Long drive back from the game. Ended up being a great one to go to. Got to sit with the bums - cheerful crowd even though one spoiler showed up in a miami 6 jersey. the real bums (season ticket holders all) teased him until he could be heard in other sections - "I'm not overrated!" For my trite observations and lazy analysis, press A to jump.
This preseason game ended up being better than your average one mainly thanks to the effort level on both sides. You expect and want a lot of effort from your roster hopefuls, but when it comes to your starters you mostly just hope they don't get hurt.
While we managed to avoid a repeat of an earlier miami preseason game (where 3 players inc. D. Wade were injured) it seemed like the players couldn't help but get caught up in the competition and dare I say looked like they were trying out there.
A coasting Bosh was the exception. When he and Lebron were in, he got one touch for every five Lebron got. And while Bosh's moves were bland and reserved, Lebron went to work right away with driving jumpers followed by effective, if ugly, driving layups of the put-your-head-down-and-charge-hey-refs-call-something variety. The spurs switched a bunch with him, and he took advantage of the matchups offered by bullying Manu and Hill in the post and taking Anderson on the court to try and get fouled. He finished 3-8 but 4-4 free throws from shooting fouls and only one TO despite running almost every play.
Of course Lebron wasn't the only starter who couldn't help but ball. Dejuan Blair showed off his epic rebounding talents and made a number of twisting, hanging, improbable layups. Manu had an off shooting night but was passing extremely well and defending with intensity. Tony looked rusty but played well when he was in (like Manu, played vs. the Heat starters for most of the 1st and a few token stints later).
Those were the only guys for whom effort translated into quality play, though. Juwan Howard was chippy and confrontational, the best of a stinky platoon of Miami bigs (including eurostiff Shavlik Randolf and Texas cautionary tale Dexter Pittman) who couldn't do much more than turn it over and foul to prevent layups. Twice-named Patrick Beverley looked like a passable backup's backup when Lebron and Lebosh were in but miserable the rest of the time. Kenny Hasbrouck Hasbricked 13 of his 15 shots, Mason Jr. was a turnover machine (imagine that!) and Dexter Pittman dribbled it off his foot.
So while the Miami hopefuls were inept, the Spurs had some bright spots of competence out there. Curtis Jerrells looked great and he made it look like he played with these guys all the time. Despite the TOs (many of which were trying to put together fast breaks with un-ready teammates) he had a steady hand on the offense. Temple also looked really good and was a factor in late action.
With Anderson and Gary Neal, however, it's more of a mixed bag. Neal took 7 shots and maybe 4 of em were good looks. I hope his confidence doesn't keep him from seeing where his spots are in the Spurs offense. Anderson went from moments of impressive athleticism to mental mistakes and problems on the defensive end, only to impress you with his strength and speed again. Gee unfortunately looked plain lost, and while it's hard to say much about him (8 mins) or Bobby Simmons (6 min) they didn't seem to be doing much in their time.
Gist and Cousin (apparently pronounced COO-saan) looked like familiar not-quite-ready archetypes - Gist with his hustle and energy but not the results, and Cousin with size but not the skills or polished game yet. Along with DNP-CD Kirk Penney you have to think they're one foot out the door.
In a way this was a night of two games, one with the big name talent (and mixed levels of effort) and a chippy, miss-filled second half of players fighting for roster spots and some attention for what they can offer the NBA. The Heat won the first half, but the Spurs did well to fight off an effective James and hot-shooting James Jones and keep the margin close. In the contest between B teams the Spurs won handily and proved they have a more game-ready group of candidates for the last few roster spots. And isn't that what these preseason games are about?