The Spurs managed to go 2 for 2 to start the Rodeo Road Trip with a win over a very good 76ers team. After a close first half, the Spurs pulled away by double digits in the third and resisted the home team's late surge to close the game. Tony Parker continued to remind everyone that he is one of the best guards in the league with 37 points and 8 assists. Tim Duncan and Gary Neal assisted TP in the winning effort by scoring 16 and 18 points respectively. Lou Williams led the Sixers with 22 off the bench. The Spurs improved their record to 18-9, climbing to the second spot in the Western Conference.
Before going any further, let's get this out of the way: Tony Parker is a fantastic, amazing basketball player. One of the best in the league. If you've ever spoken ill of him, repent now before it's too late. The Spurs have won their last 6 games and there is no way they could have gotten to this point without Parker going Nova against the Thunder and the Sixers. Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the quarter by quarter analysis.
The Spurs rode on to Philadelphia for the second game of the RRT after a close win over the Memphis Grizzlies knowing that this game was going to be a battle. The Sixers are one of the best defensive teams of the league and have the kind of long, athletic players that always give the Spurs trouble. The first quarter gave us exactly what we though we were going to get, with both teams struggling to score in their half-court sets. The Spurs were daring the Sixers to beat them from mid and long range by sagging off shooters but without the quickness to recover and contest those shots. Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday took advantage of the Spurs lax D and scored 7 and 8 points respectively. The Spurs’ starting lineup minus Parker was having trouble getting in any kind of offensive rhythm. Duncan was being aggressive against the rookie Nikola Vucevic but could not finish on a couple of plays, going 2 of 7 from the floor. Thankfully, Gary Neal came to the rescue. The Nail went 3-3 from outside and finished the quarter with 12 points that allowed the good guys to hang on and finish the period up 2.
The Spurs managed to get their first big lead in the 2nd, as Neal played point guard with a frontcourt of Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner. It seems like someone finally told our guards that Tiago can finish off the pick and roll, because they were looking for him when he rolled hard to the basket. Sparkles scored 6 points in little over 6 minutes of play in the quarter showing off his post moves in the process. With the Spurs up 8 and Splitter and Neal playing great ball, Pop decided to bring back Tony and Tim, which resulted on a 10-0 run by the Sixers. The Spurs defense managed to recover and after some ugly basketball, the half ended 48-45 Spurs. Both teams shot badly from the floor (Spurs .391 and Sixers .360), but the Sixers had the edge on three point shooting percentage, going 3-6 to the Spurs 3-9.
The Spurs extended their lead early in the 3rd and would never trail again. The Sixers' initially air-tight defense started to show some cracks early in the quarter especially in the heart of the paint, with only Vucevic and the undersized Brand to contest shots. Neal and Blair got some early baskets and the D managed to shut down the paint after a couple Iguodala layups. The Tiago Splitter-Matt Bonner frontcourt continued doing well, with each player scoring 3 points in the final minutes. But the difference-maker, as has been the case often in this season, was Tony Parker. La Croissant penetrated and drew fouls that enraged the Philadelphia crowd and frustrated the Sixers players. Parker finished with 11 third quarter points and helped open the gap that would end up getting the Spurs the victory.
In the 4th, the Spurs used the pick and roll effectively to get their max lead of 11. Parker was able to find Splitter rolling to the basket on two consecutive occasions for 4 of Tiago’s 6 points in the quarter. After a mini run by the Sixers while Parker rested, Gary Neal hit a three to stop the bleeding, and Pop sent Duncan and Parker back in with 5:40 to go and the lead back to 8. From then on the Spurs used the Tim and Tony two man game to milk the clock while still getting quality looks. The Sixers got as close as 5 but the Spurs managed to control the action and got away with their 5th road win.
It was a close game throughout, with both benches playing a big role, but in the end the team with the best player on the floor won. Tony is in a class of his own right now and he could not have picked a better game to emphasize it. "Just one of those games everything was working for me. My shot was feeling good and everything was going," Tony said. That’s as accurate a description as I'm able to find for it.
- Really, Richard Jefferson? I write 1,300 words basically asking people to go easy on you and this is how you repay me. Really? I say that your shooting makes you a valuable player for this team and you go 0-3 from 3. Not cool, RJ. Not cool at all. (But it's ok. I forgive you because you got that rebound in traffic.)
- I know I mention this in almost every recap I get, but there are few things that infuriate me more that watching DeJuan Blair fail to box out. He just watches the ball while his opponent gets position and then jumps expecting to get the rebound. The Sixers got 3 straight offensive boards in the 3rd because DeJuan never bothered to put a body on his man. He is officially the worst big in the Spurs’ rotation now that Bonner is hitting his shots.
- Speaking of Bonner, he only hit one 3 but he got 9 boards to go with some not-that-awful defense. Thaddeus Young burned him a couple of times, but I think this was a good game for Matty overall.
- Splitter scored 15 points in 17 minutes. He played less than Blair who went 3-7 for 6 points. I don’t understand Pop sometimes.
- Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard had abysmal shooting nights. Green went 0-5 and Leonard 1-4. They were still better than RJ.
- The ball movement seems to be much better when the subs are in, even with no real PG. With no star that needs constant feeding and with the space that the threat of Bonner behind the 3-point line creates, the offense flows seamlessly through every player on the floor.
- The Sixers are a great team. They are going to be a really tough out in the East but they are still a player (or a year) away from serious contention. Their young players are great but they still lack that top 10 player every contender needs. I could see them beating either the Bulls or the Heat but not both.
Tim Duncan: 16 points on 6-16 shooting, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks.
I could have gone with Tiago here, but Timmy played a pretty complete game and has been giving the team some vintage performances on the last few games. Tony is simply killing it right now, but the old man is being a great sidekick. He didn’t look quite as spry as he looked in the previous couple of games, but still managed to be the best big on the floor.
Gary Neal: 16 points on 6-9 shooting (3-4 from deep), 5 rebounds and 6 assists.
Gary is getting better at this point guard thing. He found Splitter on a couple of pick and rolls and was able to read the stingy Sixer defense on his drives to the basket. His great 3-point shooting, while expected, was a welcome sight considering pretty much everyone else was awful from outside.
Tony Parker. 37 points on 12-24 shooting, 11-11 from the free throw line and 8 assists.
Against the two toughest teams the Spurs have faced in their 6-game winning streak, Parker has scored 42 and 37 points with a combined 17 assists. Not much else to say.