San Antonio Spurs 100, Toronto Raptors 80: Second half pace opens up the Spurs offense
AT&T CENTER — Tim Duncan grabbed the rebound, turned up court and took off. There was less than a minute left in the third quarter and the Spurs had pushed their lead to 10 points. There were really two ways this could go. The first was that Duncan would do something clumsy, usually a solid bet considering the exploits that Duncan and other bigs have when leading a fast break.
What we got was the other option. Duncan drove into the lane, looking to attack the basket. After one of the Toronto Raptors defenders cut off his initial penetration, Duncan kicked out to Manu Ginobili on the left wing for a wide open 3-pointer. Ginobili drained the 3, pushing the Spurs lead to 13 and igniting the crowd. The possession was a good representation of what went right for San Antonio in a second half en route to a 100-80 win over the Raptors.
This was a fairly ugly game for the better part of two and a half quarters, but in the second half the Spurs strung some stops together and got out in transition. The increased pace opened up San Antonio’s offense and created the separation needed to keep the Raptors at bay.
“Our pace was better offensively,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “We got back into our usual flow and it worked out well.”
The Spurs were only credited with 13 fast break points, though nine of those were in the second half. The majority of the Spurs’ damage came in the secondary break and the speed with which they got into their offense. The sooner San Antonio gets into position and runs its sets, the greater chance they’ll catch the defense out of position and off-balance, opening up driving, passing and cutting lanes, and open shots on the perimeter.
San Antonio posted a 102.2 offensive rating in the first half. When the Spurs pushed the pace in the second half, they produced an offensive rating of 117.4, which became the difference in the game.
“In the second half, we did step up and start to run a little bit more and score better, so we got the lead,” Ginobili said.
For Ginobili, it was one of the better performances of his season. Battling back spasms in the early season and rhythm since, Manu struggled to recapture the form that leads many analysts to pencil him in as a finalist for the Sixth Man of the Year award every season. Against the Raptors, though, Ginobili was able to make some of the unpredictable plays the Argentine is known for.
In addition to the transition 3 he knocked down off of the Duncan kick-out, Ginobili attacked the lane hard and found some much needed efficiency. Manu hit four of six shots (2-2 from 3) and hit four of his five free throws en route to 14 points. Ginobili added five rebounds and three assists, posting a team-high +23 on the plus/minus.
There’s no great urgency for Ginobili to round into form quickly. Much like the Spurs as a whole, Ginobili is better served peaking in April and May, rather than burning out mid-way through the season. But many a fan has voiced concerns that Ginobili is done as a top performer on these Spurs.
While he may not be the go-to scorer he was just a couple of seasons ago, Manu is still the most dynamic player on the Spurs roster. Nights like Wednesday remind us of that.
Some other notes from the Spurs’ win over the Raptors:
- Coach Pop mentioned a couple of times the pick-and-roll defense being improved in the second half, and that being a big reason for the win. I didn’t notice anything particularly different in how the Spurs defended the pick-and-roll, but I don’t have the trained eye that coaches do. Whatever the adjustment was, Pop felt it was important enough to mention it twice postgame. “[We] did a better job in the pick-and-roll… We were more aggressive in the pick-and-roll defense.”
- Kawhi Leonard didn’t have quite the defensive impact against the Raptors that he did versus Dallas, but he did have three steals and 10 rebounds. A steal leading to a breakaway dunk late in the first half was a big momentum moment going into the halftime locker room. “The play at the end of the first half was huge for us. We would have come to halftime tied, probably, and that really gave us a life,” Ginobili said.
Advanced stats courtesy of NBA.com/Stats