Morning Rehash: "Young" Spurs Taking Control

Spurs guard Danny Green has come a long way in a very short frame of time. - Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs continued their winning ways Wednesday night with a 100-80 victory of the injury-plagued Toronto Raptors. The Big Three all made major contributions, but with players like Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs are getting more and more comfortable letting their young guns run the show.

Opening Hash

Last Sunday, the San Antonio Spurs connected on 20 of their 30 three-point attempts, six more than the total amount chucked up by the Dallas Mavericks (5-14). The team performance from deep set a new franchise record, breaking the 19 mark set only two weeks prior against the Charlotte Bobcats. San Antonio blew out their long time rivals 129-91, setting season-high marks in steals (17) and points through three quarters (100). The Spurs came close to finishing the game with a 40-point gap but a Dallas 8-2 run in the final two minutes let it slip to a meager 38 point victory. The largest margin of victory the Spurs have over the Mavericks is a 41 point beating back in 1991 (Spurs largest lead in Sunday's game was 46).

After the New Orleans game on the 21st of December, I made note that the Dallas game was ripe pickings for a Spurs offensive explosion, something that has been a rare site throughout the holiday season.

Going into the Next Game, the Spurs Need to re-establish offensive dominance. Over the last six games, the Spurs have averaged only 97.8 PPG while shooting a pedestrian 45.9 FG% (breaking 50% only twice). The Dallas Mavericks are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, giving up 101 PPG and with a bulk of that coming from beyond the arc. The Spurs have a string of weak opponents coming into town so handing Cuban and his Pretty Ponies a beat down would be a nice start.

Danny Green went 7-8 from 3-point range, including hitting his first 5 attempts, and scored both a game-high and career-high 25 points (9-10 overall). Prior to Dallas, the 4th year guard had been struggling through previous five games, only averaging 6.8 points on 32.5% shooting. Green played better against New Orleans, going 4-9 from the floor, but only connected on 1-5 shots from deep. In his workout prior to the Hornets game, Green was hitting everything he threw up from three-point range.

With the pressure and environment of game time and practice being a million miles apart in similarity, the signs the point back to familiar topic of Danny's mindset and confidence. After a quick ascension throughout the cramped 20-11-12 season, Green showed that he just wasn't ready for the big moments in last season's playoff run. Green vanished in the Western Conference Finals, losing his starting spot and leaving only a trace of his existence - 3.3 PPG on 32 FG%.

The post-season flame out isn't particularly shocking with young players but production irregularity over long stretches of games do warrant some concern. I'm not saying it is, or was, time to panic with Green. Despite the struggles, Danny Green has shown remarkable improvement and dedication to the game. According to Coach Popovich, the latter is what kept Green from sticking San Antonio the first time around in 2010-11. If Green keeps his focus, and this includes not letting his ego go wild, his value will continue to rise and the spot lights of the big moment won't be as blinding.


Shoot Around Notes

  • Assistant coach Chip Engelland worked with both Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker.
  • Tony Parker spent most of his workout doing pull-up jumpers.
  • DeJuan Blair was working with just the trainers and it was the most relaxed, nonchalant practice I've seen him run through in a long time.
  • Toronto's Amir Johnson obviously does not care about putting in the effort in drills.
  • Neat for me to see Tim Duncan work with two former teammates - Ime Udoka and Sean Marks. They had Duncan running through a series of screens off the wing.
  • Patty Mills parents were sitting courtside watching their son run through his workout.
  • Based on body language in the pregame workouts, Aaron Gray was the only Raptor who seemed to give a damn there was a game tonight.


Standard Pop Pre-Game Quote

They're magnificent.

-Pop on the play of his guards during the stretch of games the Spurs were without Leonard and Jackson.

Game Hash

The Toronto Raptors came into the game minus three key starters in Kyle Lowry, Andrea Bargnani, and Jonas Valanciunas. Toronto head coach Dwane Casey decided to run with Aaron Gray at center despite Amir Johnson's solid play in recent weeks. The Raptors defense played tight and fast for most of the game but the lack of chemistry and mismatch of talent worked against the young squad from the start. Gray's early foul trouble landed the Raptors in trouble and basically set the tone for the game. The Spurs spent all night at the charity stripe and shot a blistering 24-29 (82.8%). The Raptors struggled to get to the line (7-12) but their lack of visits is primarily linked to their inability to get the ball down low - 50 of their 71 shots came from outside the paint.

