The Spurs managed to secure their second road win in a close contest against the New Orleans Hornets. Coming off two losses, it was evident early on that the Spurs planned to win this game, one way or another. Unfortunately, the Hornets were not about to give this one away without a fight. This is a game that lends itself to a FARS recap, so let's get started.
I thought the fourth quarter played out in such a way that it greatly summarized the first three. Due to time constraints, I'm going to begin FARS with the Spurs down by 1 point, 79 - 80, at the start of the fourth quarter.
4th Quarter 12:00. Spurs 79 Hornets 80
Up to this point, neither team had been able to gain the upper-hand. While both shot incredibly well, neither was able to slow down the other. It was looking like yet another game in which the Spurs had run head-first into a hot shooting home team.
To begin the fourth, Pop went with Gary Neal, Danny Green, Richard Jefferson, Matt Bonner, and Tiago Splitter. A strange lineup, indeed. Pop played many unusual lineups throughout this game. He even dusted off James Anderson for 10 minutes of action; Anderson had not played in the previous three games.
In the first play of the fourth quarter, Danny Green immediately put his basketball acumen on display. He begins with a Belinelli assignment. He pressures Belinelli, who is forced to make a difficult pass to Landry. Due to the pressure, Landry fumbles the ball and recovers further away from the basket than he is comfortable. He kicks it back to Belinelli at the top of the key with 8 seconds on the shot clock. Danny crowds the shooter and forces him to put the ball on the floor. Belinelli drives into Tiago and gets the ball poked away from behind by Green. Green taps the ball down off Belinelli's leg, Spurs ball. Danny "Big" Green +3
4th Quarter 11:20, Spurs 82 Hornets 80
Danny is playing point guard. He gets a very high screen from Tiago and takes a few dribbles to the right elbow, putting pressure on the defense. As Tiago rolls down the middle of the paint, the defense sucks in and Danny skips it across the court to RJ in the left corner, swish for three. Danny Green's court vision is impressive. That was not an easy pass, but more difficult was the recognition of the open man. Danny "Big" Green +5
4th Quarter 11:05. Spurs 84 Hornets 80
Good defense can be contagious. Now, Neal pressures Vasquez in the deep corner. Neal gets a piece of the pass and RJ finds the loose ball as he begins a pseudo-fast-break. I say pseudo because once the ball crosses half-court, it's 4 on 4. Green flashes right down the middle and RJ finds him as he runs towards the top of the key. Kaman is a little slow in recognizing the threat and Green lays it in before Kaman has the opportunity to get his hands up. And now Green's athleticism is put on display. A great cut, perfect ball control, and the quickness and jumping ability to rise above the defense for an easy layin. Timeout, Hornets. Danny "Big" Green +5 (At this point, you may be wondering where I came up with Danny "Big" Green. Well, I went to Dartmouth and it's not everyday that I find myself in a position to use "Big Green." So go, Danny "Big" Green, and go THE Big Green.)
4th Quarter 10:36 Spurs 84 Hornets 83
How many times has this kind of play happened to us this year? The Spurs are playing great defense on this possession. The Hornets are disjointed and scrambling. With 5 seconds on the shot clock, Jarret Jack picks up the ball with no where to go. Tiago is all over him. He finds Aminu, who pump fakes, but can't find any room for his shot. He kicks it to Vasquez four feet behind the three point line at the top of the key. He drills it at the buzzer. WHAT!?! That is awful basketball, Greivis. You should be ashamed of yourself. Vasquez -10. (That's bad basketball Karma. Even though it went in, someone has to be reprimanded.)
4th Quarter 8:48 Spurs 84 Hornets 85
Mistakes were made by both squads and we find ourselves down one a few minutes later. Danny Green is still playing -point guard for the Spurs. He drives and kicks it to RJ. RJ finds an open Bonner who misses, of course. It is the fourth quarter and it is a close game, after all. I hope you didn't get your hopes up. Bonner -5. (It's very interesting that Pop chose to use Danny Green as the backup point guard in favor of Neal or Joseph. It's amazing how Pop sometimes sees exactly what I do, and then there's Matt Bonner.) Bonner -5 more.
4th Quarter 8:09 Spurs 86 Hornets 85
The Spurs find themselves with 10 seconds on the shot clock after a broken play. Danny Green calls for the ball and signals Tiago over for a screen. Danny rubs off Jack and pulls up in front of Kaman for a high-arcing two, nothing but net. Danny "Big" Green +5 (That was a great shot. He put extra arc on that one to be sure that Kaman couldn't get a piece of it.)
4th Quarter 7:37 Spurs 88 Hornets 85
Pop substitutes Parker in for Gary Neal. Another interesting development. He chose to have Danny Green close the game. Parker executes a beautiful pick and roll with Tiago who dunks the ball with two hands. Tiago, obviously, has been playing incredibly as of late. His confidence is soaring. Now that will help the Spurs in the playoffs. Tony +10 (Tony dropped 17 dimes tonight. 17!!!) Tiago +10 (Just an all-around great performance by the big guy.)
