Sometimes there are upsets in the NBA, especially in the regular season. An inferior team gets an early lead and keeps it, or they hang around and improbably win it late. And some other times, the difference in talent is so great that everything after the first quarter feels like garbage time. You can guess which of these two alternatives went down in San Antonio Friday night.
The first couple of minutes were a bit worrying. The Spurs were missing threes and not getting back on D after those long rebounds. That's a bad combination and exactly the type of inattention that can keep a game against the Lakers close. Fortunately, the defense tightened up as the minutes went by and suddenly it was the Spurs' turn to go running down the floor for easy transition points after steals & blocks.
Once the benches checked in, the obvious talent disparity between the two teams became even more pronounced. The Spurs moved the ball and attacked the paint relentlessly against a Lakers defense that seemed disinterested or unable to stop them. The 15 point difference at the end of the quarter accurately reflected how lopsided things were and pretty much sealed the fate of the game.
As the second quarter started, the Spurs' bench started getting a little too unselfish and daring, trying to make impossible passes. But the Lakers subs were so inept on both ends that it didn't cost the Spurs. After a bit of a rocky start, the offense started clicking again and since the Lakers couldn't decrease the deficit, Pop decided to use this game to experiment with lineups and give his stars rest. That's why we were treated to a Joseph, Belinelli, Green, Bonner, Baynes unit with 9:25 to go in the second quarter. It was one of those games.
The Spurs got hot from three, going 5-10 in the second quarter and things really got out of hand. Going into the break, the lead was 61-34 and the member of the Big Three that had logged the most minutes was Tim Duncan at 10:25.
There's really not a lot more to add. The starters came back to start the second half but quickly were sent to the bench to rest. Every member of the Big Three played 15 minutes or less and no Spur played more than 26. The Lakers kept on missing shots, leaving knockdown shooters open in the secondary break and doing jarring things like double-teaming Jeff Ayres in the post while the Spurs got whatever they wanted en route to arguably their easiest win of the season, 119-85. That's their 9th win in a row and a league-leading 49th for the season.
- The Spurs' Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili surpassed Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper and are now the second winningest trio of all time, trailing only the troika of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish by only 49 wins. If they all remain healthy next season, they should get enough Ws to take first place.
- The Lakers are as bad or possible worse than their record indicates but they can't really be this bad. They were on a SEGABABA and couldn't buy a three while the Spurs went through stretches where they couldn't miss. I expect San Antonio to win in LA on Wednesday but I don't expect it to be this easy.
- It's hard to draw any conclusions from games like these but I've been noticing a trend regarding Splitter on offense lately that is simultaneously smart and frustrating to watch. Splitter gets good position inside, either in the post or after setting a screen, but once he gets the ball he makes a pass to an open shooter instead of taking the shot himself. It's smart because the Spurs need options to run their offense inside-out that don't rely on dribble penetration and because Splitter sometimes struggles to finish in traffic. It's frustrating because he is right there under the basket. I'm just hoping his reluctance to shoot is not a confidence thing.
- Aron Baynes played with a ton of energy. This type of game is perfect for a player like Bangers who goes all out every time down the court. He scored a couple of non-garbage time buckets and surprisingly wasn't too bad on defense. I wouldn't read too much into his recent performances (I doubt he plays much in the playoffs) but he seems to have earned the spot as fourth big in the regular season and a longer look by Pop.
- Before the game, Pop said this:
Coach Pop on Patty Mills: "I think he's either the Most Improved Player in the league or 6th Man of the Year, whatever. He's been..."— Paul Garcia PS (@PaulGarciaPS) marzo 15, 2014
- Matt Bonner had a double-double with 13 point and ten boards in 25 minutes, proving once and for all that he is a beast on the boards.
- Danny Green is shooting 50% (25-50) on three pointers over the last ten games. With Marco Belinelli in a bit of a slump over the same period of time (32.4%), the Spurs have needed every single one of them. Let's hope Green stays hot and Marco bounces back before the schedule gets tougher.
- The Spurs went 13 deep and every single player scored and recorded a rebound and an assist.
The Spurs will face the Jazz in San Antonio on Sunday and will then travel to Los Angeles to face the Lakers again. After that, they'll face the Sacramento Kings in a road FIGABABA. A 12-game winning streak seems very possible.
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