Here are three salient things I took away from yesterday’s game against the Denver Nuggets:
DeJuan Blair had another strong game:
Although Blair’s plus-three was the lowest of the Spurs starters, I don’t think that accurately reflects his impact on the game. Prior to Feb. 18, Blair was averaging 5.8 points and 4.6 rebounds while only shooting .577 from the rim (.624 league average). Without Tiago Splitter (calf strain), Blair has benefited more than any other Spur because of the consistent dose of minutes. As a result, we’ve seen the old Blair and he’s rebounding with a tenacity that we haven’t seen from this year.
Still, Spurs fans need to approach last night’s 28-12 line with a dose of rationale. Blair’s deficiencies have been well documented and just because he can still play successfully (when he plays within himself) doesn’t mean his turnovers, weight and defense should be completely disregarded. Pop has purposefully paired Blair with Tim Duncan in most lineups and Timmy’s help defense and defensive intellect has allowed Blair to accumulate rebounds and run the floor. He’s still a flawed basketball player and we need to keep this in mind before going completely overboard.
The offense under Tony Parker is much more efficient than without him (obviously):
The offense just runs smoother with TP at the helm. Without him, the Spurs look a team unsure of themselves. Now that he has advanced into a complete point guard, the defense has a lot of things to worry about. The Spurs offense is already difficult to stop with their combination of ball movement, screens and floor spacing but now that Parker is capable of knocking down the mid range jumper, getting to the rim (5.3 attempts per 40 minutes) and making the correct pass to the open man, the Spurs offense has become a different beast to handle. For empirical evidence, look no further than the Spurs rotation. Of the top 20 extensively used lineups this year, only three have a positive plus/minus rating without Parker.
An overall balanced performance:
Well, it looks like resting TP and Timmy against Portland paid off. The game never went out of hand and it seemed like the Spurs were simply toying with their depleted opposition, who were without Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson and Nene. No Spur starter scored under 16 points and Matt Bonner pitched in for 12 points on 4-8 shooting. Richard Jefferson had his first solid game in a while with 17 points, eight rebounds and five three-pointers.
Pop’s decision to manufacture rest for his players whenever necessary is a testament to his overall brilliance as a coach. I can’t stress enough how unique (and intelligent) resting two of his best players during an 11 game winning streak was. Not only does that show the security he has in his job, but it shows his ability to plan ahead, maximize rest, balance much-needed experience for the younger players and his confidence in his depth.
No other coach in the NBA has the same intuition and realizes that sacrificing one game can lead to the potential of winning two or three games that would’ve been inconceivable because players were worn out. With that mentality, it’s not surprising that Pop has turned this Spurs team into a 24-10 juggernaut. There is only one Coach Pop. I’m just glad he’s on our team.