San Antonio Spurs 84, Los Angeles Lakers 82: At least San Antonio’s last shot fell

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This was not the game I expected coming in. With Mike D’Antoni in the process of joining the Lakers and San Antonio’s returning last season’s top offense, I was looking forward to a little more scoring. What we got was both good defense and missed shots, but the Spurs made the one that counted as Danny Green sank a 3-pointer with with nine seconds left to give the Spurs a 84-82 win over the Lakers at the Staples Center.

Tiago Splitter started alongside Tim Duncan for the first time this season in an effort to counter the size Los Angeles boasts with Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. Give Splitter credit, he played admirably for San Antonio. His impact went beyond the nine points and nine rebounds he tallied in the box score. Splitter was active on defense and on the boards; if he didn’t grab the rebound, he made his presence known.

Gregg Popovich only played Duncan and Splitter together a handful coming into Tuesday night’s game. Although, it was more frequently than we’d seen in previous seasons, possibly in an effort to get the pairing some familiarity for games like this one. The Spurs will face some large teams in the Western Conference — in addition to the Lakers, both the Clippers and Grizzlies can run out a lot more size than some Spurs lineups can handle. The more Duncan and Splitter figure out how to play together both offensively and defensively early in the season, the more flexibility Coach Pop has to adjust to different scenarios.

According to NBA.com, Duncan and Splitter played 26 minutes together against the Lakers. Those lineups had a 92.9 defensive rating (92.9 points over 100 possessions), but just a 91.3 offensive rating. This meets the eye test, as it was clear the Spurs’ spacing on offense wasn’t great with Splitter in the starting lineup. One of the perks of playing Boris Diaw with Duncan is Diaw’s ability to draw the other big man away from the basket. Diaw can knock down shots out to 3-point range and is a threat to put the ball on the floor. As weird as it is to say, Diaw must be defended all over the floor.

Splitter doesn’t have that same threat. He needs to be paid attention to when he’s out on the perimeter setting picks and in the low post, but otherwise he’s essentially a non-factor. Whenever the Spurs went to the Duncan-Parker pick-and-roll or gave it to Duncan in the low post, Splitter’s man was able to make himself a nuisance. Some of the Spurs’ best looks offensively came in the secondary break, early in the shot clock and before the Laker defense had a chance to get set up.

The Spurs actually finished the game with a negative net rating, boasting an offensive efficiency of 91.5 while allowing a defensive efficiency of 93.5. The Spurs only turned the ball over eight times, though, while the Lakers gave it up 17 times. In a game that ends in a two-point difference, nine turnovers is a Grand Canyon-sized gulf.

After a rocky start to the Spurs’ four game West Coast swing, they return home winners of three straight. They haven’t recaptured the magic we saw during last season’s 20-game winning streak, but the Spurs are slowly putting together performances that lead one to believe that that capability is still in there. How long it takes to put it all together is anyone’s guess.

Advanced box score stats courtesy of NBA.com/Stats

  • Graham

    A good chance to experiment against top flight competition tonight. Patty got some good burn in addition to Splitter playing alongside Tim. Definitely apparent here why Diaw typically gets the nod to start typically, Splitter helps on the glass but tends to gum up the offense (compared to Diaw). In all i think keeping him as a niche starter will work. Nice seeing 11 guys gets minutes, and makes me feel confident that swapping starting pieces around on the fly is more legit strategy and less gimmick. This could be a VERY useful advantage down the line.

  • rj

    how about splitters block on howard that sent him sprawling. oh, that did me good. somewhere, angel just got their wings.

  • assistman

    Don’t like the D’Antoni hire and believe their team will be threatening even to the mighty Heat this postseason. Hopefully, Tiago-TD will develop into a more workable pairing and make this early 3-game advantage in the standings over the media’s home team pay dividends when it counts. Otherwise, here’s hoping injuries continue to slow the bad guys… I know that’s not very sporting, but the Lakes have essentially unfair advantages, so screw them.

  • assistman

    Correction: FOUR game advantage in the standings over media’s home team.

  • NYC

    The Spur’s last shot should’ve gotten a foul call. Bryant clearly touched the shooter’s hand. It’s b.s. they don’t call that and give the Lakers a chance to win it with one last shot.

