San Antonio Spurs 97, Sacramento Kings 86: Patty Mills can play and Tim Duncan is still (expletive) good
Last season Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins had some choice words for Tim Duncan. “[Expletive] you’re good,” Cousins told Duncan during the Spurs 117-112 win last spring. Tonight he took his profanity in a different direction.
Twice dropping his shoulder into Duncan’s sternum, and in the process dropping Duncan himself, Cousins turned to his teammates exclaiming something to the effect of “I’m going to bust his [expletive].”
In response, Duncan provided no response. Not one that registers emotionally anyways. In doing so Duncan taught Cousins a lesson in the opposite end of the intensity spectrum, and perhaps a little humility too.
Where Cousins’ intensity is always bubbling to the surface, unchecked and unrestrained, Duncan’s remains surgically precise and focused.
Picking himself up off the ground following one of Cousins’ bulldozing forays to the rim, with perhaps the slightest hint of amusement crossing his face, Duncan proceeded to block Cousins next two attempts on one end, and throwing down a vicious dunk on the other.
In all Duncan tallied 23 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks, four assists, and three steals in the Spurs 97-86. Cousins finished with 14 points on 4-14 shooting and five fouls, his wild intensity contrasting perfectly against Duncan’s concentrated focus.
On the night, Duncan’s performance was perhaps the only bit of precision to be had on the court.
With Tony Parker ailing from an illness that sidelined reserves Stephen Jackson and Matt Bonner, and changes throughout the rotation, the Spurs offense bogged down into an absolute mess at times. With inconsistent spacing, misread cuts, and players filling in the same lanes on blown fastbreak opportunities, the Spurs racked up 20 turnovers–allowing the Kings to stay competitive despite shooting around 35 percent from the floor.
As Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich experimented with his lineups to compensate for absent reserves (pairing Patty Mills with Gary Neal in the backcourt) or balance the playmaking in his lineup (moving DeJuan Blair into the starting lineup for Boris Diaw) there were several things to take away.
Point guard Patty Mills got his first extended playing time of the season, filling in admirably for an ineffective Parker with 18 points on 8-9 shooting. While Mills hardly solves the lack of playmaking from the Spurs backup point guards (he’s not a natural point guard), he does bring an entirely new wrinkle to the Spurs second unit.
Like Gary Neal, Mills can hit shots from all over the court, though it remains to be seen whether he can do so with the same assortment of shots Neal has in his bag.
What Mills brings is speed in the open court that allows the Spurs to ramp up the tempo–an important trait right now given the early season struggles of Manu Ginobili–and enough of nuisance on defense on at least bother opposing point guards.
In all, this was a good night for experimentation against an undisciplined team that afforded the Spurs a lot of mistakes. In Portland the Spurs might find a team a little more patient on offense, and a little more exploitative of their turnovers.
But these are the times to experiment, tweak, and discover. To find that Boris Diaw running high-low sets with anyone remains a thing of beauty, or see what new dimensions Mills might bring to the team.
After all, if all else fails, Tim Duncan is always still [expletive] good.