Last night was so much fun. I loved it. We had a great first quarter. We started resting Timmy and Tony, and during that time they had a small run. Put Tony back in and get a little bit of it back before the half. Any time we had Timmy and Tony on the floor, we were always outscoring them, if only by a little margin. But hey, even 4 per quarter is 16 for the game.
I have read different places that we played better defense in the third quarter and that's what got us the lead. I didn't see it that way.
I was really pleased with the way we played defense in the first quarter. Man to man coverage was good and tight. Help defense was good. Boxing out was great. And we were getting back and set on defense really well. Ramon sessions and Steve Blake are not going to beat us. Parker was right up in their grills, basically daring them to drive and try to make something happen, while putting great pressure on them, denying them court vision and making entry passes to "the scorers" (aka Bynum, Gasol, and Bryant) very difficult. And the other guys were playing deny defense as well. Much has been made of how Bryant played "within the offense", "didn't take too many shots", and schooled our rookie and young defenders. The truth is a lot different. Bryant didn't shoot much because Bryant didn't have the ball that much. Kawhi (and others) stuck to him like glue, fighting through screens, sticking those long arms into passing lanes and covering up Bryant like a blanket, so that those poor PGs who were already having problems finding a place to make a pass, opted to forego that turnover waiting to happen. He didn't get the ball because we didn't make it easy for him to get the ball.
And the same is true for the bigs. Our bigs were fighting them for position. We were fronting them. Then when they pushed out, we dropped behind. They tried to setup on the post and we were alternating, pushing, pulling the chair out, fronting, deny D, and occasionally slipping the post to make the steal of the pass. They got some in, but it wasn't coming easy. We double quick and we doubled hard. And LA did not look good. If the refs had called a few more fouls committed against us, and a few less ticky-tack fouls on us, we would have been up 14 in the first quarter. The defense was great. Smothering. We had a few little lapses, Parker letting Blake get a couple feet too far away and not playing the passing lane so that when Bynum was doubled he had an "duh, even I can make this pass" outlet for a 3, but again, Blake isn't going to beat us. LA had two 24 second violations in the first quarter by my count. And that is just awesome. We are up 7 at the end of the first quarter, on pace to win by 28. Oh, and Bynum comes out at the quarter, screams at his team, punches chairs, etc. Perhaps because he had flippantly GUARANTEED a win and they were getting beat much more than the score indicated.
The second quarter when we sat Tony and Timmy wasn't as good. Neal just can't run the point as effectively, and we stopped scoring and starting turning it over a little. When we turned it over, they got some energy, we weren't as focused, and we didn't fight for position as hard. But mostly, we stopped scoring. We only scored 24 points in the quarter. I was not pleased as I saw it slipping away with ill advised plays and poor shot selection.
Defensive highlight of the first half for me was Danny Green, no fear, coming in to ambush Bynum from behind. He rightly got called for a foul, but if he had been up about 3 inches higher, it would have been clean. Bynum made both FTs. But the importance of the even is not the foul, or the points. It is the momentum. Green looked like a hungry carnivore pouncing on its prey, and Bynum looked overwhelmed.
And the third quarter, everybody knows about. We came out again, executed on D as we had been. Bryant started taking more shots but it didn't matter. Even hitting at the rate he was, he was having to work hard to get open to get the ball, work hard to get his shot, and that doesn't leave a lot of gas in the tank to defend very well. I wasn't keeping track, but I'm assuming he was guarding Manu most of the time, only I didn't see him anywhere near Manu who was lighting it up from deep. I'll take that. Kobe goes for 18. Manu goes for 20. We executed and executed some more. We inched up a couple of points through the first half of the quarter, and then, as has been the norm lately, it was like the dam broke. We're up 7, then two minutes later, we're up 17, then a minute later we're up 22, and game over.
Best stat of the game? Parker 28 minutes. Duncan 26 minutes. Ginobili 25 minutes. We crushed them with our big three playing only half of the game.
Speaking of stats, Spurs are listed at 16th in defensive efficiency. This is pointed to as a significant stat as defense wins championships. But it is a season long stat. What if, we were to removed the games at the beginning of the season when we went basically .500. What if we were to remove the two games that the big 3 didn't play? What if we were to remove all of the 4th quarter garbage times that we've had lately? I read someplace that Spurs are 5th in defensive efficiency since the All Star break. I'm thinking they are a LOT better defensively, than most commentators think. I've also heard that they don't have "another gear". I think that they have largely been on cruise control for the past 20 games. I think Friday was more of an indication of the way this team can play.
Oh, and after last year's loss to Memphis, and the loss last week to LA, I put a lot of credence into what the commentators had been saying about the Spurs just not having what it takes to beat teams with a big frontcourt. This was in spite of us sweeping the season series with Memphis. Well, I'm not afraid any more. This team is deadly. This team is scary good. I think we might see LA in the second round, but I'm not sure LA can get that far. They are not a team. They are a petulant giant trying to come out from the shadows and be recognized - without actually putting the work in, a stats chasing narcissist who loafs on defense to be able to perform on offense, a certified nut-case, a really nice guy who is probably wishing about now that he had been traded, a coach that has no control, and a bunch of role players who don't know what their roles are or who they should be listening to. Pretty sure that isn't going to gel.