The more things change...
Look, I know everyone here wants to move on from last season and start fresh. I'm right there with you. I desperately want to put the 2012-13 season to bed and view this season in its own vacuum, stripped of any 2012-13 context. I want to think that whatever successes or failures this Spurs team experiences won't have anything to do with what came before.
It's just impossible though. I can't escape the memories of what happened. Every game for the Spurs this year will be dripping in context, wrapped in a fog of memories from last year. Tony Parker even told ESPN sideline reporter J.A. Adande after the game that the team is using last season as motivation and fuel. Tony said that they want to grab every game they can, perhaps hinting that they want to chase home court advantage so that Game 7 of the Finals, should they get to that point, will be on their court.
But the main reason that I couldn't stop thinking about the playoffs while watching this game was that it was a playoff-type game: A low-scoring, ugly grind where both teams were equal parts fatigued and tight and the good players played well and the scrubs played like crap. For the Spurs Parker, Manu Ginobili (yup, still good), Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter came to play and that's the list. Boris Diaw did the Robert Horry in Game 5 against the Pistons thing, where he scored a bunch of points in the last 13 minutes of the game after being a chubby ghost for the first 35.
Meanwhile, the Lakers got a good night out of Pau Gasol and... well nobody else, really. Their team mission seems to be to prove that Mike D'Antoni is an awful judge of talent because through three games, their second through seventh best players are coming the bench, while goobers like Nick Young, Shawne Williams (who?) and Steve Blake litter the starting lineup with Kobe Bryant still on the mend.
Of course, the Spurs had their own legendary player in Tim Duncan out of the lineup with a chest contusion and they tried to be as charitable to the Lakers for as long as they could, spotting LA one whole quarter of gagged layups and looking nothing like one of the better offensive units in the league, managing just 41 first half points against a woeful Lakers defense. Nobody but Parker could do much of anything in the first 24 minutes for the good guys and at one point he was 5-of-10 and the rest of the squad was 6-of-28. About the only positives going into the break was that the guys were keeping the turnovers down and that Leonard and Splitter were showing commendable effort on the offensive glass.
The bench was dreadful, especially with Diaw forced into a starting role in Duncan's absence. Take Ginobili (more on him later) out of the equation and the rest of the reserves managed six points on 3-of-20 shooting with 15 rebounds, six assists and six turnovers. In a 4:35 stretch overlapping the first and second quarters the Lakers outscored them 12-5, prompting Gregg Popovich to substitute en masse, bringing the starters back in with the exception of Jeff Ayres for Diaw, who was too inattentive and soft in the first quarter for Pop's taste. A 31-18 deficit shrunk to 42-41 by intermission.
In the second-half, with Pop electing to start Ginobili in place of a struggling Danny Green, the following lineup saw 4:38 of courtime overlapping the third and fourth quarters: Aron Baynes-Diaw-Green-Marco Belinelli-Patty Mills, and a 60-57 lead turned into a 69-67 deficit. Again the starters came to the rescue, though the entire fourth quarter was a back-and-forth struggle and the Spurs couldn't take the lead for good until a Parker elbow jumper with 2:10 to go. After Gasol made one of two freebies to cut it to 82-81, Ginobili found Diaw on the wing for a three and the Spurs coasted from there.
Standard Pop Quote
I thought our defense got better as the game progressed and especially in the second half. We sent some messages to some people who weren't playing very good 'D' and, in the second half, we got that straightened out.
Dudes of Note
Diaw was largely (pun intended) the hero, with 11 of his 14 points in the final quarter. He had a nifty pass down low to Splitter that led to a game-icing layup, but for most of the game he was unplayable on the other end of the floor, with Pop searching in vain for any big-man combination that worked. Splitter was game (14 rebounds, half which were offensive) but no one else could protect the rim or rebound. Ginobili was more consistent, scoring four, four, five and seven points in the four quarters and providing a steadying influence on the game, even though the ball wasn't in his hands all that much. Parker scored easy and often en route to his 24 points, but against the s-l-o-o-o-w guard tandem of Blake and Steve Nash, he would've had 40 if he was in peak form. Splitter chipped in 9 points and Leonard finished with 15 and 11, shooting 6-of-9 from inside the arc, but 0-4 on his three-point attempts.
By The Numbers
18,897: Tonight's Official Attendance
18,877: Number of fans in attendance disappointed that Kobe Bryant wasn't playing.
208: Number of fans in attendance disappointed that Tim Duncan wasn't playing.
0: Number of fans in attendance disappointed that Dwight Howard wasn't playing.
1: Legit starter in the Lakers lineup. (That includes Steve Nash, I'm afraid. Looks like it's time to retire, man.)
4: Biggest Lakers lead in the second half.
6: Biggest Spurs lead in the second half.
21: Lead changes.
13: Made three-pointers by both teams, in 48 attempts.
1: Spurs dunks all game, by Ginobili, with 11 seconds to go.
0: Defensive rebounds, in 22:23 of playing time, for Boris Diaw.
1: Hugs for Andy Garcia from Duncan.
Sequence of the Game
Midway through the second quarter, with the Spurs trailing 33-22, Leonard snatched a rebound and raced up the court, slowing only when he saw that the Lakers had alertly gotten back in transition (something they rarely did last season). He shoveled it to Parker, who gave it back to Leonard for a pump fake and pull-up at the free throw line that clanked, only for Splitter to outwork two Lakers for the offensive board. He got it to Parker who missed a wing three, but this time Green hustled for the rebound on the baseline, and he threw it to near the half court line, where Ayres outhustled two Lakers to the ball, dished it to Parker who quickly found Green spotting up on the wing for a three that he swished, prompting Coach Pringles to call time.
Tweets of the Night
All I want to do is eat crepes with Boris Diaw while talking about the wonders of crisp interior passing and be best friends.— Ian Dougherty (@_IanDougherty) November 2, 2013
Manu is a clever turnip.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) November 2, 2013
Right now the Spurs are as bad at finishing as George RR Martin.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) November 2, 2013
The insecure Lakers replaced those awesome posters of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan that have been hanging on the rafters of Staples Center forever with a bunch of cheesy championship banners and retired jerseys. How transparently jealous can you be, guys?
Your 3 Stars:
3. Manu Ginobili (2 points): 20 points (7-of-14, 3-of-7 3pt, 3-of-3 FT), 3 rebs, 3 asts, 1 stl, 1 TO, +5
2. Boris Diaw (6 points): 14 points, all in the final 13 minutes
1. Tony Parker (5 points): 24 points (12-of-18), 4 rebs, 6 asts, 1 TO, +14
Next Up: @Portland (1-1), Saturday, Nov. 2
Both teams will be traveling to Portland for a SEGABABA, with the Blazers coming off Friday night's 113-98 rout of the Nuggets at Denver in an offensive free-for-all that saw both teams combine for a preposterous 202 field goal attempts, thanks to 36 offensive rebounds and only 11 turnovers in the game, total. Portland had four starters with at least 18 points and prevailed due to eight more made threes (14-of-22, 63.6%). Nicolas Batum is hot at the moment and he usually drives the Spurs nuts -- as does Damian Lillard -- and with Duncan questionable and Pop perhaps inclined to rest Ginobili, I'm thinking the first "L" of the season is likely.
More from Pounding The Rock:
- Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Portland Trail Blazers
- Ginobili, Parker & Diaw lead the Spurs to victory against scrappy Lakers
- The rumors of Ginobili's demise were greatly exaggerated
- J.R. Wilco talks about the Spurs win over the Grizzlies on The Phil Naessens Show
- Manu Ginobili's interview with Argentine paper Ole (translated)