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Game #76 Recap: Spurs fail to execute on multiple opportunities

This is my first recap and, well I wish it did not begin with such a frustrating game. I have 11 pages of notes and I wish I could just burn them. This game could be summed up basically by one thing: turnovers. 17 total with 22 points scored off of them. 3 of those 17 turnovers were committed in OT which just cannot happen, especially on the road.

Breakdown of the flawed finish in regulation:

  • With about 43.5 seconds left and the lead 107-104, Hill gets trapped and then eventually bobbles the ball and tries to tip the ball to Parker. Courtney Lee intercepts the ball and scores in a matter of seconds to bring the Rockets to within one point.
  • Spurs went right back down to the post and fed Duncan. He was fouled and it really should have been an and-one. Timmy never dribbled the ball and was delayed (only slightly) because of being held. Instead, Duncan hits the first to put the Spurs up by 2, but misses a key second free throw.
  • Kyle Lowry takes a tough contested 3 point shot with 3.9 seconds left with Duncan challenging him. It was a solid shot.
  • Manu, usually one of the best basketball minds out there has a lapse of judgment and did not throw up the floater, electing to complete a full layup. There was not enough time since he did not receive the ball right away and you only had 3.9 seconds to begin with.

Breakdown of key plays in OT:

  • With about 2:11 left, Duncan ends up with an open shot, but decides not to take the jump shot at the last second and hits Dyess (Spurs had a few bouts with over passing in this game that cost them a few potential baskets). A turnover occurs and Martin goes the other way and gets two free throws. Score becomes tied at 112-112.
  • Marin runs off a Scola screen while Hill goes under and gives up the 3 to put them up by 1 (114-115). In this case Duncan should have switched to cut Martin off. Yes, Scola might end up getting an open jump shot, but it would only tie the game.
  • Manu comes back and has a nice drive, but Scola steps in at the last minute. It's very close and if this is in San Antonio it might go the Spurs way. This would have put the Spurs up by at least 1, ir not 2 pts.
  • Hill plays great D on Martin, deflecting his dribble and drawing the foul on him (1:14 on the clock and down by 1 point). However, in the offensive set, Duncan gives it to Manu and he steps too far back and is called for being out of bounce. Ball goes back to Houston.
  • Rockets on the in bounce run the same play with Martin that got him that previous 3pt shot. This time, the big, Dyess commits to Martin while Hill eventually sags into the lane (which would be bad if Scola got the ball). Unfortunately, Dyess begins to jump and Martin senses this by jumping into him. Martin hits the 2 free throws and gives the Rockets a 3 point lead (114-117).
  • Manu gets a nice screen from Duncan, drives the basket and kicks to an open Parker in the corner who just happens to rim out. You can't really ask for a better shot than that.
  • But like the rest of the game, Spurs have to do something to make you pull out every single hair. They have to foul. Houston got the rebound from Parker's miss with about 27 seconds left. A few seconds between the shot clock and game clock. However, they don't end up fouling Lowry or Marin until Duncan fouls Martin with 7.5 seconds left on the clock. Popovich was yelling the whole time, but this is something that the T'wolves would pull, not our Spurs, right?

Recounting these moments was heartbreaking, especially since I re-watched the end of the game to double check these moments. This game was not as dramatic as the Portland game, but was arguably more frustrating since they had more times to redeem themselves.

Unfortunately, the Spurs are hitting a rough patch. It is magnified in the standings by the fact that Timmy went down so the Spurs have now lost 6 straight. The most important item is health going into the post season. The second would be that they are playing well. That of course doesn't guarantee anything though, especially if you look at last year.

  • Lakers limp into playoffs and have a tough first series with OKC - in finals (and win)
  • Boston limps into the playoffs - in finals (and almost win)
  • Spurs go in strong, and shock the media and Dallas - get swept in the 2nd round.

