Meet your new Spurs, ladies and gentleman.
They no longer play at the tedious, dawdling pace — to some, but I am not one of those people — that lulled offenses to sleep and, subsequently, fans everywhere.
Instead, they have transitioned to an offensive juggernaut, armed with 11 guys that are decidedly above-average. The Spurs, currently on a league leading eight-game winning streak, have outscored their opponents by 13.6 points per game.
Cleveland was just another bump in an easy path for the incredibly efficient Spurs. The Spurs caught Cleveland at the right time. They are 1-12 in their last 13 games and they haven’t been able to regain the quality of basketball that netted them some national notoriety and left them a couple games out of the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Initially, though, it seemed like Cleveland was playing with enough energy to supersede their obviously inferior depth and skill. After Antawn Jamison nailed a 3-pointer, off a Kyrie Irving assist, that knotted the game up at 16-16, the Cavs were never within shouting distance. The Spurs closed on a decisive 16-2 run. In that span, Cleveland went 1-for-6 and committed three turnovers.
Former Cavalier, Spurs swingman Danny Green accounted for two 3-pointers in the first quarter. In his abbreviated 20 game stint with Cleveland, he averaged 5.8 minutes per game, two points, 0.9 rebounds and a 38.5 shooting percentage.
Green proceeded to drill two more 3-pointers in the second quarter. In 25:49 of action — which led the team — Green scored 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-6 behind the arc and two steals.
Not only is he firmly entrenched as the Spurs starting 2 guard for the foreseeable future, but Green also enjoyed beating his former team.
“It does mean a little something to me because this was my first team,” Green said. “It’s nice, but that’s not the important thing for me. It’s more important that we continue to get better. We want to keep winning going into the playoffs.”
The consensus candidate for the MVP of the Spurs, Tony Parker, didn’t foresee Green’s success.
“We had no expectations for him at the beginning of the season,” Parker said. “He’s playing great in our system. He’s knocking down shots and playing great defense. Sometimes I can relax a little when he takes over at point guard. I like Danny.”
Parker, who played a season low 22 minutes and 40 seconds if you aren’t counting when he exited early on Mar. 21 against the Minnesota Timberwolves (which I’m not), scored 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting while also adding five assists and three rebounds.
But, wow. His play with about 4:23 left in the first quarter was simply incredible. I’ve watched it seven times and I’m still irrationally giddy.
On a simple Parker-Duncan pick-and-roll, with Irving and Samardo Samuels defending, Parker quickly came off the screen with Irving closely behind. Samuels, though, made the curious decision to play Duncan — or intentionally give up the easy two points, whatever — leaving Parker, one of the fastest players in the game and an adept finisher at the rim, open for a layup.
Lester Hudson (who?) was late on helping from the weakside corner and couldn’t get to Parker in time. Parker finished the left-handed layup with an inkling of contact but that was after he brilliantly set up his shot with a behind-the-back play that would make Manu Ginobili proud. It seemed to stifle Alonzo Gee, situated in the strongside corner, and prevented him from leaving Stephen Jackson in the corner. Or, more realistically, Hudson just was late on his rotation. But, wow. That was fun.
The second quarter, uneventfully, increased the Spurs lead to 19. The quarter began with a couple of jumpers from Parker and Duncan and, eventually, incorporated everyone from Duncan to Patrick Mills.
The new Austalian point guard, formerly of the Portland Trail Blazers, was just getting started though. He knocked down an open 3-pointer in the second quarter which couldn’t possibly have meant anything more, right?
Wrong. The second half was dominated by the diminutive six-foot guard, who scored 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Among his four 3-pointers was a rather uneventful two points, but still fun nonetheless.
I don’t remember who was guarding him on this play (sorry) but Mills essentially created his own offense, operating outside of the comfy confines of the Spurs offense, and converted a midrange jumper that put the Spurs up 125-88. I was especially impressed because I might’ve underestimated his ability to create his own points.
I knew coming in that he was far from a passing point guard. I guess I expected him to take a lot of bad shots but that has not been the case. He seems to have the ability to knock down the corner 3-pointer — which is great considering it’s a staple of our offense — and, other than a couple of midrange jumpers, hasn’t strayed too much from the gameplan.
Other than that, nothing really happened. The lead changed four times including three ties and finished in only one hour and 58 minutes. Mercifully. Six Spurs scored in double-figures and the Spurs held a huge advantage on the boards (46-27).
Kyrie Irving (shoulder) managed to play tonight but didn’t play well at all. He scored 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting while adding five assists … The Cavaliers grabbed a season low 27 rebounds … Forward Alonzo Gee led the team with five boards … Manu Ginobili led the team with a plus-20 despite only playing 18:46 … Manu finished with a balanced line of seven points, six rebounds, six assists and one 3-pointer … Matt Bonner only took one shot in 10:01 … Boris Diaw, who played 24 minutes and 33 seconds, seems to be the culprit for Bonner’s slow descent out of the rotation … San Antonio assisted on 31 of their 48 shots (64.6 assist percentage) … It was their second game with 30-plus assists, there other was on Mar. 12 in a 15-point victory over the Washington Wizards … The Spurs will take on the Boston Celtics tommorow in the second game of a back-to-back at 6:30 central time …