4th Quarter 7:25 Spurs 88 Hornets 87
Danny Green is guarding Jack. Jack takes two dribbles at him and pulls up for a jump shot. Danny Green is right there for the contest. Jack hits it. Really, there is nothing more you can do there. It's a well-contested long two pointer. Bad teams really need to stop making those against us. Jack -5 (More bad basketball Karma.)
4th Quarter 6:36 Spurs 88 Hornets 87
Bonner is attempting to play pick and roll defense with Tony. He comes out to bump Vasquez but Landry slipped the screen. As Bonner attempts to waddle back over to Landry, Vasquez throws a pass that hits the back of Bonner's arm. Now, Bonner has no idea where the ball is at this point. He's simply retreating. Yes, this is that bad basketball Karma coming back to get the Hornets. +5 Bonner's backside. -5 Matt Bonner.
4th Quarter 5:57 Spurs 90 Hornets 89
Out of a timeout, Pop inexplicably decides to insert James Anderson back into the game for RJ. Now, RJ has played well for the Spurs thus far. He's made 4 of 7 from deep and has 14 points. It's confusing, I tell you, confusing. Regardless, Anderson makes a nice cut and Splitter feeds him the ball. He misses his first attempt but stays with it for a put-back. Tiago +3 Anderson +5 (I'm still baffled. What's the advantage of playing Anderson over RJ at this moment? Too weird, let's just move on.)
Pop also put Tim back into the game for Bonner. It's Tiago and Tim! Thank you, Pop. We've only been waiting 100+ games for this moment. -10 Pop. (This should have happened 100 games ago.)
4th Quarter 5:04 Spurs 90 Hornets 90
Danny gets the ball with 5 left on the shot clock and has to force one. He misses but there are two Spurs 7-footers under the rim. Tiago snatches the offensive board and is fouled. Who would have thought that playing two 7-footers at the same time might give one an advantage on the boards? +5 Tiago
4th Quarter 4:52 Spurs 92 Hornets 90
Off the inbound, Green attacks the paint. With Tim on his left and Tiago on his right, Green has options. He dumps it off to Tiago who gathers himself and shoots that nice little funky hook shot for two points. +5 Danny "Big" Green +5 Tiago
Tim, the wily veteran, goes Horry-retro with a, "I'm running down the court... SURPRISE!" move and it pays off. Belinelli is surprised and steps over the line, Spurs ball. Tim +5 (Okay, I'm one of the people that was bashing Pop for resting Tim the last two games. Honestly, I was more upset that he benched Tim in the fourth quarter of the winnable Kings game, but I definitely was not pleased with the loss in Houston. That little bit of rest allowed Tim to play incredibly tonight. This move, where he fakes as if he is going to run down the court and then jumps into the guard's passing lane, is only made when he is feeling fresh. When he's tired, he doesn't waste his energy on a play that works 1% of the time. So, well done Pop. You were right. You're still wrong about Bonner, though. Another -5 Matt Bonner.)
4th Quarter 4:17 Spurs 92 Hornets 90
Tim challenges two shots in a row by Ariza and then snatches the board, elbows flying. Again, a symptom of fresh legs, and elbows. +5 Tim
4th Quarter 4:07 Spurs 94 Hornets 90
Tony waits for Tim to play pick and roll basketball. He rubs Jack off of Tim and pulls up for a short jumper, swish. +5 Tony (17 dimes!!!)
4th Quarter 3:45 Spurs 94 Hornets 92
Jack has no where to go. His teammates are all watching this poor play develop; there is no movement. Jack drives into Tim and Tiago and throws up a prayer with 3 seconds on the shot clock. It's blocked by Tim and bounces right to Okafor who nails the 15 footer at the buzzer. Now, how many times has this happened? The Spurs' great defense is negated by an unlucky bounce. Plays like that one hurt me. Seriously. -5 Bad Bounces.
4th Quarter 3:13 Spurs 96 Hornets 92
Tony and Tim execute another pick and roll. This time, Tony takes a long two and misses, as Tim continues to roll to the basket. Duncan times his jump perfectly, catches the ball in midair with his right hand and lays it in. +10 Tim
4th Quarter 2:25 Spurs 98 Hornets 94
Pop has found a play that works and continues to go with it. Tony and Tim, pick and roll basketball. This time the Hornets attempt to trap Tony. He kicks it to Tim who shoots with no hesitation, swish. +5 Tony (His 17th assist!) +10 Tim (A little time off and he's an All-Star once again.)
4th Quarter 1:51 Spurs 100 Hornets 96
The Hornets are keeping pace with the Spurs. They are matching us basket for basket and none of them are easy. Off a nice pass from Danny Green, Tony catches the ball in the paint and hits a floater to extend the Spurs lead back to 4. +2 Danny Green +5 Tony
4th Quarter 1:15 Spurs 102 Hornets 98
After Jarret Jack makes yet another long contested 2, we go to Duncan in the post. He draws the foul and makes both free-throws. +5 Tim Duncan (He does this a few times a game. If the help defender reaches in, he moves the ball up and under their hand so that the defender now has his arm on Tim's. Duncan then goes straight up into his shot, forcing a foul call and giving him the opportunity to get a three point play. It works every time.)
