Spurs approach calls for patience

by

By sitting Tony Parker, the Spurs made clear their priorities: be healthy come playoff time … at all costs.

With the Oklahoma City Thunder breathing down their neck for the first spot in the Western Conference, San Antonio lost to the Denver Nuggets 96-86 in a game this team had virtually no chance of winning without two of its top players.

Playing in the thin air of Denver is difficult enough; playing there without Parker and Manu Ginobili, damn near impossible. And evaluating this team without its best players has become a practice of the impossible. There’s no way to gauge where it stands given the pieces presently at play.

The Spurs need Manu.

They need Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw.

And most of all, they need their All-Star point guard.

The Nuggets did what they do. They overran the Spurs with their athleticism, took advantage of an already shorthanded team and smothered it over the final three-and-a-half quarters. JaVale McGee’s 10 rebounds and four blocked shots were once again too much, as the big man controlled the game for the second consecutive matchup. If this is to be a playoff matchup, San Antonio must solve the McGee issue, because it’s quite problematic at this point.

But it was only a 10-point loss, and the role players were pretty solid. Gary Neal had 17 points — though it was on 15 shot attempts — and DeJuan Blair had 12 points and five rebounds on 5-for-7 shooting. That’s a huge positive when forecasting a future that presumably includes Parker and Ginobili.

As Houston and Golden State battle for the sixth seed and the Lakers fight the Jazz for the eighth seed, the Spurs have shown their cards. They’ve made this statement in the past, and they’re continuing to do so now. It’s all about health with this team, and it’s hard to blame them for the approach. They’ve been down this road before. Yet, if there’s anything we’ve learned this year, it’s that this NBA season has been unpredictable. The Thunder once again are in charge of their own destiny, but a tough tumble on their current West coast roadie isn’t out of the question. So at this point, it’s wise to adhere to a very simplistic idea.

Patience is a virtue.

 

 

  • Andrew G

    He may not look it compared to some of the other NBA athletes, but Aaron
    Baynes is a BIG guy. I watched him a few times in Austin, and he was
    easily the biggest guy on the court when he was playing. I saw him go up
    for a rebound and absolutely floor a guy (the same sound/result as
    DeAndre Jordan embarrassing Brandon Knight with that dunk a month or two
    ago).

    When he came on the court in the 4th, the difference was
    immediate. We suddenly had the defensive presence in the paint that was
    compromising our comeback up until he checked in. We went on a little
    run and suddenly made it a game in the last couple of minutes. Denver
    was still playing their starters though, so the end result isn’t that
    hard to fathom. I hope Bayne gets more minutes because we’re gonna need a
    tougher paint presence than Bonner or Blair if Tim and Tiago get into
    foul trouble in the playoffs.

  • http://profiles.google.com/lordxar Ray Briggs II

    The Spurs seeding is irrelevant because each series is going to be Spurs vs Health in 7 games.

  • junierizzle

    Spurs clinch the 1 seed if Lakers clinch the 8th seed. If Jazz somehow manage to clinch the 8th seed then Okc will clinch the 1 seed. That’s just how it is.

  • junierizzle

    I agree but ain’t happenin’. POP only threw him out there because he threw in the towel.

  • Eric

    Agreed, Baynes is tough and at least willing to challenge people. Hopefully as he plays more he’ll learn the small things in the Spurs’ system and be able to contribute consistently. It’d be nice to see him in some bigger games instead of Blair who doesn’t play defense. it’s also be nice to see more Patty Mills, Joseph just dribbles too much and isn’t much of a scoring threat.

    Health is still #1…

  • DiffEQMaster

    I was at the game last night and noticed Baynes’s size the instant he got put in. He was a lot bigger in person than I expected him to be.

    I think we won’t see him in the playoffs this year, but I think after the offseason we’ll see him more often. He definitely seems to come with a higher ceiling than Blair for size alone.

