Here are some thoughts about the Spurs-Kings game I attended last night. I doubt I'll ever have any grandkids of my own, but I wouldn't even tell your grandkids about this one. It was probably the worst Spurs win I've ever seen in person, which should give you an idea how spoiled I am.
1. What a mess! Probably just a coincidence but that game felt like the Spurs' homage to the NCAA tournament because it was ugly enough to be a college game. They had only 18 assists all night, easily one of their lowest totals of the season, and it's not like it was because they turned it over a bunch either. They just couldn't make shots. They put up 93 of them, just a huge amount --in part thanks to 13 offensive boards-- but shot below 39 percent and just 20 percent on threes. The ball movement wasn't crisp for long stretches of the game and quite stagnant at times. Honestly, there just weren't many highlights to be found in this one. It was like the quintessential Spurs game for people who don't watch Spurs games.
2. That being said, for the first three quarters, ironically, it sure seemed the Spurs had more success scoring the ball on isos and individual efforts taking it to the basket than when they worked it around and got open looks. Don't get me wrong, they tossed up a lot of ugly contested shots off those ball-stopping possessions, so I guess what I'm trying to say is they couldn't shoot jumpers regardless of whether they were good or bad shots. Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills were particularly guilty of this.
3. Speaking of Leonard, he sure played an out-of-character game last night, like he was channeling the guy across from him, Rudy Gay. Not only did Leonard ball do a ton of ball-stopping and iso-ing (if that's a word), but he also chucked up a lot of threes. His six attempts from downtown tied for the third-highest of his career and a couple of them were of the pull up and fire early in the shot clock variety, a la Manu Ginobili or Danny Green. It looked like it was a part of the game plan for him to be aggressively looking for his shot in this one.
4. I don't know if Pop ever announced that the team is officially looking at videos of and actively game planning against specific teams now, but they sure seemed to have a couple of unique wrinkles for Sacramento, with Duncan in the high post firing tight, hard passes right down the gut to a cutting Tiago Splitter or Leonard. Ginobili fired a couple in there too, as the Kings seemed a step slow in defending the paint all night, usually resorting to late, desperate fouls. Pop also employed a lot of odd lineups in the second half, especially the part where Matt Bonner played the final 14:09 of the game. Boris Diaw wasn't playing with much energy and maybe Pop wanted to save him for the smallish, versatile Warriors tonight, since Duncan will probably be resting. I have a feeling Ginobili will play though, he only saw eight minutes of action in the second half.
5. There was a weird play in the third quarter, where Duncan had a sharp cut to the basket and was shoved on his hip by Gay, which prevented him from rising up for a short banker and allowed Gay to extend high enough to block the shot out of bounds. Duncan complained, rightly so, about the lack of a call. On the ensuing inbounds play, DeMarcus Cousins, perhaps sensing that he'd be victim of a make-up call if he so much as breathed on Duncan, backed way off him on a bunny eight foot jumper, which Duncan easily made. Tim was still bent about the no-call though and got a "T" on the next trip down.
6. The Spurs offense was rough to look at, but the starters still managed 21 points in 10:10 while allowing 18. Works out to a 99-85 pace for a full game, so those guys are continuing to dominate. Splitter in particular has been very strong of late. His last five games include three three double-doubles, and four where he scored in double-figures. He's averaging 10 and 8.4 over the past five games and he more than held his own against Cousins.
7. It was hard to tell how well the Spurs played defensively. The Kings missed a ton of shots too, but I think the Spurs did a better job of sealing off the paint. The refs let some physical play go for both sides. The Kings' lack of ball movement obviously hurt them because it's not like they've got a Kevin Durant.
8. And yes, I was severely butt-hurt all game long because of the way Thunders-Raptors ended. How does Toronto blow an eight point lead with 43 seconds to go? Durant BANKED a three to cut it to five and give them life -- I mean, come on. And then John Salmons misses both freebies with eight seconds to go. Just awful. In the end, Durant drained a 28-footer, with Amir Johnson all over him. Dude played 52 minutes and didn't appear to be even remotely tired. Durant isn't human. Serious question, how many minutes would he have to play before it affects his legs on the jumper? 100? 200? 500? Very frustrating.
9. It's a testament to the pace and depth of the Spurs that even on a night where they shot 39 percent and 20 percent from downtown and where they only managed nine fast break points, that they finished a tick short of a 100 on the night. They got 19 second-chance points, which is above the norm for them, and got up a ton of shots and free throws, because they only committed nine turnovers. By the fourth quarter the Kings were just completely worn down by all their cutting and off the ball movement and just seemed to collectively give up. Marco Belinelli destroyed them late with his back cuts and Duncan finished with six assists for the third game in a row. The Kings actually played a lot harder defensively than normal and did a solid job of getting back in transition, but they just do a ton of stupid things on both ends of the court. It's almost impossible to be good when Cousins and Gay are your two best players and Isaiah Thomas would ideally be the sixth or seventh man on a good club, a sparkplug off the bench a la Mills or Reggie Jackson.
10. For those of you looking to visit California and catch an NBA game, I'd highly recommend making the trip to see the Kings instead of catching the Warriors. It's a much cheaper ticket, you can get affordable seats a lot closer to the floor, and the people who go the games are actually basketball fans who stay in their seats to watch the game. For waaaaaaay too many people in the Bay Area, the Warriors are just this fad -- something to do. The tickets are crazy expensive, even for the worst seats in the gym. You can't watch the game for more than two minutes without having to get up or have your view obstructed because "fans" are constantly getting up to get more overpriced, watered-down drinks or $11.50 Bud Lights, and a third of the crowd are bored girlfriends staring at their phones the whole time or taking selfies. Warriors fans have a reputation for being loud and a great crowd, and maybe they do for playoff games, but for your run-of-the-mill regular season game the only thing those people scream for are Stephen Curry threes. It's a shame the Kings are so terrible because their fans deserve a better team.