Friday night, the San Antonio Spurs battled the Charlotte Bobcats at the AT&T Center. The Bobcats came into the Alamo City playing good basketball and were hoping for their fifth straight win. Charlotte entered tonight with five full days of rest and it was evident early on as their tenacious defense and fresh legs flustered San Antonio. The Spurs, however, regrouped just before halftime and eventually managed to put the feisty Bobcats away, 92-82.
Patty's Got A Brand New Bag
Here you go Pounders, Patty highlights from the season accompanied by none other than Mr. Dynamite, Soul Borther Number One, James Brown, with his early-funk classic - Papa's Got a Brand New Bag.
It's been more than a month since I last recapped a game, due to the long Rodeo Road Trip, so let me begin by expressing my supreme confidence in this team. Many pundits across the nation essentially ignored the Spurs' injuries and decided that this team is somehow just not that capable. They've been pitching the Durant vs. Lebron angle so often that it seems they've actually began to believe the hype that they created. "Number one vs. number two." "OKC has two of the best ten players in the league." "Lebron or Durant for MVP?" Yadda yadda yadda, nothing else matters.
My intention is not to take anything away from OKC or Miami, but if all you did was listen to ESPN you'd probably think that they're playing Game 7 of the finals tomorrow. I just listened to their halftime show with Bill Simmons and Doug Collins. ESPN showed the Western Conference standings and the two were asked how they saw the West ending up. They didn't mention the Spurs. Not once. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but it's driving me a little nuts. The team that should have won the championship last year greatly improved and somehow they are an afterthought.
This season is shaping up as well as it could have for the Spurs. As a Spurs fan, you couldn't ask for a better season, in terms of building a team to win it all. If I had the power to go back in time and change anything that's happened this season, I wouldn't. Not a single thing. The injuries to Kawhi, Manu, Danny, Tiago and Tony happened at the perfect time. If they had happened just as the season began, there would've been too much season left and odds are some of them would have tweaked something again. If they occurred any later in the season, there would not be enough time for them to get in rhythm for the playoffs.
The perfectly timed injuries allowed Boris Diaw, Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills to take on bigger roles. The way I look at it is that the Spurs are vastly superior to last year's team because these three players, as they are currently playing, are all new to the team. Diaw never looked for his shot last year. The present version not only takes open shots, but he also effectively posts up multiple times a game. Chubby Patty never got off the bench last year and now he's capable of scoring 30 and has morphed into Pesky Patty on the defensive end of the floor. And the upgrade from Gary Neal to Marco Belinelli was on full display tonight. Marco is a complete player and Gary is a gunner. Marco ran the offense tonight while Gary took (bad) shots on the other end. This version of the Spurs is the best we've had since 2005. While OKC is scary, by the time the Western Conference Finals takes place, I believe the Spurs will be the favorites. This will happen after Simmons incorrectly picks the Spurs to lose in each of the first two rounds, again.
Tonight, the Spurs struggled mightily in the first quarter and never led in the second. In the first, the Spurs shot 32% from the field and didn't connect on a 3-pointer. In addition, they committed six turnovers and so they found themselves trailing by nine after one. Keep in mind that half of the Spurs' players are rusty and the lineups that Pop is using haven't played together in months due to the litany of injuries.
In the second quarter, the Spurs continued to look out of rhythm and the Bobcats pushed their lead to 14 points with 8:26 remaining in the quarter. While that was the Bobcats biggest lead of the game, they controlled most of the second quarter leading by double digits. However, after Al Jefferson's layup with 1:59 on the clock, the Spurs' defense tightened and didn't allow the Bobcats to score another point in the half. The Spurs closed with a 5-0 run and trailed by just four at intermission.
Even without Tony Parker, I am getting that strange confidence yet again. I had the same premonition throughout last season and when I felt it, I'd often text JR Wilco, "Championship!" After watching the Spurs play a fairly miserable 22 minutes of basketball, I was not concerned in the slightest. The Bobcats are a very good defensive team. They have incredible athleticism and use it well. Against most teams, the Bobcats' first half effort would have been enough to suck the life out of their opponent. But not against this team. I knew the run was going to happen and sure enough, the Spurs quit turning it over and suddenly they were right back in it.
In the third, the Spurs finally managed to get over the hump behind a great quarter by Tim Duncan. He scored nine points on three of three shooting from the field and hitting three of three from the line. He also snared five boards and dished two dimes. However, the Bobcats refused to go away. Down seven points with two minutes to go in the quarter and with the game slipping away, they clawed their way back in and only trailed by one after three.
In the fourth quarter, the Spurs confidently closed the game. Patty, Marco, Manu, Kawhi, Diaw and Tim all made important plays on both ends of the floor. Marco was red hot scoring nine points while not missing a shot in the final frame. Pesky Patty forced a turnover after a Spurs made field goal with his relentless one-man full-court press. Manu hit an acrobatic and-one that essentially put the game away.
This team is so good. The Spurs were without Tony Parker. They were obviously rusty and turned the ball over 19 times. They were facing a hot, extremely athletic Bobcats team that was as rested as possible. None of it mattered as the Spurs executed in the fourth to win comfortably. The chemistry of this team is off the charts. I wish there was an accurate way to quantify it. If there was, I bet this team would be top five in NBA history. Get ready for the ride; it's going to be fantastic.