San Antonio Spurs 120, Los Angeles Lakers 89: Solid win despite injury to Splitter

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It’s tough to take too much stock in a win over a team whose injury list was nearly as long as its active roster. If anything, you can rest easy knowing the San Antonio Spurs didn’t play down to the level of their opponent and have any real lapses in concentration in a 120-89 Game 3 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. With the win, the Spurs take a 3-0 series lead.

Missing Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks, in addition to the previously-absent Kobe Bryant, the Lakers were forced to start Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock at the two guard positions. A win for the Spurs seemed inevitable the minute it was announced that the two Steves wouldn’t play.

The biggest issue to come out of this game from a Spurs-perspective is that Tiago Splitter went down in the second half with a sprained ankle and will be out 7-10 days. Already missing Boris Diaw after back surgery to remove a cyst, the Spurs would be smart to finish off the Lakers in Sunday evening’s Game 4 in order to give their frontcourt ample time to rest before the second round. Yes, I’m writing off the Lakers already and I’m pretty comfortable in doing so. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that these Lakers were fairly mediocre to begin with and when half of their core is out, well, they’re not very good.

Throughout the game the Spurs were able to execute well enough to get good looks at the basket. San Antonio shot 61 percent from the field on the night and assisted on 30 of its 52 field goals. They had a 123.0 offensive efficiency. In short, it was a clinic.

Tim Duncan was the offensive star for the Spurs, hitting 12-of-16 from the field for 26 points, including finishing an alley-oop from Danny Green (5-of-7 for 11 points in his best game of the series) that was more reminiscent of a 22-year-old Tim Duncan than one that just turned 37 years of age. Duncan’s jumper, one that he wasn’t happy with for long stretches of the season, was on point in Game 3, and for most of this series, really. It’s a good thing too, with as much as the Lakers can pack the paint, Duncan’s ability to draw one of the Laker bigs away from the paint helps almost as much as Matt Bonner (six points, 2-of-3 shooting) knocking down shots.

San Antonio got another ho-hum 20 points and seven assists from Tony Parker, as well as 13 points from DeJuan Blair and 12 from Kawhi Leonard. Manu Ginobili only contributed six points on 2-of-4 shooting, not because he was bad, but simply because any Ginobili-ness was unneeded in Game 3.

Cory Joseph continues to have a strong first round as the backup point guard for San Antonio. CoJo had eight points on 4-of-8 shooting, four rebounds and four assists in Game 3. Each game he seems to be improving in little ways. In Game 3, he appeared more at ease at finding the spots on the floor where he was comfortable shooting from. His development over the last two weeks is a welcome sign for the Spurs, especially with the news that he might not have to face any minutes on Russell Westbrook should the Spurs and Thunder meet in the conference finals.

Outside of the injury to Tiago Splitter, it was exactly the game the Spurs needed. The rotations were fairly routine, with minutes able to be shortened slightly thanks to the lopsided outcome. Game 4 is on Sunday as the Spurs look to close out the Lakers and get healthier, as many of their other Western Conference foes  face longer series and mounting injuries.

  • 5 Ring Spurs

    I wonder if T-Mac will Play Sunday? I would have him out there, just for his Size and Length?

  • assistman

    Blair is about to go earn himself his next contract in these playoffs.
    Who’s gonna start? I’m guessing Blair, and then Bonner subs in for TD. This could get ugly. Anybody wish Jax had stuck around for some help at the 4 spot in the next round versus DEN or GSW? Oh well. As long as our guards can hit their shots, we should be okay in this series, which is all that matters for the moment.

  • charlie Chen

    Have to save T-mac until the western finals or perhaps the 2nd round. Got to give the big man some time to assimilate and mess himself into the Spurs Ways. can’t wait to see what impact he may bring. Pop needs to discipline his 2nd team to be a team to can wreak havoc. Go Spurs for Number 5!

  • Charlie Chen

    Blair either needs to show up and prove he is disciplined enough to not commit easy fouls and not turn over. Big shoes to fill when Duncan is out and there is no bigs after that since Splitter took a little tumble. If Blair wants to stay as a Spurs for the long duration, come ready to crash the boards and proof that he is worthy of a new multi-million dollar contract; Otherwise, at the end of the season or next, Blair will, eventually and inevitably be shipped out.