  • Graham

    Pay close attention to him as he moves, particularly on defense. He hugs his guy and is VERY slow to space out and help off his man. He’s not getting burn because he is woefully lacking on Corporate knowledge, and that is crucial right now. Next year is his real shot.

  • Graham

    Yup, I dont blame the Spurs for holding back. If the cards play out, I do like our chances against Denver in the 2nd round with a fully healthy team. Thunder meanwhile may potentially have to slug it out with both LA teams or the Lakers and Memphis.

    Gotta win a road game anyway, may as well put the onus on our guys to do it earlier in the WCF

  • Andrew G

    I noticed that last night as well as the games he played in Austin. It seems like he doesn’t want to turn his head, but rather move his head and shoulders all in unison. It looks like he is staring at the ground, but is really using his peripheral to see more of the court to try and defend incoming drives to the paint.

    Like you said, he’s very slow to space out, but (at least right now) his feet are quick enough to put himself into position to put a body in front of people attacking the paint. He does what Timmy does and lures people into allowing them to pass him as they drive to the basket, only to be waiting there for a block as the ball goes up. I agree, give him an offseason with us and I think he can be really productive. He’s got a jumpshot so we can use his midrange in addition to his obvious dominance in the paint.

  • assistman

    Is this just Murphy’s Law logic, cause I don’t see any other basis for this statement. I’ve never really loved our chances this season, but would happily have taken the consolation prize of humiliating the glamor franchise in the first round. As it is, I no longer like that match up and would rather face anyone else (and potentially lose) than give those moronic la fans bragging rights and an excuse to crap on TD’s legacy and talent. Given our injuries, I’m glad OKC will draw them since they have their number and can hand them their fishing gear in short order.

    Utah has a tougher road to #8 than the dolls do, and just don’t appear to have what it takes.

    I’m not saying we’ll lose in the first round, but this could EASILY end up another second round out type of season.

  • Graham

    Joseph brings somewhat better defense than Mills and is more of a natural passer it seems. Still Mills is the most accurate shooter of all the PGs, and has much better handles than Neal (who is looking more like a solid backup 2 that we remember from 2 years ago, with Manu out)

    All 3 backups (De Colo, Mills, and Joseph) bring good stuff to the table, it’ll be hard settling on 2 going forward. Gut tells me Mills is on the outside looking in.

    Speaking of Blair, his Jumpshot is looking nice, and he’s confident in it. If he could keep improving his interior footwork, he’s still got an NBA future.

  • assistman

    Any prediction what degree of playing form TP, MG, and Jax will return with? I think we have to rest them in the hopes that they return to 100% health with all their capacities, but what are the chances they can return and make it look like winter again?

  • Graham

    If things settle as they are, Denver is the best 2nd round opponent for us (outside of the clips getting lucky and beating Memphis). I still believe their Playoff bonafides are suspect, and feel we could take them going full-tilt with our current lineup, let alone with a healthy Parker and Ginobilli.

    I got a feeling our guys will still punch the Lakers in the mouth in the final game we play, that should be enough to shut those laker fans up.

    Ugh, being a Spurs fan in LA is annoying as hell. PLEASE let Timmy get his 5th this year so the Kobe apologists’ heads will collectively explode…

  • idahospur

    I really think that games where Pop takes out Duncan, Parker, and Manu, the rest of the team steps up. I know that team chemistry is difficult, especially with playoffs breathing down the team’s neck, but I think getting the rest of the guys some real leadership action would pay out huge in the playoffs. This will help especially when we need solid help from role players in a tough seven game series.

  • junierizzle

    Spurs fan in LA here as well. I would love nothing more than for Timmy to tie Kobe in championships. That would be the ultimate accolade for the Spurs franchise. I know you’ve heard about how amazing the Lakers are ever since Jerry Buss died. Wouldn’t it be great if the little Spurs won the same amount of Championships as the Lakers during the Kobe era. I know Kobe still teases Tim that he has one more.

