Spurs struggle, hang on to beat Steph-less Warriors

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The early season NBA schedule tends to muck up the expectations for what fans watch, and Friday night in San Antonio was a microcosm of that. The Spurs and the Golden State Warriors — two of the league’s very best offensive powerhouses — showed us what the struggle really looked like.

It was a 76-74 win for the silver and black, but most basketball folks would’ve rather had Dikembe Mutombo repeatedly poke them in the eye than watch this game. Steph Curry sitting out with a bum ankle was disappointing enough, but watching Tony Parker go 4-for-10 from the line and miss two late free throws that would’ve put the game away was just brutal. Golden State scored 74 points, but they had a chance to tie or take the lead at the buzzer.

Oof.

Manu Ginobili, whose 3-for-11 performance was apropos on a night of inadequacy, explained the sorts of ridiculousness we’ve seen around the league this season.

“It’s still early. There are some teams that are new, some others that have a few additions, others that are still a little bit rusty,” he said as his twin toddlers (the Ginobilets, as I call them) sang ‘Happy Birthday’ in the background to no one in particular. “So usually the first month in the NBA is not the best-played, and teams are starting to get in rhythm.

“It’s a win. It counts the same as if you win by 30.”

And this is true. Regardless of how atrocious the game was — the Dubs shot 40.8 percent, the Spurs shot 39.2 percent — San Antonio emerged with a 5-1 record and now sits alone in atop the Western Conference in the meaningless November standings. But what the hell was going on out there?

The Spurs had 11 offensive rebounds (six in the fourth quarter) yet managed just six second-chance points. Golden State committed 19 turnovers and dished out just 16 assists. San Antonio hit 26 percent of its 3s, connected on just nine of its 18 free throw attempts, got outrebounded and scored 76 points, yet still won.

Easily the most entertaining part of this game was the cage match that was Jermaine O’Neal versus Aron Baynes. At a certain point it was just pushing and shoving, but it was fun, because nobody was making any of their shots. You might as well just make it a wrestling match at that point.

Crumble this game up into little ball and use it as target practice, because it taught us nothing in the long run. But before you do, notice the minutes Gregg Popovich is giving his players. They’re very, very low, and the Spurs are still winning games. Much of that has to do with the five-games-in-seven-nights schedule on which they currently find themselves, but Pop has already made it clear that he’s going to play a 10- to 12-deep rotation that won’t be too quickly affected by game situations during the regular season.

Again, it’s very early. Eventually, things will become more pertinent, but now is not that time. November is for acclimation, customization and familiarization for the Spurs, and not much more. But, hey, they keep winning. The success is coming on the back of Tony Parker once again (he had 18 points on 50 percent shooting, by the way), but he’s accustomed to that.

This was one to quickly put in the rearview mirror. Hell, even Parker and Duncan slipped out of the locker room before Gregg Popovich’s post-game interview was over.

At least they finished the game, I guess.