As was the case on Friday against the Pistons, the Spurs started off sluggish, allowing 35 points to the Nets in only the first quarter. Brook Lopez got off to a hot start against the Spurs, who were without Tim Duncan again, scoring 14 points against the Spurs weakened post defense. Joe Johnson was also a big part of the Nets’ initial surge, scoring 11 points in the 1st half, as the Nets led 57-51 at the half.
However, the tides turned in the second half, as the Spurs defense started to turn up. After allowing 30+ points to their opponent in past 4 out of six quarters, the Spurs finally started to figure out defense without Duncan, as they allowed totals of 14 and 15 points to the Nets in the third and fourth quarters. Brook Lopez had only 4 points in the second half, after being the first option offensively for Brooklyn in the first half.
And, just as the Spurs defense went up, so did their offense as the Spurs outscored the Nets 60-29 in the second half. Tony Parker was again the man offensively for the Spurs, just missing out on his third straight 30 point game with a line of 29 points, 11 assists, and 0 turnovers. Parker went 5-6 in the third quarter, leading the Spurs to a ten point lead into the fourth.
From there the Spurs kicked it into overdrive, as they went off for a Parker-led 10-0 run, putting the game out of reach for good. The Spurs are now 2-1 on their 9 game Rodeo Road Trip. The next game is tomorrow, February 11, against the Chicago Bulls, at 8:00 PM ET.
- Holy crap, Tony Parker is good. In another game without both Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, Parker stepped up again, as he was one point away from his third straight 30 point game. Parker has always been good offensively, usually using his speed to blast by opponents and get to the rim. At 31, his speed has faded a little bit, but he still gets to the lane exceptionally well. But, the reason he is playing at such an elite opportunity is because of a couple things that Rob Mahoney pointed out in much greater detail in this Sports Illustrated piece. His shot selection, and his midrange game have flourished over the past two years, and his play has gotten so much better because of that. It’s amazing to think that just a few years ago, many Spurs fans, and even the Spurs’ management was willing to trade him for younger assets. Now, he’s at the top of his game. In fact, last year, at about this time, Parker emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate, and ultimately finished 5th among voting, even though a lot of experts had him pegged third after LeBron James and Kevin Durant. It will be interesting to see how that goes for him this year as the season moves forward. As long as Duncan and Ginobili out, I don’t see Parker’s playing level going down at all. And even when they return, they are unselfish enough to let Parker ride out his hot streak.
- Tiago Splitter was interesting to watch in this game. He started off extremely aggressive on the offensive end, as he took the first few shots for the Spurs on a flurry of nice post moves. However, he was still hitting shots at his usual Tiago rate, missing a ton of bunnies at the rim, all of those shots coming in the paint. He totaled 13 points on the night on 4-10 shooting, and 5-9 from the FT line. But, what was much more interesting to me from Tiago, was his work on defense. After allowing the Nets to go off in the first half, Splitter (and a collection of other various player), turned up the heat on in the post in the second half. Whenever there was a post up, Tiago was there playing solid defense, and walling up his man (as opposed to jump and try and block the shot, which leads to more fouls committed), not letting them score. As Duncan is out for a while, this was very encouraging to see, as it was shown that the Spurs have the capability to shut down an offensively gifted big man (Lopez) in his absence.
- I just wanted to take this time to note that something truly historic happened for the Spurs on Sunday. Gary Neal finally passed on a pick-and-roll, which virtually never happens. Coincidentally, when Gary Neal passed it, it led to a DeJuan Blair dunk. This might be something that Neal should try again. His role on offense is a shooter, but the problem is, Neal is averaging career lows shooting wise. He is shooting 40.8% from the floor, and 35.2% from beyond the arc, both of which are below league average. Today provided hope and inspiration for any Spurs fan (including me) that thought Neal would never change from his forever-chucking ways, and wanted him to be traded. There is a small, (READ: VERY, VERY, VERY SMALL) sliver of potential for him to learn to pass on a pick-and-roll, or to skip pass the ball to an open teammate on the perimeter. Until he learns to do this consistently though, many will call for him to sit, or to be moved before the deadline.