Another game, another loss. However, there was a silver lining in today's loss: the major role players continued their improvement. I know I'm usually the pessimistic one around here, but for several different reasons (noted after the jump), I feel better about the Spurs' play of late.
As much as I hate to admit it, the Nuggets are a really good team this year. They are efficient on the offensive end and have stepped up the defense this season. Yes, Anthony sat out the game, but he's been hurt enough this year that the rest of the team has learned how to play when he's not on the floor. And no matter how good of a player Melo is, Billups is the straw that stirs the drink.
Rather than give a play-by-play account, I'm going to go with stats and my impressions.
- The game was medium paced, but very sloppy. Both teams turned the ball over too many times. However, the Spurs took advantage, scoring 23 points off of Denver's turnovers.
- The Spurs' also did a good job of being aggressive driving to the hoop, outscoring the Nuggets 40-26 in the paint.
- The Nuggets got to the line 25 times; the Spurs 21. The Spurs held the Nuggets under their season average of 32 FTAs per game, although much of that could be attributed to Melo sitting.
- For a while, the Spurs were holding their own in the battle of the boards, but Denver ended up owning us with a 41-33 advantage.
- The play at the end of the 2nd and 3rd quarters was awful. We were outscored 11-0 in the last 2:47 of the 2nd quarter and 6-0 in the last 2:10 of the 3rd quarter. You are not going to win games allowing those types of runs. This has been an issue for a while now and desperately needs to be fixed.
- The fouls called were often of the ticky tack variety, yet the zebras let the game reach very physical levels on both sides. Manu especially got extremely frustrated by the lack of calls during his forays into the lane, and therefore had a classic Good Manu/Bad Manu game. Would it hurt the refs to occasionally give us some home cooking (or just call the game correctly)?
But the stat of the game was shooting percentage. The Spurs shot 50% from 2-pt land; the Nuggets 49%. Pretty even, right? Wrong. The Nuggets were on fire from 3-pt land, a stellar 9-12 for 75%. The Spurs' shooting woes moved to beyond the 3-pt arc, where we shot an ice-cold 17.6%. We couldn't hit the broad side of a barn from 3-pt land, but still felt the need to jack up 17 of those puppies (yes, I'm referring to you, Roger). This stat is the story of the game. We missed too many open threes, especially those of the corner pocket variety. The Spurs' perimeter defense seemed to get caught in switches all game long, allowing the good ball movement from Denver to result in open threes for them.
Despite the loss, I was pleased with the effort. Although the perimeter defense broke down, the interior defense was great, with a lot of steals coming in the lane. There seemed to be a more aggressive attitude throughout the game, with the intensity a step up from previous efforts. The 3-ball and Martin are what killed us in the game. Martin had one of his best games of the season, but I don't have any issues with Pop's defensive philosophy. Unlike Dice, Lips' strong point isn't the 18 foot jumper. Although it was falling for him today, but you have to pick your poison on the defensive end, and K-Mart doesn't have a great jump shot.
Stars of the Game
- George Hill - Wow. I like Cubits' game, but today he was just balling. His improvement in running the offense today was quite apparent (although there is still room for more). He was extremely aggressive in going to the hoop, finishing quite well. And maybe it's just me, but it seemed like he was everywhere on the defensive end, diving for loose balls and playing physical D on the Denver guards.
- Antonio McDyess - Praise the FSM; I think Manu and Dice have finally clicked. Dice caught several classic Manu passes on cuts to the basket, resulting in baskets and/or fouls. He also was very confident shooting his pretty, pretty jumper today.
- Richard Jefferson - Even though RJ got some cheap fouls and the stats don't look great, he played a good game. He was aggressive on the offensive end and physical on the defensive end. For once, Rage wasn't standing around waiting for someone else to initiate the action. He had several nice drives to the hole and also tried to run when the opportunity presented itself. Maybe I'm just being hopeful, but the light might have finally turned on.
I usually don't enjoy national TV announcers since they spend too much time talking about miscellaneous crap and not the game - that should be reserved for PtR game threads. However, we had the pleasure of Hubie Brown calling today's game. I love his color commentary. Hubie absolutely loves "Mano", showing he has good BBIQ. Plus, we then get to hear gems like "Timmeh's ath-u-letic talent". He makes me smile, and when you watch a game like this, smiling is hugely underrated.