    I’m not afraid of Denver either. If they slide to No 2 I wouldn’t be afraid of Houston or Golden State. But the Lakers worry me. If TP plays like he did before he got hurt then I couldn’t fathom the Lakers beating the Spurs. BUt the Lakers are the league darlings. They would get so many calls that they would always be in it. Game 4 last year against the Thunder they shot around 35-38 freethrows!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OKC still won that game because Durant was Durant but 38 freethrows???????? No thank you.

  • Sir Timothy

    Great comments by everyone! Like the idea of Spurs in 2nd position as well. Why would Pop be worried about home court in W C Finals? If you gave him a free pass through rounds 1 and 2 but he would not have home court against OKC he would take it!

    I am not so much worried as I am thinking – this is why you take care of business when you can. The Spurs win those games and get into a great position and if we do play Houston, Golden State, Memphis or Denver we will have home court!

    go Spurs!

  • Sir Timothy

    Pop is a smart guy. He knows that Stern wanted Lakers vs Thunder right from the start. If the Spurs are the top seed then LA and OKC are on different sides of the bracket. Each of those teams would be shooting about 50 Free Throws per night just to guarantee that match up.

    NBA wants the Spurs to be 1 and OKC to be 2. Then OKC plays Houston first round and Denver (high scoring) second round and then OKC plays the Lakers in the WC Finals because Stern would make sure they advance.

    They want to See Kobe vs LeBron…but first they want Kobe vs Durant. but before that they want Harden vs OKC. The Spurs can spoil all of their plans by simply losing another game or two!

    We should start Brittany Griner vs the Lakers in LA.! I am serious. Do not even put Timmy on the plane. Miami is getting away with playing NO ONE. Pop can do the same. Patty Mills wants to play! Baynes wants to play! Blair wants to play! Let them play!!!!

  • Spurs fan in LA

    So playing Duncan makes a lot of sense

  • assistman

    That’s how I see it. Yes, a healthy TP changes that, but a healthy Manu makes it a shorter series.

  • assistman

    I lived in LA for 10 years and their fans are intollerably arrogant and have no real knowledge to go with it. Just dunks, highlights, spoonfed media.

    However, I’m not so confident about that road game for us, and we need to rest and heal our guys anyway.

  • assistman

    CIA Popovich.

  • Graham

    That’s the thing, our backups are just the type of group to give the Lakers problems. A possible lineup of De Colo/Neal/Leonard/Bonner/Splitter will give all sorts of trouble to them.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Hes To Slow Now And WheneveR. Buy I Like His Power Dunks.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Blair Could Be More Efficient If He Would Cut Down On His Fouls Right After He Has A Great OffensivE Sequence. Rebounds Are Starting To ComE Around As Well.

  • Titletown99030507d

    I Never Ever Want To See 3 Tiny Guards And Bonner And Blair Rotation Ever Again.He Could Have inserted Splits For Either Bonner Or Blair.Id Like To See Baynes And Splits With De Colo, Neal, And Jackson In Trash Time.

  • neverthehero

    We thought this last year as well. Remember after the Mavs game, didn’t help in the playoffs against OKC. Call me old fashion, but either you got it or you don’t. Horry had it. Roger Mason Jr. not so much.

  • Graham

    Gotta keep Splitter fresh and healthy along with the other starters, Why risk it at this stage? I enjoyed seeing those guys claw back in the game after they blew it early in the 4th. Classic pop move. ‘You dug yourselves this hole, now go and climb out of it.’ Keeps their condifence high wheras yanking the lot of them wrecks them for several games from then. Besides, I’m pretty sure everyone’s in agreement that keepin the main rotation healthy’s far more important than wins now. Give the starters 20 minutes of burn to keep them sharp, then shut them down if you get the chance.

  • neverthehero

    making shots never hurt anyone either. not a damn thing in the world is going to help the Spurs out if they can’t hit them when they count (that means hitting that wide open to tie game instead of missing it and letting the Nuggets run down and hit a 3 of their own)

  • Tyler

    Any more info on Jackson’s release? Rather odd considering he’d come in handy against Durant….