The San Antonio Spurs are going to win most games against the league's basement-dwelling teams, even if they are on the road and missing their two small forwards. They simply execute too well on both ends of the floor and have too talented a roster to really sweat a game against a rebuilding team like the Magic. They do, however, have a tendency to play down to their opponent's level, and that tends to keep games closer than they should be. While that was the case at times in Orlando, the result was never really in question tonight.
The Spurs tried to get Blair involved early, like they usually do when he starts. Blair was going against perhaps the Magic's best player in Glen Davis, which tells you everything you need to know about the talent level in Orlando. Dejuan held his own early on, fighting for boards and scoring while Davis and Afflalo were taking the scoring load for the Magic. The game was relatively close in the 1st quarter until Manu Ginobili caught fire from deep to provide some balance to an offense that, up until that point, was happy punishing the vertically challenged Magic in the paint. After three straight three pointers from Manu to close the quarter, the Spurs led by 11, 29-18.
The bench played a little ugly early in the second quarter, but they managed to maintain the lead. Turnovers are still a problem for the second unit, and this game was no exception. Neal and Green were the biggest culprits finishing the half with three turnovers each. The Spurs' sloppy play on both ends allowed the Magic to stay in the game. After the lead was cut to five, Parker and Duncan started attacking the paint relentlessly to extend it once again. The margin reached 14 when Duncan canned a ridiculous buzzer-beating three pointer to finish the half.
While the stars did most of the scoring damage for the Spurs in the first half, it was Gary Neal and DeJuan Blair who started the 3rd quarter on fire and carried the Spurs' offense for a while. For the first 6:50 on the period, only Neal, Green and Blair scored, but the Spurs' continued to put points on the board efficiently. Unfortunately, the team started taking possessions off on defense, and the Magic reduced the lead to 10, but their anemic offense simply couldn't hang with the Spurs' multiple weapons. Going into the 4th quarter, the Spurs were up 17 and James Anderson and Cory Joseph sightings were all but a certainty.
Pop kept Green, Neal and Splitter on the floor a little longer than I would have preferred, but overall managed the minutes well in the final period, giving seldom used players some reps and ostensibly preserving the veterans for the SEGABABA. The final result was 110-89, and the 21 point margin paints an accurate portrait of how one-sided the game really was.
I'll start by giving props to a guy that usually gets flack in my recaps: Boris Diaw. Diaw seemed to box out energetically and rebounded well. He only scored three points, but his passing was great and his effort on the boards didn't go unnoticed.
Blair, Green and Splitter all did their job. They didn't shine, but they gave the team some solid minutes.
No one outside of De Colo played poorly. Nando is clearly an NBA talent, but he needs to learn to hit open shots if he wants to play for the Spurs. There's still time in the season and if Chip could fix Splitter's free throw form, I think he can help Nando develop a corner three.
Your Four Stars
Yes, I know I'm cheating but there were a lot of good performances tonight.
4 - Tony Parker (14 points, 8 assists)
Tony scored when the team needed him in the 1st quarter and kept things copacetic throughout, finishing with zero turnovers.
3 - Tim Duncan (14 points, 4 rebounds, 5 blocked shots)
Timmy had a quiet game considering his recent performances, but he scored efficiently, rebounded acceptably well and had five blocks. Like Parker, he did his damage early and then cruised.
2 - Gary Neal (19 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals)
After a bad first half, Neal heated up and was the Spurs' offense for a while. Having someone like him to take over scoring duties is exactly what allows the Spurs to rest the stars in games like these. He also defended well when his shot wasn't falling, which deserves a mention on its own.
1 - Manu Ginobili (20 points in 23 minutes, 6-9 from 3)
Manu didn't take a single shot inside the arc in this game but finished with 20 very efficient points, five assists and four boards. He even gave a couple hard fouls, as a way to remind his teammates to take the game seriously. With every game that passes, Manu gets closer to being Manu again and that makes me both extremely happy and confident that this team's ceiling is still untouched.
The Spurs will finish their six-game road trip tomorrow against the Heat. Only Danny Green and Gary Neal played more than 30 minutes tonight, so it's very likely everyone plays. However, do not be surprised if Pop pulls the starters if the Spurs start slow, considering they will be in a FOGAFINI and the Grizzlies await. The good news is Kawhi Leonard might be available against Memphis.
For the opponent's perspective, visit Orlando Pinstriped Post