The Margin: Spurs 93, Sixers 76

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Ed. Note: Rob Mahoney of the TrueHoop Network’s Two Man Game has a unique style of game recap. He takes the margin of the final score and posts a note for every point. I’m going to being shamelessly stealing his idea with some regularity.

  • Tonight I engaged in the semi-annual tradition of watching the Spurs-Sixers game at a bar with my good friend Chris Neary, an exceptionally talented journalist and a whip smart basketball mind. I love watching Spurs games with people who don’t often watch the team because a) they have fresh observations that my tired eyes tend to miss and b) they’re genuinely amazed by the level at which guys like Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard are playing.
  • If I say anything insightful in this recap, you can assume it was actually Neary’s idea. If I say anything dumb, it’s probably something I came up with on my own.
  • Speaking of Neary, he had a terrific audio piece on the Sixers for Voice on the Floor last season that you should listen to.
  • Back to the Spurs: I couldn’t be happier with the way Kawhi Leonard played this evening. It’s not just the energy with which he attacks the boards and the defensive end of the floor, although I appreciate that immensely. I love how much more instinctual his sense of space on the offensive end of the floor has become as the season has progressed. He cuts into the lane at the right time. He slips along the baseline behind a distracted defender at the right time. He perches himself in the corner at the right time. His hallmark will always be defense, but with each game I grow more bullish regarding his offensive abilities.
  • That being said, his rebounding is what stood out this evening.
  • Boris Diaw also rebounded well, and was a disruptive interior defensive presence. I’m a little concerned about his conditioning, but I’m still in a wait-and-see mode regarding his acquisition.
  • In general, the interior defense was terrific, especially in the second half. Whenever a Sixer made his way into the lane, the primary defender stayed tall and long while the help defender attack the ball. The Sixers had a very difficult time scoring at the rim in the second half.
  • DeJuan Blair has such an enigmatic offensive game. There seems to be almost no correlation between the relative difficulty of a shot and his likelihood of making it. He’ll spin wildly, toss up the ball and it will drop softly through the net. He’ll catch the ball with plenty of space, lay it up softly against the glass and miss the basket entirely.
  • For a while Manu Ginobili was a better pick-and-roll partner for Blair, and that’s still largely the case, but Parker has steadily learned how to utilize Blair’s particular, preternatural sense of movement.
  • Parker has always been an underrated passer in my opinion, but in general his passing does seem more imaginative and daring (in a good way) than it has in seasons past.
  • When did Tim Duncan get a technical? I completely missed that.
  • Speaking of Tim Duncan and technicals, I don’t believe Joey Crawford should be allowed to referee Spurs games. Supposedly Crawford is not the one who issued the technical this evening (or at least that’s what I read), but that doesn’t change my opinion on Crawford. And no, the reason is not, “cause he’s a terrible ref.” He’s a good ref. Let me explain.
  • To put it simply, in the American judicial system, if a judge has a conflict of interest with either party, they can file to have the judge replace. It doesn’t mean the judge isn’t qualified to sit on the bench. It just means he’s human.
  • I believe the same should be true of NBA referees. Tim Duncan and Joey Crawford had an altercation with resulted in Crawford’s suspension from the league. If Crawford harbored some resentment about the altercation in Dallas a few yeas back, he’d only be being human. So what should the NBA do to ensure that there’s not bias refereeing, or even the perception of such? They should ask him to recuse himself from any game in which Tim Duncan is playing. It doesn’t mean he’s not capable of being an NBA referee. It’s about the NBA realizing that sometimes it’s worth going the extra mile to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
  • Across the board, the energy level from the team tonight was terrific, especially given that it was the third night of a back-to-back-to-back.
  • The Spurs are only the fifth team to win all 3 of its games in a back-to-back-to-back.
  • I’ll give Justin Dentmon one thing: He ain’t afraid to shoot.
  • Yitao

     Anyone notice Timmy’s line in the boxscore on NBA.com?

  • Yitao

     DND – OLD

  • Yitao

     DND – OLD

  • http://radsci.uthscsa.edu/index.php/User:Nima Nima K.

    Just spotted TP and Diaw eating pizza somewhere off of I-10 after the game. They drove off in a black Escalade. Sometimes I wonder if he’s happy here in Texas. does he still wish he’d gone to NY? I hope this season ends up making him happy. So far, so good.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/WBPW327T6XAZCCFQY25HBG6RE4 Cristian

    Dude, if Tony wanted to go to NY he would have gone. Anyway, I don’t think there was much truth in those rumors. Tony never said he even considered going to New York. And during all those rumors he signs a 4-year extension. He’ll play a few more years after Tim and Manu retire and he’ll be the new Duncan for the franchise and in the locker room. Next jerseys to be retired, after Bruce’s, in order, No 21, No 20 and No 9. 
    PS: I know is super, super early to say this, but I want Kawhi to be a Spur for life. I think beginning with next year he’ll start making the All-defensive NBA team year after year, and on offense he might settle some around 14 ppg. Although there’s potential there to go to 18, even 20ppg in 4-5 years depending on the Spurs system on offense.

  • Deeds130

    I couldn’t agree with Graydon’s 4th bullet more… Leonard’s offensive IQ has really surprised me, and continues to impress me to no end. I am becoming a major fan of this young man. Love it.

    I’m reading Neary as the author of the perfectly stated observation about DJB’s shooting style. Good stuff.

