? Anybody nervous about this next game? Like I said, Durant makes the game look so easy, it’s almost like watching it in slow-motion. But Westbrook is unfortunately looking very much improved on last season… how do we expect to stop him? With Manu creating chaos defensively? I don’t think that’s nearly enough. Maybe Hill got warmed up, and is ready for the challenge!

    RW & KD hit nearly all their FTs, too. It would be big win for us, if we get it. I’m guessing this is the first time this season that SA is the underdog. Our record tells me very litle. I want to see what our guys are made of. I know it’s not the playoffs or anything, but let’s see another complete 48 minutes, never say die. I’m looking for the Spurs A-game!

  • Hobson13

    We finally dominated a bad team and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We needed to knock the Sixers out and rest our starters for the real game tomorrow night. Our upcoming schedule against OKC, Chicago, and Utah will give us a better idea of where we stand as opposed to beating clowns like the Clippers, Sixers, and Bobcats. I do hope we are truly an elite team, but have a bad feeling that we are about to get exposed by some good teams. If I’m wrong, I’ll be the happiest man in the world, but we’ll just have to see what the next week has in store for the Spurs.

    “Elton’s a man. He’s amazing. That’s who I looked up to when I was coming up and right now he’s just amazing. It was good to get my groove against him,” Blair said.

    If Blair can hit that 16-18ft jumper, I can see his game being very similar to Brand’s. Both are undersized PFs with wide bodies and long arms. Congrats to Blair for having his first big game of the season. I guess I was just one game off in my “Blair’s breakout game” prediction. Way to go, big fella!

  • Brian in Seattle

    There’s been a lot of chatter about DeJuan Blair and the hope that, after he has a break-out game, he can become more confident in his expanded role on the team. Now, the last thing I want to do is overreact to one game, but, I certainly hope tonight was it. 13 pts and 12 rebs versus 8 and 4 for Brand is an absolutely brilliant stat line.

    Also, I think you could add Splitter taking charges as a new obstacle opposing offenses have to face.

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  • Jacques

    Good job by the Spurs offense tonight. Let’s get ready for next match against the Thunder. This will be the first game afterthe Hornets to face off a Title contender. Blair and Co. needs to prove a lot here. Go Spurs!

  • junierizzle

    Nice win. Finally a team just rolls over.

    As for the OKC game. To be honest I’m cool if they lose. It’s a back-to-back on the road. Those are always tough. It’s the nature of the league. ALL teams struggle with those.

    Having said that. I think the SPURS shouldn’t have trouble with them. I think it will be a close game but the SPURS own OKC mentally. At least for now. And they did win this same game last year on a back-to-back, with MANU still not playing good. Now you have a healthy MANU and TP and TD. Plus, the THUNDER are kinda struggling right now. The SPURS should use their experience against them.

    I’m more concerned about the UTAH game. Jazz always play hard against the SPURS. ANd they are feeling really confident right now. That would be a more impressive win than a win over OKC.

  • Tobias

    In all honesty I think that there is only one order about all these games:Win, Win and Win all of them. We have to pile up as many Ws. as possible to take the 2nd. half of the season easy, let the starters rest and start preparing the POs. well before the regular season is over. I have also the theory that most of this subpar teams will be very happy to lose games(or at least not to try very hard to win them) when the Spurs face them in the weeks before the POs. A lot of them will be thinking about the lottery and the rest will be thinking about their holidays. Starting well now and finishing well will give the Spurs home court advantage and a very good seed during the POs.

  • grego

    Glad Bonner is back. He did exactly what he needed to do.

  • Flavor

    Why are we the underdog tomorrow? What has OKC done that would make them the favorites over SA? Don’t buy into self perpetuated hype… Not that they’re not a good team, but echo chambers don’t create great teams…

  • AmyfromLA

    glad we got the easy win. now on to OKC! i think this is where our spurs will show if their 7-1 start is justified. well, sorta. i know it’s still early and it’s one game in the early season, but it would be nice to start beating good teams too. =)

    @junierizzle i couldn’t agree more about utah. seeing how they came back in 4-5 games after falling behind in double digits scares me. plus, if my memory serves, i think they swept us in the regular season last year, so they’re even more confident about beating us. i hope our Spurs start bringing their A game. no more giving me heart attacks with losing early leads and making the game closer than necessary. keep the foot on the pedal until the last buzzer sounds!!!

    the next few games will definitely expose the team’s flaws to a bigger extent than it has been in the first 8 games, but it’s good in that it will help them continue to grow and prep for the playoffs! i already miss anderson. =(

    btw, what are your guy’s thoughts about the Gee sighting?

  • Jim Henderson

    Finally a win against a substandard opponent.

    Despite the Sixers playing crappy, particularly defensively, I was glad to see our guys come out with lively legs and attitudes in this game. Our shooting is still looking really good, and we’re also being aggressive in looking for easy opportunities.

