San Antonio Spurs 109, Philadelphia 76ers 86: By the book
AT&T CENTER — I took a seat courtside during the Spurs’ shootaround, hoping to catch a few minutes of the players warming up as the Texans-Bengals NFL playoff game was at halftime. I was a little too early, though. The powerful lights in the AT&T Center were still warming up and Nando De Colo was the only Spur getting his pregame work in.
Nonetheless, I wanted to catch a little bit of preparation before the Texans game resumed. Five or so minutes after sitting down, a rogue bat flew across the court, just a few feet over my head. It swooped past me and out of vision, arena workers scrambling to find someone to corral it. This being San Antonio and the franchise having a history with the winged creature, references to Manu Ginobili were dispensed immediately from a variety sources.
Five hours later, and that was about all the drama I saw on Saturday night.
The Spurs faced a Philadelphia 76er team playing it’s eighth straight road game and four in the last five nights (sound familiar?), and cruised to a 109-86 win. The Sixers hit the opening basket of the game, a four-foot hook shot from Thaddeus Young, and never lead again as the Spurs jumped out to a 9-2 lead and went up by as much as 25 points on the night.
Outside of a select few stretches, the Spurs controlled this game thanks to superior execution and the tired legs of Philly. The Sixers shot just 3-of-17 (17.6%) from the 3-point line and posted just an 84.5 offensive rating on the night.
“This would have been a tall order if we had eight days rest,” 76ers head coach Doug Collins said. “[The Spurs are] as good as any team in the NBA… They run their offense harder, cut harder and move the ball better than any team in the NBA.”
I was ready to discount a lot of what Collins said in the previous quote, but he’s spot-on. No matter how much rest the 76ers had, they were going to struggle against the Spurs. Philadelphia is a mediocre team playing against one of the top teams in the NBA. The Spurs were able to get opens shots on the regular because they had a better system than the Sixers, knew that system, and executed it.
Sometimes it’s just that simple. These aren’t the playoffs, where teams make adjustments after every single game. The regular season is just a long, slow, grueling warmup for the playoffs. At least for elite teams like San Antonio, they are. Gregg Popovich said as much after the game.
“You gauge things by weeks and by months and that sort of thing and groups of games. You don’t make any great decisions based on one game.”
I think that’s something that is hard to understand as a fan. On the outside, you think that teams gameplan for every single team, focused solely on stopping that one team, when that’s not necessarily the case. There are adjustments, sure, things like going under screens for this guy, shading that guy to his left, etc. For the most part, though, coaches use the regular season to reinforce the things they want their team to become.
Granted, teams fighting for a playoff spot don’t necessarily have that luxury, they have to win at all costs, but Coach Pop is simply trying to mold these Spurs into the team he wants them to become when the playoffs roll around. They’re taking lumps along the way, but it’s all a part of the process.
Oh, and Tony Parker led the Spurs with 20 points.
Some other notes from the Spurs’ win over the 76ers:
- The late Manu Ginobili resurgence party continued to rage on. Manu finished with 19 points (6-of-10 shooting), seven boards, four assists, a vicious dunk and a beautiful bounce pass between the legs of Thaddeus Young.
- Tiago Splitter had a surprisingly poor shooting game, hitting only 4-of-13 shots for 12 points. Splitter did grab 10 rebounds, though, which is pretty high for him.
- Danny Green left the game in the third quarter after a drive to the basket. Afterwards, Green mentioned that he had just hit his funny bone and it was nothing that will bother him after tonight.