Game 16, at Orlando: Spurs 109, Magic 91 Rec: 14-2 1st in Southwest, 1st in West Streak: W-1
Oh my precious Timmeh, how I've missed you.
Here's to the reemergence of Duncan, who from the opening tip looked less like a fellow posing for a statue that will no doubt grace the entrance of the AT&T Center one day and more like the last season's superduperstar we remember so fondly. I'm not sure how much of that had to do with the defense of emerging star Nikola Vucevic of the Magic. He leads the club with a so-so 101 points allowed per 100 possessions, but it's not like he faces a bevy of quality bigs in the East so I'm not sure. What I am sure of, however, was that Duncan shot all of his jumpers without hesitation, they were all immediate catch-and-shoots like Danny Green, and that was extremely encouraging to see.
Throw in that sick spin move he had on Vucevic early in the game, the alley-oop (and it WAS an alley-oop, dammit) in the second quarter where he poked the ball away from a guy 14 years his junior and then beat him down the floor for a bucket, not to mention the kinda sorta and-1 slam on Victor Oladipo and it was the kind of game that gave me the warm fuzzies watching it. Or maybe that was the alcohol in my system. Either way I was feeling groovy.
Also of note was Cory Joseph starting in place of Tony Parker who was out with a (wink, wink) mild ankle sprain in the first end of a BABA. It was entirely fitting that Joseph drew the assignment against Orlando, where Jacque Vaughn, his Hippocratic Oath doppelganger at backup point guard, is the head coach. Surely the two Milford men had something to chat about after the game. I can't in all honesty claim that Joseph blended into the scenery -- not with six free throw attempts on the night -- but he had a solid, mistake-free showing and in no way blue himself in a game where he could've felt pressure to do too much in getting a rare opportunity to shine.
I'm happy the game wasn't more competitive because the Rox are in town tonight, but I really hope this was just a small blip for the Magic. Vucevic is usually much better than the guy we saw on Friday, as is Afflalo, and you can already see that Oladipo is gonna be a stud. He had one nasty block on a would-be Jeff Ayres dunk and probably got screwed on that Duncan and-1 too, where it looked like he got it clean. (The Cavs will regret not drafting him for the next decade. What a colossal blunder!) Glen Davis is back and playing productively for them -- he gave Tiago Splitter fits for most of the game -- and if Tobias Harris ever returns from his ankle injury, the Magic might still make the playoffs in the dreaded Eastern Conference.
Standard Manu Quote:
"We don't depend on absolutely one player. If we were going to miss Tony for 20 games, that's another thing. But we can replace anybody for one or two games. We are deep. That's one of the strengths of this team."
By The Numbers:
15,159: The paid attendance at the Amway Center
26:39: The most any Spur played, and it was Belinelli.
+29: What Belinelli finished at in those 26:39 on the floor.
0: Times I thought to myself, "Man, I miss Sean Elliott," during the broadcast. Carlesimo was awesome.
+17: In 17:38 for The Red Mamba. He's a machine. (Seriously though, I was impressed by a couple of Bonner's rebounds in traffic in the game.)
55-47-100: The Spurs' shooting percentage slash-line (field goals/threes/free throws) as a team. When they put that up even committing 19 turnovers can't harm them.
-30: In 33 minutes for Arron Afflalo who had been having as fine a season as anyone in the Eastern Conference who doesn't play for Miami or Indiana.
8: Turnovers in 33 minutes for Nikola Vucevic. It was not a good night at the office for my favorite Eastern bigman.
6-0: The Spurs' record vs. the East. I'm feeling like 28-2 for the season, and like 32-4 counting the playoffs.
Sequence of the Game:
Well, obviously I'm going to choose Manu stuff. After the starters came out lethargic in the second half and the only scoring by the Spurs in the first 7:27 of the third quarter was seven free throws, Ginobili canned a three off a Duncan double team, made a goofy hook shot over Vucevic on the next trip down and then had a Eurostep drive and scoop layup on Vucevic the possession after that. He ended the Manu-splosion in style, with this beauty...
1) I cannot even comment on the ending of that Warriors-Thunder game rationally. Just know that I think it's pretty important for the Spurs to get home court advantage, because the refereeing at OKC was straight out of the WWF.
2) There was a sequence late in the game, long after the issue had been decided, where Green looked a bit glum, down on himself for not having done much (he had one point on a technical free throw). Duncan patted him on the back and pantomimed giving him some magic lotion to rub on his hands. Shortly after Green hit two threes (though I don't think Pop was overly thrilled with the last one, ten seconds into the shot clock with 33 seconds to go in a 16-point game.)
3) Curiously, after that the Magic just dribbled the time off. Usually you see the trailing team take a last shot, even in a lost cause.
Tweets of the Night:
Splitter with the worst entry pass in the history of basketball.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) November 30, 2013
There's a 99 percent chance that McCarney is correct, but Don Nelson used to have some off-the-backboard passes in his playbook so it's not inconceivable that Pop would too, for when people are really aggressively fronting the post guys. But yeah, Splitter was so sloppy all game this was no doubt just a WTF play.
