A twenty-four point win, and yet it wasn't that close. Game number seven of the famed RRT took the Spurs to the capital city of the U.S., a location where they had won with relative ease the previous four seasons. Though three of those visits had also been RRT stops, this game smelled of a potential "scheduled loss", an expectation borne from exhaustion that every NBA team has to endure on occasion. After Friday's loss to the Sixers, an all-road FOGAFINI awaited as another occasion to lose to a lesser opponent, but this group of professionals decided no such thing would take place. They are now 5-2 on the trip with two games remaining. With all the games and recaps of late, how in the world can I gain your limited attention to read about a game that felt decided less than two minutes into the 2nd quarter?
A game such as this deserves more than a dry recap. Problem is, I do dry well. It's in my teutonic blood lines. Colorful and creative is quite the stretch. Even as this game remained comfortably out of hand in the Spurs' favor, a time to think of oh-so-clever puns or revealing anecdotes, I instead found myself thinking about the visit to Verizon Center next season. You know, perhaps when the Spurs play the day after President Obama welcomes them to the White House to acknowledge the reigning NBA champions. I'm guessing that means next season's game might not be a back-to-back.
This game presented Pop with a grand opportunity to rest the Big-3 and yet it all went to waste. How could be play these guys 39 minutes?! What's that you say? That was the combined playing time total for our stars? Well, nicely done Mr. Popovich. You did so well in your strategizing that you left me with only Hilton Armstrong to complain about. And yes, very weak move on his part to end the game. Trust that he will never wear the black and silver, even once he's well over thirty.
Spurs won the 1st quarter 37-18, then increased the lead with a 35-27 second. Tony was the leading scorer with 16 points, a total created largely from a personal 10-0 run that gave the Spurs an early 14 point lead that would only continue to grow. The Wizards appeared to be a confident bunch that would attempt to attack the Spurs with one-on-one basketball in the post. Once it was clear that San Antonio was not only better but also playing as such, Washington showed their youth which played right into the Spurs' game. A wicked early blowout took much focus away from Pop's decision to break his starting lineup streak for the first time all season. For 53 games, of which 44 ended victorious, the Spurs had one starting lineup, yet on this night it was decided, perhaps for the sake of understandable rest, to bench Manu for Hill. I happen to like that Pop did this and would not have blamed him had he not even dressed Manu. I could see such a tactic used later in the season for Duncan. I worried how much the easy missed shots the night before were a result of tired bodies and/or brains, versus it just being a random night of statistical regression. I wondered if Pop would sit Manu and/or Timmy if the Spurs had managed to defeat Philly. Obviously it all worked out, big time, and his key players played limutes anyway. Perhaps the never-to-be-discussed truth is that Pop got tired of media people lazily stating every game how San Antonio had the same starting lineup all season, then comparing that to the lineups of their opponent for the evening. Now they can't say that, or ask how wonderful it is to play the same lineup every night. I like this idea enough to hope that it's true.
Spurs out-shot Wizards 63% - 43% in the first half. Tony, Hill and RJ all had double figure scoring totals. Ten different Spurs had at least one made FG. Timmy had two points in seven minutes while the Spurs led by 27 points. Spurs scored a season high 72 first half points, besting their 69 scored in the first match-up with the Knicks. This point total was also more than the total game points scored the previous night, a noteworthy historical accomplishment.
The one negative was the Spurs had given up 9 offensive rebounds and allowed 12 FT attempts, one more than shot by San Antonio. Aha! Proof, obviously, that the Wizards were the more aggressive team this half. I can imagine Pop, twenty-seven point lead in hand, addressing his team at the half: These are the mistakes that create losing streaks! Is it asking too much to get a rebound? And where can a man get a decent glass of wine in this town without having to dine with a lobbyist?
Short and sweet. More domination by the Spurs, mostly from the bench, during the third. There was even a Quinn sighting. The high point was late in the quarter, when Blair wowed the crowd with two made bank shots sandwiched around a long jumper from Bonner. The latter of Blair's points pushed the lead to 41 points. In an NBA game. On the road. The mini crossover move that preceeded the shot exposed in full what I thought I'd been hearing all evening: there were a healthy number of Spurs fans in the arena, all of whom got to see live how the Beast continues to expand his offensive repertoire. This offensive aggression is going to pay huge dividends come playoff time.
As for the final quarter? Eh. I wanted to win by 30+. I'd also like Novak to make his threes, since defense is clearly not why he's on the roster. And I still think Armstrong was a doofus for his fake hustle.
- Spurs' two highest scoring first halves this season have been on the road.
- Of Spurs' six highest scoring regulation games this season, half were on the road.
- Spurs improved to a league best 20-7 on the road.
- Now 45-9, Spurs have played an equal number of home and road games (27).
Three Star Club
3 -- G. Hill - 18-PTS 3-REB 3-AST 2-STL 1-BS: in thirty-two minutes. One night after making zero FG, he shot 4/5 on threes and responded as a legit threat on offense should, despite the curve-ball of being pushed into the starting lineup.
2 -- D. Blair - 13-PTS 12-REB 3-AST 1-STL 2-BS: I can't get enough of seeing Beast play. I always want more for him; more minutes, rebounds, points and hustle plays. Stay aggressive and keep developing post shots and counter-moves.
1 -- T. Parker - 18-PTS 1-REB 8-AST 3-STL: in nineteen minutes. A regular in this club, and playing like a man who should continuously be mentioned as an All Start snub. He's got game and he's leading the team by controlling the floor.
New Jersey Nets. Spurs lost there last season on a THIGAFINI, this time they'll be playing in the maximum allowed fifth game in seven nights. Get some rest, guys. Avery will be waiting for his crack at Pop since 2008.