  • Spurs Fan in Australia

    Is it possible with the Splitter-Duncan combo that Duncan plays more the high post role of Diaw and Splitter takes on the low post/pick man role? Duncan has better range and also is a decent passer from the high post and his man wouldn’t be as free to drop off him to cover Splitter as the role man as Duncan can spot up from mid range.

  • Len

    Yes, it is definitely possible. Timmy and Tiago are both good enough passers to make a hi/lo pass.

  • New_Mexico_Spurs_Fan

    I think that D’Antoni is the Marty Schotenheimer (sp?!) of the NBA. He coaches teams to great regular season records (nothwithstanding his brief stint in NY), but can’t deliver in the playoffs.

  • New_Mexico_Spurs_Fan

    I agree w/ all that you post, Graham. Noteworthy is -0- minutes for Bonner tonight, and very few minutes over the last few games.

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

    Given that Parker has had a slow start this season (only shooting .400) and Manu has yet to really find his rhythm I think the Spurs offense has a lot of room to grow now. And you have to like what you see from the defense when they need to get stops.

    If the Spurs could find a way to move Bonner/Blair + a player to be named later for a defensive rebounding big the Spurs would be tearing it up.

  • Bry

    The hand is part of the ball. The basically never make that call, nor should they. They instituted that philosophy when guys like Dr. J started palming the ball on drives to the basket, which basically made it impossible to block them without that type of contact. Ginobili and Blair definitely got away with a couple of fouls. The biggest one, I’d say, was World Peace blatantly hacking Splitter on the games final rebound. Luckily Splitter came up with the ensuing loose ball, but it is definitely surprising that MWP could just karate chop Tiago’s arm to knock the ball loose, and the refs missed it.

  • Andrew G

    I agree with Graham’s comment about liking 11 guys getting minutes. However, I would rather see Mills play behind Parker than Neal. I think it’s clear by now that we can’t force Neal into the 1Guard spot when he’s obviously a 2Guard, he’s too turnover prone. I’d rather see him play behind Danny and Ginobili, or maybe play Ginobili in the 3 spot to allow Neal to come in. Just makes me uneasy when I see Neal as the primary ball handler.

  • Graham

    I love patty as a backup 1, but Neal’s simply too useful to be buried that far. How many times have we seen the other team hit a huge crowd lifting shot only for neal to immediately come back and nail a pull up 3 counter. I think pop’s situational playing of both will work, maybe even coupled with sliding Manu down to the 3 for short stints as well. Again, having a deep bench that can also be shuffled around like a deck of cards is an incredible luxury we have now.

  • Titletown99030507d

    You switch Diaw’s and Splitters minutes with that shooting % we had in last night’s game and we get a loss plain and simple. Diaw might be a decent passer but he would have gotten annihilated by either Gasol or Howard. That’s why I keep bitching about Tiago’s minutes. Those kind of minutes have to start now if they want him to be of any use for the playoffs. Blair and Bonner had their share of generous minutes over the years compared to Splitter. And 3 Laker games isn’t going to cut the mustard for his preparation for the important games. Match ups my ass he needs to be on the court with Timmy if he’s going to experience small ball lineups. He’s quicker than Timmy there’s no reason for him not to get playing time with the best PF of all time. You see what he does on transition he always makes it a point to hustle down court to get the tip in or better yet the slam. It’s all about playing time for that dude. The more he plays the better he gets and the more he’ll get accustomed to defending the pick and roll. I hope the Lakers isn’t the only team he’ll be seeing significant minutes or else its a waste. Any way he is playing for a contract and hopefully he goes to a good team after this season.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Tiago haters at least he showed some heart in the big minutes he played and didn’t totally wuss out like many of you say. Dwight Howard do I need say more? He held his own against Superman. So stop bitching about him and let him play real minutes maybe it’ll benefit the team some. Don’t you think?

  • Graham

    Therin lies the problem. Tiago is ONLY good to start against these lineups. Teams like Utah, Sacramento, the Lakers, and to a lesser extent, OKC, Memphis and the Clips, are where he’d be effective. Starting Thursday against the Knicks and Melo is not a good use of him. As i said, he showed last night that he can be effective starting and playing alongside Tim. Diaw’s not a terrible defender by any means but when we need size at the expense of scoring go to Splitter. Can we afford to drop 30 points of offense (from less effective spacing primarily) to get more oomph on the defensive glass and paint every night? Not really.