  • assistman

    Al Jefferson, Dalembert, or Oden will be a Spur next year. Blair will not, but he is playing right now for a decent paycheck from some other club.

  • STIJL

    Hopefully AJ

  • Spurs fan in Australia

    What is the chances that Bane gets more of a run in game 4 with Splitter out? Even if it is just to use his 6 fouls against Howard? Or will the Spurs possibly try and play some small ball and play Leonard at the 4?

  • assistman

    If it’s a close game, hack-a-howard (via Bane) could be the difference.

    With Artest out, KL could get time at the 4 against Jamison and Clark, or as a floor-spacer if Bonner or Blair fouls out.

  • Graham

    They may bring out Tmac for a small 4 backup in round 2, but looking at the GSW/DEN series, Splitter’s likely to be back before we get there.

    For game 4? I expect Bonner to get the start with Blair coming off the bench for both guys, and some looks for Kawhi at 4 when the opportunity presents itself, and a bit more Baynes then usual.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dapimp.ofdayear Dapimp Ofdayear

    What’s going on with Gary Neal? Jacking up shot after shot while posting a very low FG percentage. Why does he have such a quick trigger while being so inefficient? He must shoot the lights out in practice for Popovich to grant him that kind of green light. He’s like one of these off the bench gunners who is trying to jack up as many shots as possible before getting yanked. It’s frustrating to watch as a Spurs fan. He needs to get in the gym and fire up a few hundred jumpers to fine tune his mechanics, and soon. I’m tired of watching him build houses with the barrage of bricks he routinely puts up.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    You must be new here.

  • Andrew G

    First off, ^ owned. Secondly, besides the cute sentence at the end, I have a hard time believing you are an actual Spurs fan. Gary earned his stripes against Memphis a few years ago. He gets the green light because that’s his role on the team.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000113089142 David Salazar

    Ha!

  • NYC

    Gary Neal don’t care. Gary Neal don’t give a shit. He’ll get benched and then get up in a few minutes and go right back to shooting. Gary Neal really don’t give a shit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dapimp.ofdayear Dapimp Ofdayear

    Wow. Tough (and rather presumptuous) crowd here. Anyway, like I said, I imagine he does very well in practice to earn a green light from Popovich, so I am not questioning his ability. Rather, I’d like to see that deadly stroke translate to the actual game more often. He has too many low FG percentage games to just keep chucking shots, as he is wont to do.

  • Colin

    Damn riht its a tough crowd, most posters here havent missed a dribble in years. One has to wonder what youve been watching Since Neal’s rookie year. He’s done more than have a few good practices to earn that long leash from poppovich. Go YouTube some clutch g-Neal shots before coming with your weak observations…….

  • Graham

    Gary Neal is our streak shooter. His job’s to take shots. If he gets hot he can swing momentum instantaneously. If he’s cold he gets pulled. He knows it, pop knows it, the team knows it. Just remember his role on the team’s similar to a Jamal Crawford for the Clips and Nate Robinson for the Bulls.

  • Graham

    Dude can’t play D. I’d rather get Milsap of the two, likely cheaper.

  • Andrew G

    For starters, if you knew ANYTHING about Pop, you’d know that it takes more than a couple of impressive practices to leave our players in during shooting droughts. Secondly, judging in-game performances strictly on the box score is what assholes do. If you had watched the game at all, you’d know most of those shots came during garbage time (which, spoiler alert, was most of the game); simply writing him off because of a few games of low FG percentage is what outsiders do, not actual fans.

  • Correctacus

    Do you think that Pop would like Buford to go out and get Crawford or Nate?

    Really?

    Oh, wait, try taking that nail out of your skull before answering, that might help.

    The Spurs aren’t a luck-seeking team. They’re not about individuals ‘going off’ and just shooting a tear. Yes, Gary ‘The Nail’ had some incredible baskets against Memphis, but Derek Fisher had some crazy baskets against us. That doesn’t mean that it’s a good decision to let Fisher take a lot of shots.

    This team has always been about clever, precise ball movement and tirelessly hunting the best looks. Neal can be effective, lord knows he has the range and the trigger (which, till now, Bonner has been lacking come playoff time). But he’s not an iso guy.

  • Graham

    Good try, but I never said Neal was an Iso guy. Read CAREFULLY. I said Neal’s role was similar, not a copy of those two. What’s the hallmark of our version? Yup, team oriented basketball. Neal’s the guy who’s the beneficiary of all this ball movement to get open looks, but can still be a cog in the passing chain.

