Spurs vs. Bobcats Give and Go Preview

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Last time the San Antonio Spurs and Charlotte Bobcats faced-off, the Spurs turned the ball over a number of times early and were bailed out by a combination of Patty Mills and Nando De Colo. Well, De Colo’s gone, so I’m going to go out on a limb and announce that we will not see a repeat of last game.

So to figure out what we should expect, Queen City Hoops blogger Spencer Percy and myself broke down tonight’s game.

AM: So first and foremost for Spurs fans, how’s Gary Neal doing? Seems like he’s, at the very least, in a better situation than he was in Milwaukee.

SP: There’s no question that he’s in a better place. He wasn’t happy in Milwaukee – not only did he make that known within the locker room there, but his play on the court made it loud-and-clear as well. Bobcats fans are very hopeful that he’ll bring an offensive boost to this roster and assist in the playoff push. Tonight will be his debut wearing a Charlotte uniform.

AM: That’s good for Gary. Even though he could be considered slightly moody during his time in San Antonio, he was a well-liked person within the community. I never saw him re-signing with the team, and that’s worked out even better than I expected, but I think everyone wanted the best for him.

Now last time the Spurs and Bobcats played, Charlotte got out to a good start, forced a lot of Spurs turnovers, and San Antonio slowly chipped away and won the game. What went wrong?

SPPatty Mills happened. And you just don’t go over that scenario in the scouting report. I don’t anticipate that being a repeat occurrence tonight in San Antonio, but now the Spurs are on their home floor, and that obviously makes a huge difference.

That being said, Charlotte is on a six-day break, so it’ll be interesting to see how that affects the team tonight. Could be a positive, could be a negative.

AM: Never underestimate Patty Mills. When I write the retrospective of this season, “Patty Mills Happened” might be the subtitle.

The 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs

Patty Mills Happened

SP: Hahaha. The guy can fill it up- there’s no question about that. There’s also that other guy named Gary Neal – he couldn’t ask for a better debut for his new team than against his former team of three years.

AM: Oh, absolutely. Neal’s departure from San Antonio is one of the major reasons Mills is having the season he is. I don’t want to downplay the work Patty did in the offseason, including shedding a lot of excess weight, but the Spurs’ second unit needs a guy who can get off a shot, no questions asked. For a few years that was Gary, now that he’s gone Patrick Thrills has filled that void.

SP: Look, Australia’s finest. Period. I’m admittedly a closet Patty Mills fan.

AM: Let’s talk Kemba Walker. He’s on my fantasy team, but admittedly that means I probably still don’t keep up with him. How is his season going? How close is he to making “the leap,” and is that even possible?

SP: Kemba has been fantastic this season. Having Al Jefferson around has really helped, taken scoring pressure off of him and significantly opened up the floor. On post-entries, the two have become very fun to watch with the combo of Kemba’s speed on cuts and Jefferson’s overall basketball IQ. Overall, Kemba has begun to come into his own for the past two seasons, but he’s proved this season just how efficient he can be with another big time piece next to him — he’s sporting a 17.50 PER this season.

Andrew, have the Spurs been able to stay healthy this season? Update Charlotte on what the team looks like from an injury standpoint currently?

AM: HAHAHAHA. No. Although, this is about the healthiest the Spurs have been in 2014. Kawhi Leonard returned on Wednesday against the Pistons and looked good. Manu Ginobili hasn’t re-injured himself in anyway, although he did put a spectacular hurting on his shoe against Detroit.

SP: What’s the story with Tony Parker?

AM: Tony Parker is close to returning to the lineup, but I doubt he’ll be available against the Bobcats. Basically, Parker hasn’t stopped playing basketball since the summer of 2012. He played all last season as the Spurs made a Finals run into late June. Then he went and led France to the Eurobasket title, got a couple of weeks off and then training camp started for this season’s Spurs.

He’s now squarely on the wrong side of 30, which is now making me fear my mortality, and injuries are going to happen for him. He needed a few days/weeks to get some rest, heal some bumps and bruises and refresh mentally. Otherwise, it’s as healthy as San Antonio has been since New Year’s.

SP: Good stuff. I’d argue with anyone that Tony Parker is the smartest basketball player that I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching at the age of 26.

Andrew, do you think that the Spurs have the best depth of any roster in the NBA? It’s so tough to play against a team that has four-to-five guys that can all come off the bench and get 15+ points on any given night – you guys have that.

AM: I think it’s reasonable to say that the Spurs are the deepest team in the league. Although, sometimes I wonder whether San Antonio is really that deep of a team, or if the system is so strong and dialed in that Gregg Popovich can throw in anybody for a night and still be competitive. It’s a chicken or the egg thing. But, that being said, it’s hard to question the results. The Spurs win a lot of games that they shouldn’t because they can play anybody 1-15 for solid minutes at any given moment.

SP: I could not agree more about the system and what Coach Pop breeds with any given body in San Antonio. He’s got the formula – there’s no negating that.

AM: Here’s something I’ve been wondering. The Bobcats have Al Jefferson, right? He plays 34 minutes a night, correct? How in the hell is Charlotte the sixth best defense in the league?

SP:  Yes and yes Andrew. Two words – Steve Clifford.

He’s a Thibs disciple and has had the Bobcats playing as connected as any team in the NBA, defensively, all season long. Charlotte plays defense in a stance, on their toes and are always in the perfect athletic position to close out on shooters. I coach basketball, so that’s my coaching way to tell you that this is a team of mediocre defenders who have bought into a system – see, defense is an effort thing, for the most part.

It doesn’t hurt when you add a lockdown wing defender like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to the mix.

And to really answer your question, Clifford hides Jefferson on pick-and-roll situations mainly – he sags low on most of PnR’s and Charlotte will help from the wings by being extra wary of gap defense.

AM: Right. And it’s the same personnel, for the most part, as it’s been in the last couple of years, right?

SP: Yes, that’s correct. Goes to show you how much coaching philosophy really matters.

AM: Okay, last thing before I let you go. I need one random prediction from you for tonight’s game. Something that has nothing to do with the final score.

SP: Kemba goes for 30+. Typically, he’s good on extra rest and this is a statement game for a Charlotte team that’s currently on a four-game winning streak + grinding through a tough stretch of the schedule.

And yourself, Andrew?

AM: Ah, the tables have turned. My random prediction is that Tim Duncan and Al Jefferson will combine for at least 25 rebounds, but the cumulative height that they jump during the game is less than five feet.

SP: Hahaha. Love that.