Game Recap: No Duncan, No Neal, No Tiago … No Problem


— It was a little surprising to see Pop start the game with Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair. As awkward as a defensive tandem can be, it seemed to work especially offensively. In eight minutes, Bonner was working on a solid game. He connected on two 3-pointers and 3-of-5 overall for a total of eight points. Bonner finished the game with 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting.

— Philadelphia is No. 1 in the NBA with 10.8 turnovers per game. The Spurs flustered them all night and forced them into 14 turnovers. The Spurs converted those turnovers into 19 points. Elton Brand and Evan Turner, themselves, combined for nine. Not exactly an efficient night for Philly. This was just the ninth time all year they totaled 14-plus turnovers.

— The Sixers developed some nice rhythm late in the first quarter and carried that into the second quarter. At one point, Philadelphia was on a 14-0 run while the Spurs fumbled away possession six times in that span. After three consecutive possessions that ended in turnovers, Stephen Jackson broke the ice by drawing a foul on Jrue Holiday. He mercifully ended the run after making 1-of-2 from the line.

Mar 25, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) shoots against Philadelphia 76ers center Nikola Vucevic (8) and forward Sam Young (7) during the second quarter at the AT

— Manu Ginobili was 5-of-8 from inside the 3-point line and 0-for-5 behind the arc. Manu was providing his usual dosage of energy, help defense, brilliant pick-and-roll decisions and creating turnovers. He totaled 11 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.

— While Manu isn’t scoring at the same efficiency that we’re accustomed to, he has made an impact in every game. With the depth we have, Manu doesn’t necessarily need 20-plus every night to secure a victory. His role has changed on this team (for now) and he seems to relish creating havoc and playing intelligent basketball. This role might be even more beneficial because his impact can be measured in more ways than one.

— Who else loved the last play of the second quarter? The Spurs utilized the Manu-Diaw pick-and-roll in an unconventional part of the court. Given the distance between Manu and the rim, Spencer Hawes didn’t hedge, trap or switch the screen. Instead he maintained his ground about 17-feet away from the basket, ready at a moment’s notice to help Lou Williams. Well, he was there to help. But Manu swerved and actually turned Hawes head on route to a very satisfying dunk that put the Spurs up three, 52-49, with 8.9 seconds left.

— Kawhi Leonard posted his fourth double-double of his career — 11 points and 10 rebounds — and led the team with 32:23 of action. Pop has been leaning heavily on the 20-year-old rookie and, considering his penchant for not playing rookies significant minutes, that is especially impressive. I can’t tell you enough how much I genuinely appreciate his defense, energy, cutting ability and improving perimeter game. Plus, who’s better at following his own shot with multiple offensive rebounds than Kawhi? He has a knack for the ball.

— Andre Iguodala’s absence was quite fortuitous, right? The Sixers definitely could’ve used his elite defense and energy. Tonight was the first start he’s missed all year. Iguodala has proven to be quite durable in his eight year career. He averages 2.75 missed games per year.

— The Spurs did a good job limiting leading-scorer Lou Williams to nine points on 4-of-14 shooting in 28:19. Williams is usually a capable 3-point shooter but he went 0-for-3 behind the arc.

— Yeah, Tony Parker seems really hurt. Only 21 points and seven assists? Come on, TP.

— Justin Dentmon’s shaky shot selection seems to frustrate Pop. He didn’t seemed too happy after a couple of ill-advised midrange jumpers. Dentmon finished with two points on 1-of-4 shooting in 12:08.

— After toiling through a mini-drought from 3-point land, Danny Green connected on 3-of-5 for a total of 10 points.

Mar 25, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward DeJuan Blair (45) goes up for a dunk against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second quarter at the AT

— I have no idea why I took so long to mention Blair’s solid performance. DeJuan struggled defensively but he was more than strong enough offensively. His game seamlessly complements Manu’s pick-and-roll passing ability and it showed. He scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds. Tony isn’t known for his passing but he, too, made a couple of nifty pass to a rolling Blair. The Sixers No. 1 defense didn’t have answers for the Spurs pick-and-roll. I mentally counted a couple of times where Brand was unsure of whether he should hedge and disrupt the ball handler or whether to pick up Blair on his cut to the hoop. He was usually wrong.

— Jackson struggled tonight in what should be considered his worst as a Spur (second tenure). He shot 2-for-6 from the field and was responsible for five turnovers.

— I cannot wait to see the Spurs fully healthy. I want to see how well we play (and I’ll be expecting a lot from them) when Patrick Mills joins the team and when Tiago, Gary, Manu, Tony and Tim finally get healthy and when Jackson and Boris Diaw are comfortable in the system. It’d be nice to see what we have before the playoffs start next month (can you believe it’s already here?).

— The victory was definitely more satisfying than usual. I was at the game with a friend of mine who is a 76ers fan (he’s from Philly so cut him some slack). I managed to win every bet and enjoyed excessively yelling into his eardrums after every beautiful display of ball movement. Well done, Spurs.

— The Spurs next game will be Tuesday at Phoenix. Game time is 9:00 CST.

It was definitely nice to sweep the back-to-back-to-back but, damn, do they take a toil on your mental psyche. I’m ready for a much deserved one day hiatus, aren’t you?