Although the Spurs are losing, they are showing signs of better defense. They really turned it on in the 4th quarter against Houston led by Duncan inside. If they clean up their offensive execution (turnovers), they really would have had a solid performance to close out the game. It is worth noting that Bonner was on the floor as the second big with Duncan during that strong defensive run at the end of the game.

What is the silver lining about this game?

  • The Big 3 all had hands in the game
  • Neal is showing signs of busting out of his slump
  • The team came back due to a strong defensive effort

Thoughts and Observations

  • I'd argue that Parker is the Spurs 2nd half MVP. Duncan is the most important, but Parker is the engine of this team ever since he was snubbed for the All Star spot. His actions often go underrated and unappreciated.
  • Manu needs to get back to his first half of the season (pre-struggling) form. Unfortunately, your stars are the ones that need to show up all the time in the post season. I don't expect Neal will be there every night nor do I think Hill will be for a multitude of reasons. Manu's got to become the 3rd scorer even if Duncan begins to adopt more of the load in the points category.
  • I like the Duncan/Bonner front line that Pop played down the stretch. It spaces the floor for pick and rolls. The only downside is Bonner has struggled in his shooting. My preference for combinations would be the following:
    • Duncan-McDyess
    • Duncan-Bonner
    • McDyess-Bonner
    • McDyess-Splitter
    • Splitter-Bonner
  • Yes, I did not mention Blair, but you have to be really careful with who he plays with. I really think they shouldn't feed him in the post too much unless it's one-on-one with a guy like Hayes off a break. He works OK with TD and with Bonner he works offensively, but both aren't the strongest defensively. However, he still relies on reaching and he doesn't box out that well, trying to rely on athleticism over footwork and spacing. Honestly, I'd argue that you'll get better fundamentals for team rebounding out of Bonner these days. Using JR Smith as the extreme example, Blair has some of those traits, where he has the talent, but he tries to rely too much on that portion along with his athletic abilities rather than using fundamentals. That'll always prevent him from gaining ground. Chuck Hayes is a good example of an undersized player who does well on defense, but he uses footwork and boxing out.
  • Tiago should get time ahead of Blair. Tiago has many issues, especially his free throw now that Chip is taking it apart (same thing happened with Parker's shot back when Chip first started). He had trouble in the Boston game, but had some good minutes in the Houston game. Even though he was 2-5 from the free throw line, he was at least making the big men work and drew a bunch of fouls.
  • RJ - love him or hate him. Recently, it's been mostly hate/dislike. Some of the problems are due to his game, but some of it is due to the system. He is hitting his shots when he gets them, but he just doesn't have many attempts. His big mistake is usually giving up an offensive foul, but he's usually good at finding the open man to pass to when he draws in defense His D is good as he usually has a hand in the opponents face unless he's picked off by a screen. They finally ran the alley opp play for him in this past game. They also ran him off a screen for a shot at the top of the arc. It seems like Pop is trying to sneak in a few more plays for RJ. To put some perspective here, if he's the 4th option and we are this critical on him, then we should be even harder on TD/TP/MG because they are all ahead of him.
  • How Kevin Martin gets the star treatment is baffling. He is 5th in the league (tied with Lebron) with 8.4 free throw attempts per game only slightly behind Blake Griffin (8.5) and Durant (8.6). He's number 4 in the league in total attempts, only one behind Wade. It sucks because he flops but they don't penalize him, while Manu has the refs tuned out to his contact these days due to too much flopping at times.

Stars of the game

The big 3, but no one deserves an A for some of the crucial mistakes that each of them made at some point in the key moments of the game.

1) Parker - he carried the team in many of their listless periods. 31 pts (65% fg), 3 reb, 6 assists

2) Duncan - he had a solid double-double (23 and 13 rebs) along with solid defense that helped them mount the comeback. But he had 3 missed free throws and 3 turnovers.

3) Manu -He had many amazing passes that led to assists for himself or others. 23 pts, 7 reb, 6 ast, but was 7-17 from the field. He also should have been smarter with the last play in regulation. A tough shot is better than no shot.