    This shortened schedule has taken away one of Pop’s few, but significant, shortcomings… his conservative aversion to playing inexperienced talent. Green has redeemed the seemingly botched 2010 #20 pick, and RJ (and his durabity) needed to be showcased in order to ship out his large contract, but no way I thought we’d go 3 of 3 in 3 nights when this schedule was announced… Greg Popovich has done a very fine job getting this team to this many wins. Give credit. He and Thibs might be all alone in a class of 2.

  • Zain521

    I really don’t think its a coincidence that the night that Tim Duncan does NOT EVEN PLAY he gets a technical and on top of that Joey Crawford is refereeing the game. I’m sure everyone remembers the Crawford ejection on Duncan for laughing but in case you never saw it:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOygTd1NWCM

  • Zain521

    I really don’t think its a coincidence that the night that Tim Duncan does NOT EVEN PLAY he gets a technical and on top of that Joey Crawford is refereeing the game. I’m sure everyone remembers the Crawford ejection on Duncan for laughing but in case you never saw it:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOygTd1NWCM

  • http://radsci.uthscsa.edu/index.php/User:Nima Nima K.

    Oh yes, KL was definitely worth GH. And I’m so thrilled to see Green turning out so well.

  • theghostofjh

    It’s been obvious for at least a month now that Kawai has much better than originally thought offensive potential. I’d now be surprised if he didn’t avg. at least 18 ppg. during his prime years in this league. In fact I’d be shocked if he didn’t reach Gerald Wallace type production in the next 2-4 years, and even better is still possible. He’s a keeper, no doubt, with a SUPER fast learning curve!

  • GMT

    I have no idea why Timmy was given the tech, but it actually wasn’t Crawford who T’ed him up. He was on the opposite end of the court. I don’t know which of the other refs it was, but it seemed totally undeserved. Whatever.

  • Kingofamericans

    lol that’s hilarious. =)

  • Hteb_1999

    for the integrity of the NBA game id really wish Joey Crawford wouldn’t ref another Spurs game til Timmy retires. Hopefully Joey does first tho.

  • oboron24

    My understanding (and it sounded like it may have been picked up on the rim mic on our end of the floor) was that Duncan was chattering at the officials from the bench and Josh Tiven called him for the tech. Joey Crawford had apparently warned both teams about arguing calls (in the game notes section of ESPN’s recap of tonight’s game) so I’m not particularly surprised that the call was made…it was irregular, but probably not as big a deal as some will make of it.

    I think Graydon makes a good point about referees being able to recuse themselves from games in which they have a conflict of interest, but I also find it highly unlikely that Joey Crawford would exercise that option.

    I’d also suggest that DeJuan Blair’s greatest offensive strength is his court awareness. It seems to me as if he has a very strong knack for finding the open areas on the floor and putting himself in a good position to score. I think it’s very apparent at this point in the season that we struggle mightily offensively when we don’t move the ball well (aside from Parker driving to the basket in pick-and-roll situations), and I think Blair suffers more than most because we settle for shots on the perimeter and thus don’t force any sort of rotation which ends up creating in which he thrives.

  • Ian

    I normally don’t disagree with you, Graydon, but this time I think you’re wrong here: Yes, Joey Crawford IS a terrible ref. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of other people who’d agree with me here.

  • Ian

    That notion of Pop being a rookie-hater who’ll never give a minute to a young & inexperienced player is way too overblown, imo. He never was afraid to use relatively unknown, not nba-proven young players in favor of experienced veterans… provided those young players could play the right way.

  • ziijordan

     I completely agree about Leonard.

    Green on the other hand, has been a very nice surprise for the Spurs. He is active all the time, both on O and D. I just wish TP and Neal teach him how to shoot a floater.

  • http://twitter.com/graydongordian Graydon Gordian

    There are plenty of people who agree with you. I was just trying to be… judicious.

  • rogerval

    Agree with all the positive comments about Leonard.  Saw his after-game comments, and he seems pretty mature, or at least very serious for a guy who can’t even drink legally in Texas until late June.  He’s only a couple of months older than Cory Joseph, and yet the team feels Joseph needs some time to mature (e.g., comments that Pop considers Joseph a college sophomore).  Joseph always looks like a rookie, too (deer- in-the- headlights).

    Leonard’s maturity reminds me of Duncan’s first year in the league. It took George Hill a couple of years to acquire the same confidence and focus.  But from then on, he was a seasoned pro.

    So, I hope the team or the interviewers don’t try to get Leonard to “lighten up” and joke around.  Let him mature into his role on his own schedule.  Right now, he doesn’t have an inflated ego; he’s just all business and believes his role is to help the team win basketball games.  I don’t mind his serious nature if he feels he needs to be serious to stay focused and do his job.  Gary Neal has the same quiet confidence, but Neal is 27.  These guys were made for Pop’s style of coaching.   

    On the comments about Diaw:  I think he’ll be a good fit with the right attitude that Parker may help nuture.  The disaster would be to have Boris fail to meet expectations like Drew Gooden did a couple of seasons ago, mostly because of a callous attitude.  RJ tried, but he just couldn’t ever get his game to match the production of his previous seasons. 

  • Tim in Surrey

    If there’s one player I’d rather not see anywhere near a pizza, it’s Boris.

  • theghostofjh

    Sound points about Blair.

  • theghostofjh

    ” ……. provided those young players could play the right way.”Some people believe that Pop’s exacting standards for young players is just a bit over-the-top.

  • http://radsci.uthscsa.edu/index.php/User:Nima Nima K.

    Haha. That’s what I was thinking!

  • DorieStreet

    Read an opinion of Kawhi’s season so far: http://www.nba.com/rookie-ladder/
    To the team scout(s) that discovered Leonard and touted him to the front office – great work.