    He however is the ONLY guy outside of ginobilli and parker that can consistently create his own shot, and the System calls for that at times, especially if the frentic rotations create a mismatch he can exploit. Sure we dont rely on luck, but we aren’t stupid to turn down a guy who gets hot when it presents itself.

    I much rather have Neal than those other hero ball backups. Neal knows the system and his place in it. Why do you think pop gives him so much burn? For the hell of it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/dapimp.ofdayear Dapimp Ofdayear

    LOL you people got problems, or are related to someone who plays for the Spurs (Neal perhaps?). All these insults and profanity just because someone noticed that Gary Neal shoots a lot of quick shots at a consistently low FG percentage. I’m a Spurs fan who is also a basketball fan in general, not a Spurs kool-aid drinker or _ _ _ _ (fill in the blank with your favorite Spur player/coach/GM) apologist. I don’t need to list my credentials or qualifications to prove that I am Spurs fan, or order League Pass and watch every second of Spurs basketball to have an opinion on one of their players. I stated what I observed, and that’s that. Agree with or not, it’s a free country. I’m done, and go Spurs.

  • Andrew G

    Not quite sure what this has to do with America being a free country, but okay. No one is asking for your credentials, simply replying to your grossly inaccurate “observations”. We are drawing from years of watching the Spurs; furthermore, we know that Gary recently came off an injury and are watching him get back into his killer form, not proclaiming he is inefficient and chucking bricks from three games worth of shots.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Maybe you should list your credentials, seeing as Neal is a career 40% 3 point shooter whose sole job is to shoot jumpers for the second string. After 3 seasons, that’s not an opinion, that’s fact.

    He’s having a rough series, sure, but Pop trusts him because of the 329 3′s he’s made in the other 224 games as a member of the Spurs. Besides, he still spreads the floor as a 3 point shooting threat, and must be guarded at all times, even though he’s shooting bad this series.

    We don’t mind being critical of players, but suggesting that “he does very well in practice to earn a green light from Popovich” without understanding what he has done during his NBA career is either facetious or lazy.

  • Colin

    You need thicker skin. No one cares about your credentials……….

  • http://www.facebook.com/dapimp.ofdayear Dapimp Ofdayear

    I said I was done after my last comment, but I’ll add one more. First of all, several of you who keep saying stuff like “we” have been watching the Spurs for years, as if its unlikely that anyone outside of “we” (whatever “we” means…does “we” mean the people who post to this particular blog?) actually watches the Spurs as closely as you do. News flash: Not every single person in the world who follows the Spurs religiously (as I do in fact) regularly reads or comments to this particular blog, or have the exact same opinion about every player. Two or more intelligent, knowledgeable basketball observers can in fact have varying opinions about the same player. This notion is what drives sports blogs, sports radios, etc. to the popularity they now enjoy. Debate, and opposing opinions/viewpoints. The original comment I made was regarding Gary Neal’s recent shooting. I know he’s clutch and hit that big three to save the season in Memphis two years ago after Duncan sprained his ankle and Ginoboli wrecked his elbow right before the playoffs. I didn’t attack him personally, so what are you folks all up in arms about? And as far as “credentials,” what I meant was I don’t have prove to you how many games I watched or attended, rattle off players stats, tell you how many hours I saw the Spurs on League pass, or be a regular poster on this blog to post a thought. Out – go Spurs.

  • assistman

    As a fellow Spurs fan, I appreciate a loyal Spurs fan. Neal has been slumping lately, but sometimes you need a humble, hard-working guy with no hesitation. He’s a pure scorer, and we don’t have many. You live with the bad nights in search of more of those clutch buckets, and 22-point games. Hey, it’d be nice role players, but we just don’t. At this point, our rotation is pretty much set, so you gotta give him minutes to shoot his way out of his slump and not mess with his confidence. This same reasoning goes for Danny Green, but what are you gonna do, other than making roster changes in the off-season… it’s not like the guys behind Neal have shown they have any better stuff (did you see the last 3 minutes of game 4?).

    Go Spurs, Go!

  • assistman

    CORRECTION: “Hey, it’d be nice to have The Heat’s role players, but we just don’t.”

