It's Carnaval here in Argentina. Before you ask, no, it's nothing like in Brazil. Here it's just kids in costume and drunk grown ups hitting on scantily clad women who have no interest in them. It's also a non-working holiday so I had people over while I watched the game. It was a couple of friends who played basketball when they were younger so they knew their stuff. Unfortunately, they don't follow the Spurs or the NBA so I had to talk them through the game. Here are the things I told them:
The defense is not usually like this. Except for last game when it was exactly like this.
When the game started the Spurs seemed to be about to lay an egg in Brooklyn. After a tough loss in Detroit where the defense was atrocious, the Nets scored 35 points on 63% from the field in the first quarter. Lopez and Johnson were shredding the Spurs' defense and my Argentine Manu loving buddies were ready to bash Tony Parker, who at this point was 1-6, and Tiago Splitter because, well, he is Brazilian.
Parker will take over.
I kept telling these guys that Parker was not the same selfish, shoot-first PG they learned to hate years ago. But then the Spurs couldn't get anything going on offense and I told them to get ready for Parker to carry the team on his back. Tony scored eight points and dished out a couple of assists in the second quarter and the Spurs needed everything they could get from him to stay afloat.
It's normal for the Spurs to suck and stay close.
This was something I said during the first quarter but found myself repeating throughout the first half. We all witnessed the Spurs' bench suck, Parker missing and Tiago letting Lopez score on him after playing decent defense to start the game. There was no reason for the Spurs to keep it close. But anyone who has watched this team play a handful of games knows they usually seem to find a way to get away with mediocre play if it only last a quarter or, at most, a half. The bench was not as big a drain in the second quarter, Tony was Tony and the defense showed up. The Spurs went into the break down six and I felt it was only going to get better from there.
The Spurs are going to come back in the third.
I'm not a psychic. I usually say optimistic things to myself when I watch the Spurs play. This time I simply had an audience that was looking to grill me on any missed predictions. Fortunately, the Spurs delivered and made me look like a freaking genius. The defense in that third quarter was beautiful. Crisp rotations, good closeouts, solid rebounding and limited fouls. The offense ran through Parker, who seemed to make everything, including two beautiful shots in the paint. One was a spin move and the other an up and under that left my Parker-hating buddies simply saying "wow." The Spurs seemed to be showing off, with Diaw throwing no look, over his head passes and Leonard displaying his full versatility.
I know this is frowned upon by the Basketball Gods and a ban-able offense on a PtR Game Thread (it is; don't test us) but I called the game early. When the Spurs finished the third quarter ten points ahead I didn't see any way for the Nets to cut down the lead; not the way Tony was playing and especially not in a game where the defense showed up. Granted it was in the second half and the Nets usually shoot themselves in the foot with their shot selection, but the Spurs' defense was fundamentally sound and extremely effective throughout the final couple of quarters. After scoring 35 first quarter points the Nets scored only 29 in the entire second half.
By the end of the game Tony Parker had earned two new reluctant fans and the Spurs had won the game by 25, 111-86. This propels the Spurs to 2-1 on the RRT and 40-12 overall. They still hold the best record in the league and will travel to Chicago to play the Bulls on Monday.
- Tiago keeps looking like a competent starting center, even with Duncan out with injury. Splitter was once again the best Spurs big. Bonner played sound pick and roll defense and Diaw had his moments, but it was Tiago who held his own against an All-Star in Brook Lopez and a tough Nets front line. After Pop said the Nets' bigs were scoring too easily close to the basket, the Tiago led defense allowed only 16 points in the paint on 54.5% shooting in the second half.
- DeJuan Blair is to me what Bonner is to Fred. I mean I don't hate anything like Fred hates BonBon, but I keep finding things to get excited about DeJuan only to be disappointed. He's pulling down boards on defense this season like he hadn't before. But he then plays lazy D, trying to get a steal and not recovering or commits a stupid foul and makes me want to punch my screen. He's probably gone this season but I can't help but feel that he could have been much more than what he has been for the Spurs. Oh, well. He's young. He'll probably have a long and productive career elsewhere. And I'll be rooting for him.
- Danny Green is shooting 63% from three in the last five games on seven attempts per game. It helps the Spurs enormously when a wing hits the long ball at a high rate. Since this is IcyHot we are talking about here, the Debbie Downer in me is anticipating a precipitous crash back to earth. Let's just enjoy it for now and deal with the drop when it happens.
- Tony freaking Parker, man. I mean, what can I say that hasn't already been said about the Wee Frenchman? Parker is showing everyone that he can lead a team and is finally making people realize how underrated he is.
- The Nets are kind of a mess. They need some leadership and they need it soon. I'd suggest Jerry Sloan but considering his history with Deron I don't see it happening. Something needs to be done because a Williams-Johnson-Lopez core with some solid complementary pieces should do much better in the weaker East.
So that's about it. The Spurs took care of business after a terrible first quarter. They should be getting Manu or Tim back soon but you never know with PATFO. My advice would be to get Manu a suit or risk him rushing the court but Pop knows best. Even if TWODAM is expecting us, I like our chances against the Bulls. Now if you'll excuse me, It's time for me to go get drunk and hit on scantily clad women that have no interest in me.
Stats courtesy of NBA.com/Stats
For the opponent's perspective, visit Nets Daily