Defensive consistency has again become a welcome sight in San Antonio these days. The Spurs overcame a poor perimeter-shooting night and a lengthy halftime delay to hold off the Warriors 95-88 and extend the team's home winning streak against Golden State to 28 games. The Dubs haven't beaten the silver and black in San Antonio since Feb. 14, 1997, long before the careers of most players on the court on Friday night.
Tony Parker was 14 at the time.
Kawhi Leonard, six.
"Don't say that. Why'd you say that?" Parker joked when asked about the streak. "We don't really pay attention to those stats because every year is different, every team is different, and Golden State is for real. They're a really good team."
Despite being without arguably their best player in Stephen Curry, the Warriors pushed the Spurs to adjust and overcome a deficit for much of the first three quarters. As if that wasn't enough, both teams were forced to wait through an extra-long halftime as a rim, apparently bent at some point in the first half, was replaced in the arena. An extended dance party ensued in the AT&T Center, and once play resumed it was as loud as is had been all night.
As for the game itself, Golden State pulled a move out of the Oklahoma City bag of tricks, gluing lengthy second-year shooting guard Klay Thompson to Tony Parker right from the start. It's a plan the Thunder utilized to near perfection in the playoffs last season as they used Thabo Sefolosha in the same capacity, but Parker was able to adjust to a player he wasn't all that familiar with.
"I had no idea how he plays defense and his tendencies and stuff like that, so I got a feel in the first half and the second half it was a lot better," Parker said. "I was more aggressive and could pick my spots better."
On a night when the Spurs bench wasn't its usual self -- of course it never helps to be sans Manu Ginobili -- Parker and Tim Duncan, played like All-Stars. Tony had 25 points and eight assists while Timmy notched yet another double-double with 24 points and 10 boards. But once again it was a defensive accomplishment from the big man that kept the headlines running. Duncan's three blocks gave him at least that many in seven consecutive games, and the San Antonio defense held Golden State to 42 percent shooting from the floor; 25 percent from three.
And then there's Tiago Splitter. The tall Brazilian has been a point of long-awaited hope as a second big man alongside the face of the franchise. The offensive skills he possesses in the pick-and-roll game has been evident, but Splitter has been exhibiting an attitude of toughness that really seemed to manifest itself recently, especially against a team like the Memphis Grizzlies. Still, there's always been a feeling of inconsistency with him; an uncertainty of what you'll get in crucial moments against the most difficult competition. Not on this night.
Splitter connected on eight of his ten shots against the Warriors, putting up 19 points and nine rebounds in the process. But it's his physicality that continues to stand out as an element that's been much-needed in the Spurs' offense. Duncan spent most of the first half in foul trouble, but Tiago -- who played more than 35 minutes -- picked up the interior slack and filled the the void we've so often seen left empty when No. 21 sits down.
"That's who he is and that's what he does. He's been hurt a good portion of the time he's been here and hasn't had a chance to play consistent minutes," Gregg Popovich said. "He's played like this all over the world. People are finally getting to see him healthy and with consistent minutes."
But of all the recent trends that have affected this team of late, the turnover situation has been a major point of emphasis. San Antonio committed only 10 turnovers against the Warriors, and when you consider the 5-for-22 outside shooting performance, the low giveaway rate was crucial in a game decided by only seven points. Given the way this defense is currently operating -- and to a certain extent, the relative inconsistency of the offense -- turnovers will be a significant deciding factor moving forward. If this number is kept at a minimum, the Spurs will be able to survive nights when role players aren't connecting. After all, San Antonio's future Hall-of-Famers are still plenty good enough to win games.
"It's a real key for us, because when we have those games where we give up over 20 points off turnovers, nine times out of ten those end up being losses for us. It's good to see," Pop said.
Don't let the other team score a lot; keep the turnovers down; let the stars take over. That's a decent formula for success.
-- San Antonio continues its rampage in the paint, outscoring Golden State 44-28 in the lane.
-- The Spurs' torrent shooting from the free-throw line continues with an 18-for-20 performance against the Warriors as the team continues shooting at its best percentage during the Popovich era.
-- Duncan and Parker accounted for eight of the team's 10 turnovers. Slackers.