Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs did what it took to emerge victorious.
The Spurs won this one not because of their system or coaching, but because they had the best players on the floor. With Varejao out, the Cavs had no chance whatsoever to stop Tim Duncan. Kawhi Leonard was the best wing on the court by a pretty wide margin and, with Irving out, Manu Ginobili was the best playmaker. It still was much closer than it should have been, mostly because the Spurs couldn't get stops with Duncan off the floor, but the Spurs got the win and that's all that matters.
Timmeh started the game on fire, hitting six of nine shots and pulling down six boards in the first quarter. He carried the Spurs on offense but the team defense was terrible and allowed a bad Cavs team 30 first quarter points. In the second quarter Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington helped the Cavs keep a blazing offensive pace. On the other end Manu Ginobili and a surprising shooting night from Nando De Colo kept the Spurs ahead in the game.
The third quarter started like the first--with Kawhi Leonard forcing things a bit on offense and Tim Duncan balancing things out by scoring efficiently. De Colo's hot shooting held and Ginobili kept putting his teammates in a position to score but the defense suffered immensely with Duncan resting and the Cavs took advantage. They rode ridiculous third quarter performances by their role players Marreese Speights (10 points 4 boards), Shaun Livingston (six points and five assists) and Alonzo Gee (six points and two steals) to a 29 point quarter. Going into the final period, the Spurs were only up one and most Spurs fans were dreading another collapse against a bad team.
But Duncan was not going to let the team lose and crowned a fantastic both-ways performance with six points and three blocks in the last quarter. Kawhi Leonard got 10 points and four rebounds while Ginobili contributed four assists and Jackson five points. The great nights from Livingston, Speights and Ellington were simply not enough to beat a Spurs team that, without playing anything close to their level, got the W at home riding solid individual offensive performances and a dominant Duncan.
There are still some concerns after the win, especially on the defensive side of the ball when Duncan rests, but the Parker-less Spurs will take it. The Spurs out rebounded another inferior opponent and had 32 assists on 45 field goals. The defense definitely has a ways to go but shortening the rotation should take care of some issues; the important thing for now is to keep winning the easy games, whatever it takes. With Parker's return looming, the Spurs are still 1st in the West and that's all we can ask of them, really.