Every so often it's the little things that become most memorable in a seemingly meaningless early season game, and Monday's 101-79 Spurs win over the Indiana Pacers was stuffed with post-Halloween treats. George Hill played well in his second game back to San Antonio, DeJuan Blair filled the box score with by far his best game of 2012 and Gary Neal's shot was finally untracked. But there was a larger-than-normal significance in the victory the Spurs earned tonight. Not in the margin of victory or the evening's opponent, but in the win itself.
San Antonio is now 4-0 for the first time in franchise history.
For all the success the Spurs have enjoyed over the last 40 years, the fact this feat had yet to occur is as mind-boggling a statistic as the media relations department could muster. But in typical Spurs fashion, hardly a single person even knew, let alone cared about it.
"I didn't know that. Like, I'm surprised we're still (setting) records after being here 12 years," Tony Parker said following the game. "It seemed like we did everything, but that's another one. That's great."
Great. Like, in the "super, guys, thanks for bringing that to my attention; now can I please head to Club Nueve in my leather jacket" sense. Still, it's just another accomplishment in the list of those that have come before it, and the Spurs won't think twice about it.
Five Spurs scored in double figures in this game, including three off the bench. As I mentioned before, it was Blair whose night was most impactful. The oft-maligned, twitter-friendly "big man" had 14 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals in 29 minutes of action and easily won his rotation-player battle with Tyler Hansbrough. It was the kind of night we had become accustomed to from Blair during his rookie season.
This was by no means a riveting basketball game for much of the first quarter. Parker, Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard were struggling to put the ball in the basket, and aside from a personal 5-0 run around the mid-point of the period, Danny Green wasn't getting too involved. Pop elected to insert Blair - along with Manu Ginobili and Stephen Jackson - into the game and it paid off.
The Spurs would have beaten the Pacers without Blair, but that's not what we're taking away from tonight. As much criticism and confusion - self-inflicted or not - as he's been subjected to, this type of game speaks volumes of his personality.
"DeJuan's been very professional. I haven't played him much at all and he stays in shape," Gregg Popovich said. "He's ready to go. He's part of the team and he's not going to let anything get him down if I don't play him."
"He doesn't turn sour and that showed tonight; how ready he is ... he did a great job on both ends."
And if ever there was a night to make an impact, Monday was appropriate. Good buddy and former teammate George Hill scored 15 points and dished out six assists while outplaying Tony Parker in the process. Again, it's the little things sometimes.
"He is always going to be like a brother to me. It is not just a friendship or just a teammate, it is beyond that," Hill said of Blair. "It is the experience with each other and coming from the same type of background. I always wish the best for him."
The season is still young, but as we watch other Western Conference favorites struggle in unfamiliar situations, the Spurs continue to quietly push along. And stories from last year are now beginning to manifest themselves again. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili combined to shoot 11-for-33 from the floor, but San Antonio still won by 22 points because the bench - led by Neal's 17 - dropped 57 points on Indiana.
"That means it is the complete team. That is just the true definition of what a real team is about," Hill said. "If you have your three guys going and they have a low scoring day and you still win by (22), then I think that gives confidence to your whole team. It is showing that they are a complete team."
Pop might not let you know he cares about his team being 4-0 for the first time ever, and surely nobody will ask him for his opinion on it lest they crave a good Popping. After all, it's only four games. But as he sits in peace away from the media scrum, in his own quiet, you have to think he knows exactly what he's doing. Somewhere he reflects upon everything he's accomplished.
And raises his glass.
- Tim Duncan didn't have his best shooting night but recorded yet another double-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and three steals.
- Manu continues to work his way back into form after missing the season's first two games with back spasms.
- When long-time sports writer Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News asked Parker if he knew that no Spurs team had ever started 4-0 in the team's 40-year history, Parker quipped, "Were you here the whole 40 years?" to the thorough enjoyment of those in attendance.
- Spurs hold Pacers to 79 points on 34 percent shooting. San Antonio is now fifth in the league in terms of defensive efficiency at 97.7 points given up per 100 possessions, according to www.basketball-reference.com.
- The bench scored 57 points as it continues to round back into 2011-12 form. Gary Neal was particularly efficient, scoring 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting.