How the second half was more than won

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My excitement for last night’s game was apparent in both our preview and pregame notes posts. There was no excitement. It was a Friday night and I imagined everybody in the arena was ready for the game to be over long before tip-off rolled around. Coach of the Year candidate Paul Silas brought his group of dysfunctional basketball players to the AT&T Center holding the league’s worst record in their pockets, just four wins. Through the first half the Spurs looked like kind hosts, letting Charlotte get a glimpse of victory No. 5.

San Antonio turned the ball over 10 times in the first half and only really held a 10-point lead because the Bobcats are so, so bad. Bright spots from the first half include Tony Parker’s 6-8 shooting and everything Byron Mullens did for the Bobcats. Looking at the box score, you wouldn’t think that the Spurs’ big surge would’ve come in the second half. The Spurs shot better in the first half, and they played better field goal defense in the first half.

Then they had seven steals and forced 12 turnovers, turning into 15 points, in the second half. Yep, that’s where your blowout was made right there.

This is usually the time of year where Gregg Popovich tightens his rotations and finds out who’s going to cut it in the playoffs and who’s going to be playing as much as me. So far this season, everybody in uniform has been fair game. The only guys who can realistically expect to play little were Cory Joseph, James Anderson and whatever D-League call-up is on the roster.

Going into the playoffs, Pop usually runs with an 8.5 man rotation. Eight guys who play solid minutes and then one guy who plays a little bit every night. Now that we’re solidly in the post-Rodeo Road Trip and post-All-Star Weekend portion of the schedule, Pop is usually figuring out that rotation.

But with the murder’s row of injuries the Spurs faced this season, are they at that point yet? Kind of.

“We think about rotations every day, basically because guys are coming back,” Gregg Popovich said before the game. “Kawhi went down and then Manu was coming back and then he wasn’t, TJ is coming back and he’s sort of back and he needs to get minutes, and then Danny hurt his shoulder the other night.”

Sounds fun to deal with. I’m picturing the Spurs with an Excel spreadsheet to keep up of every injury and each player’s status in their return. You know what, you’re right, the Spurs are probably Google Docs folks. My mistake.

“So we think about it every day, how we’re going to keep the rhythm without screwing it up. That’s always an ongoing thing.”

If I told you the Spurs would shoot 14 of 21 from the free throw line and that Kawhi Leonard would be 6-6, would you believe me?

You liar.

  • Hobson13

    IMO, Pop plays at least 9 come playoff time.  Assuming everyone is healthy, here’s who I think Pop will play in order of most minutes played:

    Bigs:  Duncan, Splitter, Bonner (damn), Blair
    Wings: Manu, RJ, KL
    PG: Parker, Neal

    I wanted to put Ford as a backup PG, but I can’t see Pop playing him in front of anyone else on this list.  Sure Neal is not a good PG, but perhaps he will be on the floor with Manu.  It would be wiser if we played Blair more than Bonner, but we all know how this will go. 

  • LPspursFan

    agree for the most part, but i think TJ will have to play his way OUT of the playoff rotation, not the other way around. He’s just a more veteran presence for the few minutes that Tony will be off the floor.

    If Tony plays 33-36 mpg in the playoffs, that’s 12-15 mpg for Ford…might even be more like 36-38 for Tony and 10-12 for Ford.

    I think Neal is the main scoring option at the 2-guard for the second unit and he’ll have a green light for 3s or the ability to pick-and-roll with Tiago

  • Water Buffalo

    Probably 10 in a game, 11 in the rotation, with Ford, Neal, Green or Leonard out depending on matchups. Pop’s coaching differently this year and enjoying it; he’ll stay engaged with the challenge of building a young supporting cast around the Big 3.

    Bigs: TD 36 – 32 min, TS 28 – 20, Bonner 24 – 20, Blair 20 -16

    Wings: Manu 32 – 28 min, RJ 28 – 16, KL 28 – 16, DG 20 – 6

    PG: Parker 36 – 32 min, Neal or Ford 18 – 12

  • theghostofjh

    “Going into the playoffs, Pop usually runs with an 8.5 man rotation. Eight guys who play solid minutes and then one guy who plays a little bit every night.”

    This will have to change, otherwise if we’re fortunate enough to get through the first round, we’ll get our asses kicked in the second. I would hope it will be a 9.5 man rotation, 9 who play solid minutes every night, and one who gets some minutes in most games. Right now the top eight appear to be TP, Manu, RJ, TD, DJB, Bonner, Splitter, and Neal. I think the ninth and tenth spot is still open, and will be a battle between Green & Leonard, and Ford may then battle the loser for the 10th spot.The big key will be front court minute allocation. If Bonner gets more mpg. than either Blair or Splitter, then IMO we could get upset in the first round, and would have virtually NO chance of winning in the second round. Pop better start losing his boner for Bonner in the next 4-6 weeks, otherwise our upside is strictly limited in the upcoming playoffs. Unfortunately, I don’t see Pop’s love affair with Bonner ending anytime soon, and so we’re likely to experience yet another year of failing to get past the 2nd round.

  • STIJL

    The good news.  Pop has choices he didn’t have last season to insert players out on the wings and on point.  Playing to matchups will be easier to do if need be the case.

    The bad news.  Spurs are the same in the post with no discerning ability to matchup if faced against a front line dominant team in the playoffs.

    Getting through the playoffs to the WCF or beyond will take some creative, magical insertions of player personnel in hopes to cover up their main weakness.

    Go Spurs Go!

  • sam

    i think it will depend on the matchup  ,   if we need to defend a physical wing player  we will use kawai,   green  will defend fast guards.    if we need to spread the floor u will likely see green or neal instead of tj ford .    rj will get minutes as long as he hits his jumpers  .  same goes for bonner.    blair will get some time too if he scores on his layups  (i have watched him miss so many shots around the rim)  other wise splitter will get more minutes as secondery big man  and i hope he does because he is great offensively and def.          and the big 3 will get their minutes.  

  • theghostofjh

    ” ….. blair will get some time too if he scores on his layups  (i have watched him miss so many shots around the rim) ….”

    Let’s stick with some important facts: Blair has the second highest FG% on the team, and is the 2nd highest in rebound percentage as well. Those are two big reasons he plays, and why he MUST play more minutes on average in the playoffs than Bonner, regardless of “match-ups”, if we have ANY designs on advancing past the 2nd round of the playoffs.

  • theghostofjh

    Versus a depleted Denver front line, end of 1st quarter:

    Down 25-17

    Out rebounded – 17-9

    Despite shooting 28%, we get ONE offensive rebound for the whole quarter.

    Common denominator: Blair out of the line-up; only played 17 seconds due to an early knee contusion.