    Even though the Sixers offense looked pretty inept, I was a bit more satisfied with our defensive effort tonight. It was more consistent throughout the game, even though we were playing a weaker team, and gained a big lead. It’s good to see at least some progress on the defensive front as we head into OKC tomorrow night. They have some athletes, so we’re going to have to play hard and fundamentally sound in all facets of the game. In particular, we must get on the boards and have low turnovers.

    I think the OKC game is a pretty big game. It would be our 1st win against a + .500 opponent, and also getting a road win in the second of a back-to-back against a conference rival (keeping us undefeated at 4-0 on the road) would set an important precedent for the team at this early juncture in the season. Playoff teams that plan to advance have to feel confident about winning on the road, and losing the 2nd of back-to-back games cannot be viewed as acceptable. We need to get off on the right foot in this regard. That’s one way how team confidence & chemistry is strengthened. If we play “D” for 48 minutes we can win this game.

  • grego

    @AmyFromLA – Gee is what he is. Athletic, but lacks the shot. He can get to the basket pretty easily, but he did get blocked in one of his attempts.

    His defense was decent, but he will tend to get called for the ticky tack fouls. The D will be what gets him more minutes, but he’ll definitely have a hard time getting off the bench against teams in closer games. He has to prove he can hit jump shots if he wants to get more consistent minutes during the next 8-9 weeks.

    He probably would have been in Austin if not for Anderson’s injury.

  • rob

    Taking into consideration this was the second game of a back to back for the Sixers; First game after two days rest for the Spurs; and a Sixer’s team filled with inexperienced players….the Spurs did what they were supposed to do.

    A good test will be tonight being it is now the second game (on the road) of a back to back against an above .500 team with one day’s rest.

    Props to Blair…his stats in last nights game are what I would suspect to expect as his average for the year + or – 1 or 2 ppg and rpg.

    Splitter played OK. Forced some things on offense. Played decent defense. I suspect that’s from being new to the system and not having his lungs and legs 100% ready.

    Neal looked good defensively and when shooting the catch and shoot was great offensively. He’s got a little way’s to go before becoming a dependable create off the drive type of player. Not that he couldn’t get into position from his drives…more so that he couldn’t finish after establishing penetration.

    Another player to have a good game was Hill. He’s better at playing more like a 2 than a PG even if playing like a 2 is being generated by playing PG. Good job George.

    Gee got some burn. Athletic as all get out. Still though, very unaccomplished to go with all that athleticism. Hopefully the Spurs don’t have to rely on him with too much playing time until he can figure it out.

    All in all…7 and 1. Much better start than last year. Winning games they probably would have lost and finally taking care of an opponent in a manner that’s to be expected considering the circumstances of that game.

    Feels good. Now let’s show them this team can be elite by beating an elite.

  • rob

    Excuse me for inserting this rebutal statement from:
    http://www.48minutesofhell.com/san-antonio-spurs-waive-garrett-temple#more-11090

    But since this article is focussing on Blair in this particular game…I hope it is alright.

    Jim Henderson

    “Please give me some detailed reasoning as to why you would suspect that? Otherwise it’s merely an opinion, and does not even approach a reasoned assessment.”

    This being in reponse to my quote:
    “I would suspect that averaging Blair’s per 36 from last year and this probably is what you’re going to get consistently throughout his career.”

    Taking into consideration that Blair’s numbers last year being a rookie and teams not knowing how to prepare for him and Blair as a second year player with more playing time than last…my reasoning is his really high per 36 his first year combined with a less than great per 36 as of now (he’s going to be better than his first 7 games of the season by the end of the season) would be a fair assesment (though calculated using a small sample) in what Blair will eventually become in this league on a regular basis. 12 to 14 ppg and 10 to 12 rpg is nothing to sneeze at. That’s really good as you’ve said.

    If that’s not substantial enough for your POV…I will concur it is a small sample to go by. But it’s the only sample (statistacally) to go by. So you see…I’m not just pulling this out of a hat. I was using the only statistical evidence at my disposal to back my theory.

    Last night Blair against a Sixer’s team playing away from home on a back to back against a well rested Spurs team would be flawed numbers to go by as well… though Blair finally put in a really good all around game with 13 and 12 with 2 steals and 1 block. But more importantly…only 2 fouls where he’s been averaging 5.3 per 36.

    Just as an example (last nights game)…isn’t that what I had predicted to expect from Blair? It wasn’t far off.

    Speaking of his fouls per 36. He’s got to get that under controll if he is realistically expected to play more than 28 minutes per game.

    Good job DeJuan.

  • Anoop

    Two observations: i) bench appears thin, especially after James Anderson’s injury, ii) How will Manu and Tim’s bodies cope with this new “running style” come playoff time, esp in the light of a “thin” roster/

    Also could the new running style offense be successfull in the playoffs, clearly, Spurs are “leaking” like never before. An interesting article on Dallas being the new Spurs and vice versa. Clearly, defense needs the biggest ttention in the coming weeks.

