This could have been a classic trap game for the Spurs: a SEGABABA on the road, a late flight arrival in NY, and a relatively early start time for the game. Fortunately, the Spurs played classic Spurs' basketball and the Big Three reminded us of why they are the Big Three.
Quarter-by-quarter synopsis, observations, and Stars of the Game after the jump.
Warning: This is perhaps a little longer than the usual Quick Cap, since I actually got to watch the game on TV, and not on a small, ever buffering computer window.
First of all, credit to the Knicks. They played good defense and were aggressive in going to the hoop on the offensive end. Gallinari was smart enough to take advantage of a little home cooking, and Lee turned in his usual double-double, being extremely efficient with his scoring. The Knicks have been playing well at home lately and that continued tonight.
The game started out slow, a low-scoring, defensive affair in the 1st quarter. The Spurs, understandably, didn't seem to have their legs early, allowing the Knicks to shoot 60%, but ended up by a point on the strength of two George Hill scores. Gallinari drew 4 fouls against the Spurs, but fortunately, he was only 1-5 from the line. Much to chagrin of the PtR faithful, this would continue in the 3rd quarter.
The back and forth nature of the game continued throughout the 2nd quarter, with the Spurs jumping out to a 6 point lead several times. The bench played very well, with McDyess, Mason and Hill going a combined 6-9 from the field. All three have seemed to find their shooting stroke again. However, the Spurs could never pull away, and at about the 3:00 mark, Pop inserted the dreaded small ball lineup. The Knicks got within 1 point, but Tony had a couple of his patented drives to the basket in the last minute of the quarter, allowing us to enter halftime with a 3-point lead. It should have been a 5-point lead, but quite possibly the worst turnover of the season (by McDyess) allowed Lee to dribble in a basket at the buzzer.
The 3rd quarter started well. Duncan and Jefferson started off the scoring, including a nice 3 ball by RJ. Tony contributed several long 2-pointers, stretching the lead to 10 points at one time. Then, the Italian happened. It started with a bad foul by RJ on a 3-pointer from Gallinari. Unlike the 1st quarter, Gallinari hit all 3 FTs, reducing the lead to 3 points. Gallinari continued to draw fouls, shooting 7-7 from the line. Only a Manu 3-pointer prevented the Spurs from entering the 4th quarter down by two.
The Knicks had an unbelievable 9-0 FT advantage in the 3rd. The Spurs didn't help the questionable reffing by taking mostly long jumpers, with only one shot attempt (a miss by Blair) in the paint. Fortunately, those shots were falling for the Spurs, or it could have been a very ugly quarter. The Spurs did do a good job with rebounding the ball and limiting the Knicks to one and done.
The 4th quarter is where the Spurs imposed their will. The Knicks, despite some bad turnovers, pulled within one point again. But then, with about 5 minutes left in the game, the Big Three went to work. This was old school, grind the opposition into submission, basketball by our beloved Spurs. The defense stepped it up a notch, Timmeh snatched several key rebounds, and Tony and Manu did their thang on the offensive end. Manu, once again, proved he can hit key shots, and Tony drove to the basket with abandon. Other teams' fans might call it ugly, but to me, it was a thing of beauty.
This game was a continuation of the good team play we saw against Milwaukee. We shot well, played good defense for most of the game, and limited the sloppy play. Our assist-made basket ratio was excellent tonight, representing the much better spacing occurring on the offensive end. We had 13 turnovers, but not many of the mind-numbing variety. And inserting DeBeast into the starting lineup has really increased our offensive boards and limited the opposition's. Optimism is worming itself back into my cranky heart. I can see the return of my beloved brand of Spurs' basketball on the horizon.
Stars of the Game
- Tony Parker - What a difference a couple of games makes. I've been wondering if Tony was either hurt or maybe tired due to summer play, since he seemed to lack his explosiveness and ability to finish. Not any more. Tony kept us ahead in this game at many points, either by driving for his usual layup or hitting that long jumper for 2. Not only was he an efficient 10-17 from the floor, but his forays into the paint were of the exploring the defense and finding the hole variety, not the dribbling around aimlessly type. Welcome back, Tony!
- Manu Ginobili - Manu's shooting percentage may not look great, but boy did he hit some big shots! He played with his old reckless abandon, combining drives to the basket with timely 3-pointers and uncanny passes. He's not quite back, as he was still coming up short with his shots sometimes. But I've seen enough to think that the Manu of old will be with us soon.
- The Bench - The bench continued its stellar play of late, with McDyess, Mason and Hill shooting 12-19 from the floor, a combined +25, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and only 1 turnover. Mason did a good job handling the point duties, when required, and Hill, once again, played some magnificent defense. Dice added 5 boards to his beautiful jumper, and no longer seems lost on the offensive end.