For the second time, the San Antonio Spurs rolled with a B-level squad, and they played another productive game.
Part of San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s strategy, for years, surrounded resting his veterans, keeping them fresh for the end of the season and the playoffs. That went for Tim Duncan in his later years, while Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili remain part of this process.
For Saturday night’s game vs. the Phoenix Suns, the latter of a back-to-back, Popovich used this strategy, resting Ginobili, Parker and Pau Gasol. Danny Green injured his groin against the Boston Celtics, and didn’t play in Phoenix. Couple that with Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Anderson’s respective rehab, and it provided a B-level squad for the second time this season.
LaMarcus Aldridge kept his starting spot and played a team-high 36 minutes. Outside of him, the lineup featured players that don’t usually start: Rudy Gay (subbing for the injured Anderson), Dejounte Murray, Brandon Paul and Bryn Forbes. This group combined for 45 points, 28 rebounds and 9 assists. All of them played at least 27 minutes.
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It was the latest cast of next man up, at least in the starting lineup. Murray did this near the start of the season. Forbes has done this throughout the Spurs’ first quarter of the season. Paul showed flashes and will have obstacles before getting consistent playing time, but provided enough to show what he can do if a bigger role arises.
On top of this, sixth man Patty Mills delivered a season-high 20 points. It highlighted his quietly great December, now shooting 54.5 percent through the first third of the month for 11.8 points.
This lower level squad, by far, didn’t face one of the league’s best teams but played beyond their means and stepped up. No one had a “bad” game, if you look at the stat sheet. Sure, Forbes only shot 1-for-6 from 3-point range but it was his second double-digit performance of the month. Count that he shot 8-for-11 in the previous two games, including 7-for-8 from long range.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 10, 2017
By Tuesday, the Spurs should have their regulars back, along with the ace. When in doubt, though, there are players to rely on, whether it’s game-breaking situations or the next man up. That will inspire confidence for the rest of the season, as long as wins, like Saturday night’s, continue.