So we begin …
With a win!
The banner drop and intro was surprisingly exciting. Perhaps because I’ve been so involved with Coker Chronicles and El Convo that I’ve not missed the Spurs as much as some others. Maybe the bad taste that Memphis and Dallas left me with made me less excited for San Antonio basketball. Watching the crowd and hype at the AT&T Center made me wish I bought tickets after all.
We started well. Timmy drained a jumper and Manu dished a crafty pass. Then we started to look old and creaky. Sean Elliott called it just plain sloppy play. A less cynical and jaded Adam would be inclined to agree. These problems weren’t just bad basketball and rustiness, however. It was the same cracks that Memphis revealed in us in the Spring. We were out-hustled and out-sprinted in transition.
Two things stood out in the second quarter: (1) Tiago Splitter got the ball deep in the paint and attempted some kind of finesse contortion that should have been a strong move. He missed. Immediately on the other end Gasol bullied his way to a score from the same spot on the floor. (2) DeJuan Blair sprinted down the middle, received a beautiful pass from Tony Parker, and scored a sweet layup.
Those two have to score like that. They need to get those easy buckets after beating the defense down the floor. Tiago needs to score from inside two feet. The best thing about Tony and Manu being freed to run last season (with George Hill also, who was awesome in the open court) was that it was an easy two (or three) that made up for Timmy being old.
If you ask yourself, How do we win games? What is the answer?
We win by executing our offensive and defensive sets to damn-near perfection. We win by Tim and Manu being crafty and by Tony using his still-blazing speed to get to the bucket. We win by everyone else busting their ass to fill lanes, hit open shots, stay mentally sharp and not mess anything up.
You know that Corporate Knowledge Pop mentions every now and then? You know how we like(d) veterans to fill key roles? That is because those guys know how to not mess things up. “They know what it takes” is the cliche that is used that means “They know what NOT to do.”
So I’m excited about these guys. If the old guys on Boston still have a chance, then so do our three fogies. If Tiago can man the paint like he did tonight (two blocks) and Kawhi Leonard can continue to do good things we have a shot to do a little something.
I mean, if that Dallas Mavericks run can teach us anything, it is that determination and execution can beat superior talent and athleticism. We might need to hold on to that and repeat it often.
Things I liked:
Manu doing ‘em in and dishing to Kawhi with a behind-the-back-no-look pass.
Kawhi hustling and doing a serviceable job on Rudy Gay after getting his pocket picked and dunked on. He looked a little nervous but was very solid.
Tony slicing through the defense.
Ginobili being awesome.
Tiago blocking shots.
Things I didn’t like:
Our love of –and reliance on — the three-point line.
Tiago not scoring from two-feet.
Timmy not able to beat Gasol from the right block.
TJ Ford with back-to-back turnovers.
Getting beat down the floor on defense.
We showed what we can do with healthy guys against a Memphis team that was playing above their ability last year. There was no Contract Year Randolph –which is like a 100-year storm except every 3-5 years in this case. Tiago is coming into his own and will be a defensive force while Kawhi Leonard is Bruce Bowen with an offensive game outside of a three-point shot.
It was the first game after a short pre-season camp against a team that we wanted revenge against. Tiago’s inability to score will bit us in the ass. Kawhi is a rookie and will be exposed against a better team. Ginobili will get hurt, Tony will be unable to carry the load and Timmy will creak along, a shell of his former self when the playoffs come along –if we even get there. Our undoing may not come from a well-drilled, young team in the playoffs, but by crippling back-to-back-to-backs in this regular season.
As always, it is somewhere in the middle.
Go Spurs Go.