Duncan hitting top of the key jumpers create another stress point for D to rotate to, which unlocks ball reversal corner 3 and back cuts.— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) November 30, 2013
I want to believe Jesse here, but I'm not convinced the good teams will do this no matter how many Duncan hits. If you're the opponent a long two from Timmy would be more preferable than an open three from Green, no?
IT’S A THING RT @ThaNardDawg: Tim hitting his jumpers??— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) November 30, 2013
Before Ginobili retires, Popovich owes it to the fans to draw up a play on Manu's bald spot.— 210pros (@210pros) November 30, 2013
Manu has a good sense of humor and "has gotten over himself," a long time ago, but hell will freeze over before he ever goes for this.
It is highly unfortunate that, despite being on the floor at the same time, The Land Walrus and The Big Baby are not matched up 1-v-1— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) November 30, 2013
I'm amazed they weren't drawn into each other's gravitational pull.
Apparently Belinelli's food DMs were much more successful this Thanksgiving--so much confidence right now.— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) November 30, 2013
(This was a sneaky shot at Marco for you Twitter crowd)
Entire #Spurs bench just rose on that Duncan lob dunk ... can't recall seeing one of those in last 10 years— Mike Monroe (@Monroe_SA) November 30, 2013
Oh please! He had one against the Lakers just last year.
cavs will luck out and win jabari parker then get lebron and then will field a lineup entirely composed of CLE's #1 overall drafted players— Aaron McGuire (@docrostov) November 30, 2013
As I rewatch first half, it's as if Magic D set on rookie. Just tap shot button, watch them blow by on the fake.— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) November 30, 2013
Seriously, Kawhi got a defender off his feet just by raising an eyebrow---poor defender was probably startled Kawhi could change his face.— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) November 30, 2013
WORKING WITH CHAD FORCIER ON HIS EYEBROW FAKE FUNDAMENTALS. (Seriously though that was Leonard's best halfcourt move all season.)
My group at the bar laughed about this for a solid minute last night.
Easy way to shorten the schedule: Contract the East.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) November 30, 2013
We should make CONTRACT THE EAST t-shirts for hip NBA fans. It'd be the new "Charlie Don't Surf."
Let's get a Kickstarter fund going to guarantee a Golden State-OKC Western Finals. Name your price, NBA.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) November 30, 2013
How about a Kickstarter fund to get you to [REDACTED BY JRW] [Editor's note: I don't use bold when I delete things, Stampler. -jrw]
Your Three Stars:
3. Cory Joseph (1 pt): 13 points, four assists and no turnovers in 25 minutes for Joseph in his first start of the season. He made one corner three and had his foot on the line for another and got to the line six times as well. I'm not saying Patty Mills has to look over his shoulder yet, but these past couple of games certainly gives Pop something to think about.
2. Marco Belinelli (11 pts): The Italian Stallion might have taken a few too many blows to the noggin by Drago because he either shoots three feet in front of the three-point line or three-feet behind it. Still, his meatballs were definitely spicy at Orlando and that alley-oop pass to Duncan was perfection itself.
1. Tim Duncan (23 pts): The Golden God's fourth straight appearance on the YTS podium and he's definitely heating up. Against the Magic he shot his jumpers without any hesitation and decidedly more arc. And that spin move he had for his second bucket of the game against Vucevic was the most fluid he's looked all season. Duncan did run out of gas in the second half, but as P.J. Carlesimo mentioned during the broadcast, stamina is an issue with all of the team's top players right now because all the blowouts have thrown the expected minutes allotment out of whack.
Up Next: Vs. Houston Rockets (12-5), Saturday Nov. 30: The Rock-heads are coasting along to a pretty good record in the watered-down NBA, living off the flotsam much like the Spurs. They're 0-3 against the Los Angeles teams -- including a home loss to the Kobe-less Lakers -- and they've also dropped games at Dallas and in overtime against the Sixers when James Harden was out. Their only quality win was a 15-point thumping of Portland on the road. I must admit though that the Harden/Dwight Howard partnership hasn't been the disaster I thought it'd be and that they've got much better chemistry than I was counting on. Houston leads the league in offensive efficiency (a tick above Miami) and in rebound rate and their defense hasn't been a disaster when adjusted for pace, they're 11th in defensive efficiency. Their Achilles heel has been turnovers, where they're dead last in the league in turnover rate, by a full percentage point over the next-sloppiest team. As has been the case all season long with Houston the biggest storyline is what their roster will look like when they trade the disgruntled Omer Asik. Both the Rox and the Spurs are on SEGABABAS, though Houston is in slightly better shape there since they never left Texas. On Friday night they slaughtered the hapless Nets at home, and their box score was very Spurs-like as Howard and Harden played 43 minutes combined and they got 56 from their bench. Even scarier, they shot 19-of-32 from three, which is ridiculous. Hopefully that regresses toward the mean versus the Spurs. I'm predicting an exciting win, something in the 111-106 ballpark.