4th Quarter :36 Spurs 102 Hornets 100
Jack makes a nifty move under the basket that made Tim pause just enough so that Jack had room to lay the ball up, cutting the lead to two. The next possession, Tim gets double teamed and turns the ball over. Jack recovers and is off with only Tony to beat. Tony forces him to change direction which allows RJ to disrupt the lay-in attempt. Tiago is there for a big rebound and the Spurs slow things up.
Tony dribbles off some clock as Tiago comes up to set the screen. Tony dibbles left as Tiago dives towards the basket. Tony jumps up to shoot, but dishes to Tiago at the last second. Tiago with a full head of steam goes in for the dunk and is met at the rim by Okafor. Obviously, I'm biased. Let's get that out of the way first. Okay? Done. Now if that wasn't a foul, then what is? Okafor hits him across his arm and there is plenty of body contact. In addition, Okafor's momentum carries him into Tiago with such force that Tiago ends up on his back, under the basket. Even if Okafor gets all ball, don't you whistle a guy for jumping through a shooter? But there's silence from all three refs. In the no-call confusion, Danny Green spots an opportunity and jumps on it. Greensleeves sneaks in and intercepts Belinelli's pass, but it bounces off Danny's foot and rolls out of bounds. +5 Tony +10 Tiago (Even though there was no call, it was a perfectly executed pick and roll. You can't ask for more than that.) +5 Danny "Big" Green (He's everywhere. He really is.)
4th Quarter :13.6 Spurs 102 Hornets 100
Jack drives the ball into the lane with Green matching him step for step. Tim steps up and challenges the shot along with Danny. Jack misses and as the ball teeters on the rim, Landry tips it in. I guess this is a "spirit of the law, not the letter of the law" type of no-call. The ball was on its way out, but it was still in the cylinder when Landry made contact. It's an offensive goal-tend, just not this time, on this night, in this building (with these refs). [-5 Fred Silva for not taking advantage of a wonderful opportunity to criticize David Stern. Editor's Note. -jrw]
4th Quarter :05.2 Spurs 102 Hornets 102
Danny Green is given in-bounding responsibilities on the left sideline. He passes it to Tim who catches the ball and squares up to the basket. 4 seconds. Okafor is hounding him. He quickly dribbles right but Okafor is there. 3 seconds. Tim is moving laterally along the free-throw line. 2 seconds. Tim picks up his dribble, takes one step into Okafor, takes his second in a slight fade (all while moving left to right across the lane parallel with the basket) and puts up a running one-handed hook shot that's a thing of beauty. It bangs home against the back of the rim and splashes the net: a no-doubter. The Spurs take the lead with 1.4 remaining. +20 Tim
4th Quarter :01.4 Spurs 104 Hornets 102
The Spurs play great defense and the Hornets have no choice but to pass it to Landry 4 feet behind the top of the key. Tiago puts his hands up and the ball falls well short, into Danny Green's lap. Ballgame. Spurs win.
And now, your four, 4th Quarter Stars (as derived by FARS)
4.) Tony Parker: 20 FARS Pts, 20 Points, 17 Assists, and 2 Rebounds in 38 minutes.
Tony played a spectacular game. Had I FARSed the entire game, he would have undoubtedly been one of the top two performers. Tony attacked the paint all night, which is what enabled him to create so many open shots for his teammates.
3.) Danny Green: 32 FARS Pts, 7 Points, 3 Assists, 1 Rebound, 2 Steals and 1 Block in 24 minutes.
Danny can really fill out a box score. Dare I say he's Manu-esque in that category? Danny also posted a game high plus/minus of +14. He's a gamer. Pop capitalized on his court-vision by making him the backup point guard. Pop utilized his overall game by playing him the entire fourth quarter. I love where this is going. Danny has all the makings of the Spurs next big steal. And he obviously responded well to the lightened load of JRW's reduced expectations.
2.) Tiago Splitter: 33 FARS Pts, 12 Points, 6 Rebounds and 1 Steal in 23 minutes.
Tiago and Tim closed this game. They were everywhere in the 4th quarter. They challenged every shot and gobbled up rebounds. It's so nice to have two 7-footers on the floor at the same time. It reminds me of the good old days. Hopefully, Pop will give us the pleasure of seeing these two on the court at the same time more often.
1.) Tim Duncan 55 FARS Pts, 28 Pts, 7 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 1 Steal, and a vintage game-winner.
He never hesitated tonight. Not once. Every time he caught the ball he moved with a purpose. Was this caused by his forced days off? Yes. But perhaps in a different way than you might expect. I think he played angry tonight. The rest gave him legs, but the forced DNP did not sit well with this fiery competitor. He wanted to come out and dominate. He wanted to make the point that he's not too old for this. He can still take over games.
Look at that last shot again. Fading away, a one handed hook on the move? That's vintage Tim Duncan. He's still got a little left in the tank, and after being forced to rest, he reminded everyone that he's still TIM DUNCAN.
Message received, Tim. Thank you, sir. May I have another?