The San Antonio Spurs enter the last game of their home stand with a strong hard fought victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday evening. This follows an embarrassing effort deprived game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night. That was a game that once again stirred up fears about the Spurs limited size up front.
The Phoenix Suns (31-28), who are fighting for the 8th seed in the west, arrive in San Antonio after an impressive road victory (112-105) over the current 8th seed Houston Rockets last night. This puts them with 1 loss behind the Rockets.
The Spurs, coming off a great bounce back game against the Grizzlies. Following the Lakers game, fans wondered if the front court depth would haunt the Spurs once more. It appeared that they could hang with the Grizzlies, finishing 41-41 in total rebounds (-2 in offensive rebounds). This game also might prove that the Grizzlies, although still dangerous, are not as dangerous as they were last year due to their key subtractions (Darrell Arthur, Shane Battier, Sam Young, Greivis Vasquez) and Zach Randolph, not fully back to his monstrous year he had last season.
Although it is difficult to evaluate due to the nature of the past two games, there are some interesting things that took place in Thursday's game.
- Manu Ginobili took a night off during the Lakers game like everyone else, but the fans. However, he's been looking more like the Manu we all know and want to marry.
- Blair played 11:48, all in the first half. Diaw started the second half in his place. Is this a sign of what to expect in the future. Will Blair now become the fifth big? Last year, Blair did not respond well once he lost his starting job.
- Matt Bonner: He was 3-8, and hit his shots all in the second half. He just seems less hesitant, and more persistent this year. His defense is also outstanding, as long as he's not in isolation on his defender. He plays good enough defense to give himself the net positive he brings on offense.
- Boris Diaw: He still looks lost at times, but it looks like he's becoming slowly comfortable in the system. I like some of the shots he took. If he makes them, Pop has the opportunity to give Splitter more time as he has 2 bigs who can shoot (Bonner, Diaw). I'd expect him to start with Duncan if my prediction goes correctly.
- Tim Duncan: The guy is awesome. He's going to have to adjust his game to be more of a shooter, when Bynum defends him. However, he's still got a lot of game, even if it's not as consistent as it once was.
- Tiago Splitter: Duncan's good games are hurting him. Perhaps he'll benefit the biggest to Blair losing minutes? If Pop can play Blair with Duncan, he should be able to play Splitter with Duncan. Splitter fits with the other two bigs, Bonner and Diaw.
- Kawhi Leonard: You can't expect too much from him, but if he can give a solid 10-20 minutes in each game, that's all you need when you have Stephen Jackson on your team.
- Stephen Jackson: He hasn't been lighting it up from behind the arc, but he's doing the small things that make a difference between a win or loss.
- Gary Neal returned from his night off due to sickness and contributed, while also tempting his fate late in the game with that pull up 3pt shot off the fast break. Good thing it went in. However, Spurs need that unpredictability from time to time. Jackson provides it too, but Neal is the better shooter, at this point in his career.
I'm just going to leave this right here.
Game Prediction: Spurs win by 11.
Keys to winning:
- Defense: Do not give up the open 3pt shot. Get back on transition D.
- Attack: Push the ball when the opportunities present themselves. This will allow the Spurs to put the points on the board and also open up the 3pt line.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.