  • Colin

    Neal is pivotal to the Spurs’ bench, always has been since he’s been in the league. Pure shooters such as him go through peaks and valleys such as he has this season. Nothing you pointed out is considered newsworthy or anything that hasn’t been talked about already by many on and NOT on this blog. Geez man.

    No one cares about your stats knowledge, League pass, or singing and dancing for that matter.

    Thicker skin dude. Get over it, move on.

  • rab2774@gmail.com

    It is funny to see how all of the lakers comments boards are not working on ESPN right now. Really funny!

    Pop to the rest of the NBA (Joke on Dwight fun here) – You want the truth! You can’t handle the truth!
    While the rest of you sniviling superstars go about your multi-million dollar lives complaining about injuries and how you are not babied enough my guys just keep fighting through year after year of injuries without making excuses! We don’t want to even try to bring in your sniviling swine that… you call players because they have no idea what the word Team even means! You want us on that wall! Stern needs us on that wall! Because without us on that wall you all would never even begin to understand the true meaning of the word TEAM! Not to mention that we ARE the most successful sports franchise in the Great US of A over the last 17 years! Did I order the code red on the Lakers? You’re damn right I did! Kobe can come join us whenever he wants to learn what a true team has to offer!

  • rab2774@gmail.com

    If any if you can add Jack’s face to this that would be awesome!

  • Nima K.

    This Warriors team scares me. We’re not equipped to play that level of youth. Maybe just KL. and their arena. Insane.

  • NYC

    Hey Spurs fans. I was at the game tonight. (I’m now living in enemy territory, LA, but will continue using the handle NYC.) As we all eagerly await the 48 MoH’s staff’s take on game 4, I thought I’d share my personal observations. My memory ain’t the greatest, so please do correct me if I get the details wrong.

    Tim Duncan – solid as usual. (A)

    Tony Parker – gave me a scare when he went down in the 2nd (?) quarter. Otherwise, is looking more and more like himself. I personally counted three reverse circus lay ups and one ridiculous spin move that made even the LA crowd ooh and ahh. 23 pts in 26 mins, high scorer of the game = (A+)

    Manu Ginobili – made his presence felt, but still not quite the Manu we expect and missed all his 3s. He did manage to throw down a monsterous dunk over Howard that made the crowd cringe. (B-)

    Kawhi Leonard – This guy. This guy is something special. Easily the best defensive player of the game (3 steals and who knows how many altered shots and stopped drives/passes) and rebounded more than anyone else on the Spurs. But that’s not surprising. What continues to amaze me is how good is his offense. There was one play in the 3rd, I think, where he went iso and bounced around three Lakers like a pinball, took his man and just willed the ball into the basket. The fact that he is doing this in the playoffs, and that Popovich is letting him when even Tony and Manu got chewed out for ill-advised hero plays in their early days, speaks volumes as to how much faith this organization has in this young man. Guaranteed future all star. (A+)

    Danny Green – So-so game. Still waiting for him to have a break out performance. (C)

    DeJuan Blair – made the most of his minutes and had a pretty good game. Can’t help but to think that the rise of Splitter has allowed us to refocus on defense, and subsequently doomed Blair to the bench. Also Blair needs Tony and Manu feeding him to be effective. He goes as they go. I think Pop realized that Blair was suited for the offensive juggernaut we employed two seasons ago, but that the offensive juggernaut sans defense was never going to get us through the playoffs. Blair’s fate was sealed then and there. (B+)

    Cory Joseph – great performance. Nothing he does is fancy or sticks out, but he quietly played a good game and put up 6 assists. Loved, loved, loved his tenacious defense. (A) Speaking of tenacious defense…

    Gary Neal – At the risk of starting another war, I have to say that Gary “the Honey Badger” Neal is a double-edged sword. As good as CoJo is on D, Neal is bad. Love the guy’s unflinching confidence in shooting the ball. The man just does not give a shit. And he definitely had some notable moments on offense in this game. OTOH, he had some pretty notable and ugly moments on defense. I saw him get abused by Goudelock, getting crossed over and falling face first to the floor. The LA crowd loved that one. It gave them hope for a second. I can’t think of a Lakers guard who didn’t go off while being guarded by Neal. Being out of position and not being quick enough to recover. Just really looked like he was working off a different playbook from the rest of the team, who were all in sync. I found myself cursing under my breath and praying Popovich would sit him in the 4th. Again, I love what the guy brings on the offensive end, but to be objective, he really does stink on D. I worry about this as we get further into the playoffs. Tonight he saw extended minutes. I think Pop is trying to work him back into the rotation by giving him extra opportunities to shoot against a team that was destined to lose. I hope his minutes will be more limited in future rounds. He is more effective in limited doses. (B/D)