  • Bduran

    Ron,

    Didn’t Blair get those 12 boards in only 26 minutes? That’s better per minute than his last year which is not what you predicted.

  • spursfanbayarea

    Great job by the bench last night to hold the lead and give our starters rest. Early in the season they blew these types of leads. Kudos goes out to the bench in doing a great job. This will allow fresher legs for the starters tonight against OKC.

    @Anoop
    ii) How will Manu and Tim’s bodies cope with this new “running style” come playoff time, esp in the light of a “thin” roster/

    Run and gun is actually easier on a players body. Halfcourt offense banging around the big bodies wears you down more. The less duncan has to play in the blocks during the regular season the better. I have noticed an effort to keep duncan up on the high post much more this year. This is a great strategy to keep minimum wear on duncan.

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  • DorieStreet

    These next 10 games will be a good indicator if this Spurs team can be a legitimate contender for the title. First 5 games versus playoff teams from last season; a rematch vs. the Hornets at their arena, which is the 1st of a 3-game road trip; the first duel with the Mavs; and a game with an Eastern Conference powerhouse- the Magic. SA took care of business in the first 8- I want to wake up Dec. 2nd and see the Spurs with a 14-4 mark-or better!

  • rob

    Bduran

    “Didn’t Blair get those 12 boards in only 26 minutes? That’s better per minute than his last year which is not what you predicted.”

    Does that mean he’ll do that every night? No. He had a great breakout game for the season so far.

    Keep in mind also it was against a team that was playing their second in a back to back while the Spurs were fresh after 2 days off.

    Some games he might get 18 and 14. Some games he might only get 10 and 8.

  • ThatBigGuy

    I KNEW Blair was ready for a break out game. I was just waiting patiently. Now we’ll see if he can hold his own against the athletic freaks of OKC.

  • rj

    would have been nice to see james anderson matched up against durant. ohh well. what a bummer. even though hes a rook and not exactly a core player, i still feel like we are missing a big piece….

  • Bduran

    Rob,

    I’m just responding to your comment that his performance was about what you predicted. It wasn’t. Personally, I think what we saw last night is a preview of what he’ll provide down the road. Not this year, but he’s only 21.

  • Jim Henderson

    rob
    November 14th, 2010 at 5:40 am

    Blair’s 21 years old, and played for a team in college whose main goal was obviously not focused on preparing him to play the only position for which he could maximize his potential in the NBA (PF). HE IS NOWHERE NEAR REACHING HIS POTENTIAL. Last night, while a good game, is nowhere near how good he could become. I trust that some day people on this blog will come to realize that.

  • Jason

    I wonder if people would still be making predictions about Blair’s ceiling as a player if he had been drafted with a lottery pick as was originally projected instead of in the second round.

    It always amazes me the deference that’s given to players who were selected with lottery picks, how confidently patient people are willing to be for these picks to develop (i.e. Greg Oden, Olawakandi, Hasheem Thabeet) while second rounders and undrafted players are thought to have already achieved their maximum potential for some reason. Just look at how much better Tony Parker, 26 yr old finals MVP was compared to where he was when he came into the league at 19, or even in the ’03 or ’05 championship.

    The NBA gives out a most improved player award, recently giving it to Danny Granger at about age 25, Hedo Turkeglu at like 29, Boris Diaw at 23, Bobby Simmons at 24… believe it or not, players with a strong work ethic continue to improve throughout their NBA career.

    Hell, I’m a year older than DeJuan and I’m better at pretty much every aspect of life this year than I was last year.

  • Jim Henderson

    Bduran
    November 14th, 2010 at 7:39 am

    “Didn’t Blair get those 12 boards in only 26 minutes?”

    Actually in just 23 minutes, which projects to 36 minute totals of 20 points and 19 rebounds. And at just 21 years old, he’s still got a ways to go to improve his offensive repertoire.

    rob
    November 14th, 2010 at 9:46 am

    “Some games he might get 18 and 14. Some games he might only get 10 and 8.”

    In his prime years (26-30), Blair has a good shot at “averaging” 18 & 12. Those are “occasional all-star” numbers.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Anyone else see the correlation between Bonner’s comeback and Blair’s resurgence? In light of this revelation, I say Blair and Bonner need more minutes together. With Bonner raining 3′s and Blair beasting the glass, they could become the golden standards of adjusted +/-.

  • Jim Henderson

    But how many minutes did Blair & Bonner actually play together?

    Bonner was -1 in 15 minutes; Blair was +20 in 23 minutes.

  • ThatBigGuy

    I made a funny, Jim. We’d get raped in the paint if they logged too many minutes together.

  • Jim Henderson

    ThatBigGuy
    November 14th, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Okay, sure, I guess I wasn’t used to your sarcasm!