(Many thanks to Edg5 and silverandblack_davis for their stellar work editing this piece late last night...looking forward to Matthew bringing the goods again after the Magic game--sambunnell)
SAN ANTONIO - At the 9:45 mark in the first quarter, Tim Duncan made history against the struggling Washington Wizards. He took a long rebound, dribbled coast-to-coast, and dunked over a turned-around JaVale McGee, channeling his inner point forward and bumping Clyde Drexler from a benchmark among all-time NBA scoring leaders. With that memorable play, Duncan scored his 22, 207th point and surpassed Clyde the Glide to move into 25th place in scoring in league history.
However, the night would belong to Tony Parker. Coach Pop was quick to praise his point guard, saying Parker was "at the top of his game." The Frenchman scored 31 in his first game back after sitting out against the Clippers with a torn quadriceps and sore calf, including a 12-point third quarter, to lead the Spurs to a 112-97 win over one of the league's worst in the Wizards, who played yet again without forward Rashard Lewis and fell to 9-31 on the season. The Spurs (27-13) shot 54% from the field and led by as many as 18.
The first half was a passing clinic, as San Antonio dished out 23 of its 30 assists and led 62-49 at the half. Parker had 7 assists in the first half, then none in the second, as he focused on scoring -- and scoring in bunches. He dropped 22 points in the final two quarters, at one point scoring eight in a row in the third to extend the Spurs' lead back to 16 when Wizards C JaVale McGee had cut it to eight on a jumper. McGee cut the lead to single digits three times, but the Spurs remained calm and collected, responding each time to lengthen it back to a comfortable distance. McGee finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Jordan Crawford scored 19 and Nick Young added 18 for the Wizards. PG John Wall was held to single digits until the last four minutes and finished with 12. That is his highest output yet against the Spurs.
, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, and DeJuan Blair played tough, hard-nosed basketball whenever they were on the floor. At one point in the first quarter, Leonard, who played his usual brand of aggressive defense, out-jumped a Wizard for a tipped defensive rebound, then took it the length of the court for a monster dunk through two defenders. Splitter found great positioning for layups early and won some physical battles against McGee during the night, but his moment came at the end of the third quarter, when he took a pass inside from Gary Neal, was immediately grabbed around the waist by JaVale McGee, and as he was falling out of bounds, tossed the ball over his right shoulder at the goal, making the shot and getting fouled to complete the three point play.
But it wasn't all happy feelings, as TJ Ford announced his retirement pre-game, citing his history of neck injuries, and that he has been playing against the doctor's counsel. And this left Gary Neal as the backup PG, whose results were mixed. He went 1-5 from the field for 4 points, to go along with 4 assists and 2 turnovers. Duncan said post-game that the backcourt would need time to gel in the weeks ahead. To throw yet another log on that fire, Manu Ginobili had to leave the game in the third quarter with what was only described as "a tightness in his leg". After looking all the way back from injury the last couple of games and even slashing through for layups on back-to-back possessions at the start of the second quarter, Manu (who finished with 8 points and 7 assists on 4 of 7 shooting) it looks like The Sickness might have had a setback in his recovery and could potentially miss even more time; hopefully it was just Gregg Popovich erring on the side of caution. As details on the nature of his Injury surface, we'll let you know, but for now we remain cautiously optimistic.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Spurs' frontcourt played great, with Splitter being the team's second leading scorer with 17, and Blair recording a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, including 7 offensive boards. Tim Duncan finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds.
The Wizards have issues, among them the glaring inability to play defense against a team whose bread and butter for the better part of a decade and change is the pick and roll. The Spurs are that kind of team, and the mismatches created by the deluge of screens had all of the press wondering at halftime whether there would ever be any reason to run another play for the rest of the night. But Washington shot 50% from 3 point land, and was able to keep the Spurs in sight, if not ever get close enough to really threaten.
P.S. An interesting tidbit on the impending trade deadline from the post-game interviews....Duncan: "Pop makes everybody feel comfortable...I don't really remember a situation where somebody was nervous about (being traded) in the last couple of weeks." Parker: "I'm sure if there's something they (Pop and RC) can do, I'm sure they'll do it...nobody is safe in this league; you can always improve your team." Nobody asked Pop as he looked to be in no mood to talk too much after the game..
3 - Tiago Splitter/DeJuan Blair.
The Spurs centers combined for 28 points and 19 boards and 10 trips to the line. The Wizards front court is not a great test, but the Spurs bigs gave us the type of performance we are hoping to get on a nightly basis.
2 - Tim Duncan 14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists.
Timmy had 14 and 9 and is now 25th among all-time scorers. Pop would dismiss it by saying that he should be breaking records since he is old, but we at PtR are committed to enjoying every moment of Timmy's remaining years. While he can't put up as many points as before, the old man is still the defensive anchor of this team.
1 - Tony Parker 31 points on 18 shots, 7 assists (but 6 turnovers)
Tony came back after his one game vacation with a vengeance. For all the deserved hype John Wall and the rest of the new wave of point guards get, Tony still wins his match-ups most nights. There are not a lot of guards in the league playing better than Tony right now.
Spurs post game interviews.
For the opponent's perspective, visit Bullets Forever.
Up next: Orlando, OKC, and Dallas. Let's hope Manu is ok.