Feels good to win, doesn't it? Let's make no mistake, Washington is a team that seems to be in total disarray right now. But it's hard not to feel good about this win. It was the most complete effort the Spurs have put together this season.
Oh, and some French guy played point guard for the Spurs tonight. He seems to be a decent player, so we might just have to keep him around after all.
Obligatory Parker Praise
Yes, Tony Parker was back in action, and not a moment too soon. For all the crap we give him, he comes back every time and shows us how important he is to this team. When Frenchie is on his game, the Spurs turn into one hell of an offensive team. And he was back to his normal brilliant self on that end of the floor, leading the team in points and assists. But that's not where he impressed me.
Tonight, I saw Tony doing something I haven't seen him do in a long while: playing tough defense. Apparently, he's decided to take a hint from his backup(who is earning a living as a better defender) and actually give a bit more of an effort on the defensive end. It payed dividends, big time. He was guarding Gilbert Arenas most of the time, and the Wiz went to Gil early and often in an attempt to exploit Parker's normal weakness. Nice try, Wiz. Tony was a force of nature tonight on the offensive end, but he was also giving a ton of effort on defense. He didn't give up on chasing his man around screens, he kept good positioning(funneling Gil numerous times towards Timmy and/or Ratliff), and he was just very active. I don't know what else to really say about it - it didn't look like the token defensive "effort" we've come to expect in the last couple of seasons from Tony. If he keeps that up, this team is in great shape.
Like A Different Team
Anyway, now that's out of the way, how did everyone else look?
For the first time all year, Pop went with a starting lineup that is one my personal favorites: Parker, Keith Bogans, Richard Jefferson, Duncan, and Antonio McDyess. This is the second-best lineup available to the Spurs while Manu is out, and has a good balance of offense and defense. Dice's incredibly accurate midrange jumper creates enough space for Duncan to do his thing down low, but he's not starting from as far away when trying for rebounds, plus he has the athletic ability to get said rebounds. Bogans hounded the hell out of Caron Butler and Randy Foye, who shot a combined 5-19 for the game. And between Duncan, Jefferson and Parker, the Spurs had more than enough firepower to get out to an early lead.
In the first half, the Spurs' offense was being run by none other than Tim Duncan, who nearly had a triple-double by halftime. The defensive duties were being performed admirable by the entire crew, but Theo Ratliff really stood out today, attacking the boards and challenging any Wizard who dared to come near the rim. Even Michael Finley was observed to be playing decent defense, but the fear of Pop's wrath got the better of him on the offensive end when he missed a dunk.
In the second half, the Spurs' bench really turned up the heat. George Hill was effective at both guard postions, despite a poor shooting night. Also, Roger Mason found his shot, and even dished out 6 assists. Matt Bonner had a hot hand in the second half as well, helping to bury any hope of a Wiz comeback during the second half, when he, Mason and even Richard Jefferson put on an incredible shooting display from beyond the arc. By the time Mason buried his final shot of the night, the Spurs had built up a 30-point lead. Truly a sight to behold for Spurs fans who have been tired of losing.
Your Three Stars
Tony Parker - see above.
Tim Duncan - The man does everything so well. It's good to see that Timmy still looks like Timmeh! despite the knee problems and the fact that he was logging a lot of minutes in the last 2 games.
Theo Ratliff - Theo brought his "A" game tonight. To the tune of 11 rebounds, 5 points, 3 blocks, and even 2 assists in just under 22 minutes. And Theo's contributions go beyond the box score, to the intimidation of any Wiz player who found himself within Theo's reach. Who knew Theo still had that in him?
Honorable Mentions: Richard Jefferson, Roger Mason, and Matt Bonner all gave great contributions to the team tonight.