    Can he keep his fouls down? Can he manage to shoot more than 50% from the line? Can his decisionmaking improve? Once he solves these issues his minutes will go up.

  • Graham

    Not at the expense of Diaw too much. He’s great to start against a handful of teams but not against smaller lineups.

  • Graham

    Duncan could shift from high/low depending on whether he’s with Splitter or Diaw. His versatility helps a lot here. Diaw as the hi and splitter as the lo also works.

  • TD BestEVER

    He played OK at best….. he didn’t shrink or run away from the challenge but did NOTHING IMO to say he NEEDS to play more…… Splitter, Diaw, and DJB all had good and bad moments – they haven’t separated themselves yet…..the only person who clearly is in 5th place is Bonner…… in a game where we needed offense he still doesn’t get the call……..

  • TD BestEVER

    I agree – Splitter’s minutes are where they are because he hasn’t done enough with the minutes he gets – Splitter, Diaw, And Bonner all suffer from the same problem…… They aren’t AGGRESSIVE enough!!!! They ONLY take really good shots and never really try to force the issue….. You will never have big time scoring games if all you do is take safe shots on this team…… you have to let it fly like Neal or DJB……. that’s how you show POP you want more minutes…… be aggressive and keep your % high……

  • ThatBigGuy

    Agreed. If Patty is the incumbent back-up PG, then where does Neal get in? At the 2, he’s behind Green and Manu. Neal’s ball handling and decision making from the PG spot has improved dramatically since last year. Add in his continued and increasing offensive threat, ball pressure will subside as defenders look to contain rather than pressure.

  • ThatBigGuy

    If Timmy retains his jumper and this new found quickness, there’s no reason he and Tiago can’t see more minutes together. It’s actually great for Tim, as he gets a reprieve from the low block banging that he has to take with Diaw/Bonner/Blair match-ups.

    On a side note, while the NBA has been moving towards smaller and more athletic “post” players, a traditional, double big line-up still has a spot in today’s game, as evidenced by Memphis’ beat down of Miami on Sunday. It’s worth experimenting with for a few games.

  • Titletown99030507d

    What game did you see? Djb throwing up air balls and rushed shot as to Splitter being agressive on the post and getting his bucket not to mention can draw more fouls than db. Isnt aggresive enough? Nonsense. At least hes not throwing junk.

  • TD BestEVER

    DJB only had like 2 shots and was 1 of 2 I think and the floater he missed wasn’t an air ball…. Splitter ONLY MAKES LAYUPS……… NOTHING ELSE……. He needs to improve and get back to being a low post scorer. If he had DJB aggressiveness and kept his shooting % from last year he would be a starter…..

  • Titletown99030507d

    Diaw isnt going to give you 30 or produce 30 indirectly. Are you kidding me?

  • Titletown99030507d

    What so safe about going up under the rim when someone is hacking you to death? those aren’t sure points when someone like D Howard is on your back but at the very least Splitter tends to draw fouls and if he gets enough time on the floor in real situations he’ll get more acclimated and his free throws will drop. If he goes to the line 6 times in 30 minutes and makes 60% that’s 7 points alone at the line add the very capable 10-15 points on scoring plays that’s 17-22 points of potential offense from him when he plays against other teams add the 7-10 rebounds to it and I don’t see a problem. Those other 8 points can come from Danny, Neal, Manu, or Tony etc. on assists from Splitter. While at the same time there’s a big body in the lane keeping the other side from scoring at will. Splitter did have team high rebounds with Timmy. He can do that against small ball he’s not slow.

  • Titletown99030507d

    I think he showed enough aggression in that game. It’s called being excited cause I’m playing more than 5 minutes today aggression.

  • assistman

    Graham, the teams you mention are mostly the teams we need to worry about. To get out of the West, we probably have to be able to beat any two of, uh, LAL, OKC, MEM, LAC in a 7 game series. This is where our lack of interior size looks like a fatal flaw. IF we could get through that, MIA would present it’s own kind of nightmare, but you have to get there first.

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  • rudy tesoro

    the Spurs committed too many errors. You can’t win by giving so many 3-pts. Something is wrong with Diaw. He has two consecutive 0 fat eggs.

  • Titletown99030507d

    He’s doing something now!

  • Titletown99030507d

    Those are real points anyway you look at them and the last time I checked they count in the final score.