Apr 6, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) takes a shot over New Orleans Hornets forward Gustavo Ayon (15) during the second half at the AT

Recapping with the Hornets: Passing, passing, more passing

The Spurs began their onslaught, early. About 16 seconds into the game to be exact.

Tony Parker benefited from a DeJuan Blair assist and the subsequent two points proved to be a common theme for the Spurs tonight.

Blair joined in the act two minutes later on yet another patented reverse layup off a Danny Green assist.

Chris Kaman — who scored eight points on 3-of-8 shooting — was fortunate enough to be added to the growing amount of Kawhi Leonard posters with 5:35 to play in the first quarter.

Mar 12, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots against the Washington Wizards during the first half at the AT

The play began with Leonard on the left wing, stationary with the basketball. Blair set a pindown screen for Parker near the top of the key, which Parker used to curl off towards the rim. Leonard found Parker off the screen, just as planned, and Parker proceeded to get into the teeth of the Hornets 18th-ranked defense. His foray to the rim drew Trevor Ariza, Grevis Vasquez, who was already defending Parker on the play, and Kaman. After the pass, Kawhi rotated to the corner just in case Parker wanted to drive-and-kick to the corner for an uncontested 3-pointer. Well that’s exactly what happened except that the Hornets rotations were so out of wack that, not only was the corner 3-pointer available, Leonard saw a clear angle towards the rim.

His defender, Ariza, tried desperately to get back but he was already to deep into the paint to give any semblance of defensive help. Tim Duncan’s man, Gustavo Ayon, rotated over to Leonard. At 6’10”, though, Ayon really wasn’t going to impede Leonard in any way.

The savvy rookie made a quick jab towards the interior of the court and Ayon, who was already at a disadvantage defensively, was ambling unforgivingly in the wrong decision. Kaman, guarding Blair in the low block, made an ill-fated last-ditch effort at preventing the easy two points but he was too late. Kawhi smash!

Although Leonard had another low-key performance — six points, four rebounds in 21:15 — I thoroughly enjoyed watching that play 10 times.

At the end of the first quarter, the Spurs were up 10 points and seven Spurs were already in the score books. The Spurs had assisted on 10 of their first 15 shots from the field. Everything was working and the only player keeping the Hornets within striking distance was the 23-year-old shooting guard out of Indiana, Eric Gordon.

Apr 6, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; New Orleans Hornets guard Eric Gordon (top) drives between San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw (33) and Matt Bonner (behind) during the first half at the AT

Gordon accounted for 15 of the Hornets 24 first quarter points, on 5-of-9 shots the field. Other than the relief of not having to play the Spurs anymore this year, Gordon’s ability to create for himself was just about the most positive thing to take away for an inferior Hornets team.

Gordon finished with 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting. And this was only his second game back from a knee injury that sideline him for 47 consecutive games.

The second quarter played out the same way — tremendous ball movement from the Spurs and the brilliance of one, Gordon. At the end of the half, the Spurs jumped out to a 72-45 lead. Their 72 first half points represents a new season high.

A couple of impressive stats to show the Spurs’ first half dominance: 11 Spurs scored in the first half. San Antonio outscored the Hornets in the paint, 40-20. They also doubled the Hornets rebounding total with 24 rebounds. Duncan and Manu Ginobili combined for 10-of-11 shooting.

I don’t want to spoil the second half for you, but I am anyway and I’ll keep it concise. The Spurs, behind their elite bench, imposed their will on the Hornets. They looked a little lackadaisical in the fourth quarter, defensively, but the lead was already large enough that it didn’t even matter.

Backcourt mates Gary Neal and Mills combined for 27 points, eight assists, three 3-pointers on 12-of-21 shooting.

After the Indiana Pacers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Spurs retained possession of the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference via head-to-head tiebreaker.

And before I get to the game notes, I’ll talk about the passing. Wow. That’s all I can say. I had a tough time tweeting with my usual regularity because I didn’t want to miss any single possession. The Spurs are that special offensively.

Like really, Manu? Are you flipping serious? His ridiculous bullet pass to Mills was absolutely awe-inspiring (still in awe, actually). After receiving the outlet from Stephen Jackson, Manu instantaneously made the correct decision.

Sorry 29 other NBA teams, but good luck stopping that.

Game notes.
The newly minted No. 1 seed in the Western Conference has a rough road ahead of them; they have five games in seven nights … which includes two back-to-backs, one against the Utah Jazz (home and away) and the other against the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies, third and fifth seeded respectively … The Spurs tied their season-high of 31 assists, set this week against the Cleveland Cavaliers … The Spurs 128 point outburst and 60.7 field goal percentage are also season highs … New Orleans couldn’t muster anything of significance tonight; only 11 of their 36 shots (30.6 percent) were assisted … Those 11 assists represent a season best for the Spurs defense … San Antonio grabbed more offensive rebounds (11-8) for the sixth straight game … Every active Spur scored tonight … The Spurs bench scored 82 points and a plus-95 … Six Spurs were in double-figures … Although the Spurs had a season-high 31 assists, no Spur dished out more than six assists … The Hornets reached the free throw line 35 times; they converted 26 (74.3 percent) … The Spurs next game is Sunday against the Jazz at 6:00 CST …

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Tags: Chris Kaman DeJuan Blair Eric Gordon Gary Neal Grevis Vasquez Gustavo Ayon Kawhi Leonard Manu Ginobili New Orleans Hornets Patrick Mills San Antonio Spurs Stephen Jackson Tim Duncan Tony Parker Trevor Ariza

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