Tim Duncan scored 15 points, Manu Ginobili tallied 14, Tony Parker had 13 points, and both Tiago Splitter and Stephen Jackson contributed 10 apiece. Kawhi Leonard came one point short of a double (10 rebounds). The game remained competitive for the most part due to 13 turnovers through the first three quarters (holiday lag and no practice since last game) but San Antonio managed to right the ship with a 13-4 run to end the quarter. Parker and Duncan never returned to the court in the final quarter.

San Antonio's focus on the glass was also a key contributor in building up the lead in the 3rd quarter. After giving up 7 offensive boards and being out-rebounded 23-16 in the first half, the Spurs went plus-7 in the third quarter and only allowed 2 second chance points off 2 offensive boards. "We were more aggressive in the pick-and-roll defense - everybody boarded better, the pace," said Coach Popovich. "You know it all goes together; playing aggressively and playing with pace." Only three of the Spurs final 14 points in the third came outside the paint and free throws and it was a fastbreak Ginobili triple fed by point-center Tim Duncan.

No player on either team recorded more than 29 minutes of court times and the starting five for the Raptors and Spurs only averaged out roughly 22 and 24 minutes respectively. Regardless, the Spurs starters still outscored Toronto's starters, 54-25 (none of the Raptors' starters broke double digits in scoring). Alan Anderson and Amir Johnson each had 12 points for the Raptors while guards John Lucas and Terrance Ross both earned the bulk of their 11 points in garbage time.

My Game Boss

Kawhi

KAWHI LEONARD

PTS

FGM

FGA

REB

AST

STL

TO

MIN

9

4 8 10 2 3 3 26:57


Kawhi steal and fastbreak dunk. Kawhi rebounds his own miss for a contact slam. Kawhi... yeah, you get it. In the three games since his return from injury, Kawhi Leonard is averaging 11.3 points, 50 FG%, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.3 steals in 23.3 minutes.


My Game Runt

Gray

AARON GRAY

PTS

FGM

FGA

REB

AST

BLK

PF

MIN

5

2 3 4 2 0 4 20:36

I wanted to give this to Linas Kleiza (5 PTS, 1-8 FG) but Gray was arguably the bigger void in the paint for Toronto. Gray picked up three fouls in the first eight minutes of the game. Also, look at that profile picture. Look. At. It.


This Thing Was Over When...

...the Spurs came out of a timeout with 4:15 remaining in the third quarter. San Antonio closed out the quarter on a 13-4 run giving them a 70-57 advantage going into the fourth. In that stretch, the Spurs out-rebounded the Raptors 8-1 (including 3 offensive boards) and tallied both a block and a steal.


By the Numbers

  • 19 - Three-point attempts by San Antonio. The Spurs made 20 on Sunday.
  • 7 - The streak of games that Toronto held their opponents below 100 points.
  • 3 - Number of "Did not play - Coach's Decision" for DeJuan Blair in previous 6 games.
  • 16 - How much the Spurs out-rebounded the Raptors in the second half (28-12).
  • 29 - San Antonio free throw attempts
  • 12 - Toronto free throw attempts
  • 105 - San Antonio average points per game prior to last night (104.8 now).
  • 18 - Points in the paint for Toronto. Spurs played solid defense inside, forcing a 9-21 FG performance.

Odds & Ends

  • Say what you want, Amir Johnson's hair looks awesome up close.
  • John Lucas talks to officials almost as much a Amir Johnson does.
  • Lucas also developed a quick distaste for Nando De Colo.
  • Danny Green was jamming out when Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" was playing.
  • Linas Kleiza would have fit in perfectly with the mid-2000's Detroit Pistons.
  • De Colo's minutes have gone up from 10.8 per game in November to 14 in December (16 in last 6).
  • Matt Bonner vs Aaron Gray is basketball at it's finest...
  • Boris Diaw would drive all the way to the padded base of the basket if it weren't for the baseline.
  • Spurs are 18-0 when shooting over 46% from the field.
  • Kawhi Leonard doesn't aggressively attack the ball, he intelligently attacks the ball. Huge difference.

Bird is the Word

@JMcDonald_SAEN: Now Pop's mad at De Colo for some reason. Not sure he even understands some of these words.

‏@courtside: I love that my phone autocorrects Ginobili to GINOBILI. #smartphone

@24writer: Pistol Pete Duncan....... #Spurs #Raptors


Going into the Next Game, the Spurs Need to...

... stay aggressive on defense and attack the glass. The Houston Rockets currently lead the league in points per game and are a top ten team in both assists (7th) and rebounds (6th). San Antonio will be able to get their looks against a porous defense but Houston, led by the 4th leading scorer James Harden, will look to dictate the pace from start to finish.

For more rambling and Spurs talk, follow Aaron Preine at @DukeOfBexar on Twitter.

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