    Matt Bonner – Oh, Matty. What are we gonna do with you? Tonight Bonner reverted back to being reluctant to shoot the 3-ball. There were a few times he tried to be aggressive. Twice he drove to the hole and actually committed to shooting rather than just feigning for a pass. He missed a hook shot (it was short), and was blocked spectacularly on the other attempt. I don’t blame the guy for not being gifted athletically, I do blame him for losing his nerve anytime a defender comes running. Sigh. P.S. a funny moment came when Bonner was chasing Jamison back on D and he gritted his teeth and made this face that said “I am running as fast as is humanly possible,” while frantically moving his fists up and down like a cartoon character. (C)

    Aron Baynes – Was aggressive and provided energy off the bench. The one problem I noticed with Baynes is that he is bad at catching. In the 1st Q he lost the ball and the crowd around me started making remarks about “butterfingers.” Then in the 4th, he missed another pass by a mile. (B-)

    Patty Mills – In his very limited time, he managed to do nothing more than throw one very bad pass to ol’ “Butterfingers” Baynes. The ineptitude of the play (on both their parts) was comedic, but Pop didn’t seem to think so. He came charging out of the time out and Tony had to tackle him from behind and walk him over to the FT line. I’m not sure who exactly Pop was fixing to chew out, but it looked like he was heading toward Patty Mills. Maybe it was all in jest as Parker seemed to be taking it all in good humor, but then again after Parker loosened his grip, Timmy had to stand between Pop and the bench to keep him from charging again. (F)

    Tracy McGrady – as advertised, was nothing more than another body to throw out in garbage time. Would never have known who he was if not for his name printed on his jersey. One interesting to note is that to close out the game in garbage time, Pop had four pgs on the court. Mills brought the ball up court, but it was T-Mac who did the real playmaking and distributing. De Colo and Neal were there too. Parker and CoJo sat out. It seems that it is firmly set that CoJo will be the second string pg, and I believe T-Mac will be used strictly as a pt foward as the situation dictates. (N/A)

    De Colo – (N/A)

    Gregg Popovich – there was a short period starting the second half when Pop went micro-ball. He had Mills and Neal as the guards, Green playing SF, Leonard playing the 4, and Blair as the C. He continues to experiment and tinker, even in the playoffs. That’s so Pop. Also charged the court like a raging bull with his face red, head down, and entire body leaning into it. Vintage performance. (A)

    What do you guys think of my review? Of the game?

  • assistman

    Thoroughly enjoyed every line of your take, NYC.

  • NYC

    Thanks, man!

  • Titletown99030507d

    Its True Neal Has A Bad Habit Of ThatAnd Fails To Give It To The Cutting Man.

  • Titletown99030507d

    that Was Last Year. Hes Not Impressing Me As Of Late. Call him Icyhot jr.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Like I Said “What Has He Done Lately?”Long Leash Or No Long Leash That Dude Needs To Get Off The Court If He Misses 2 In Row Because His Defense Sjcks.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Nailed it.

  • Titletown99030507d

    At The Expense Of His Turrble Defense And Foul Laden Habits Not Mention Awful Ball Handling. Hes Good For 2 To 3 Shots Then Get The Hell Off The Court

  • Titletown99030507d

    Some Assholes Dont Know When To Take A Bad Defender off The Courtf Just To See Him Throw Some Bricks up.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Where Do You Draw The Line When The Bricks Start Flying? After 5 Shots? Just Saying, Ive Seen GameS Where Pop Leaves Him On The Court When Hes Icy While Hes Demonstrating Poor Defensive Play?

  • Titletown99030507d

    Doesnt His Defense Get Under Your Skin?

  • Titletown99030507d

    And What If He Becomes Wnter Shoes 2.0? Then What?

  • Titletown99030507d

    He Probably Dont Give A Shit Abou TO’s And Poor Defense As Well. Ouch!

  • Titletown99030507d

    Niiiice!

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