Tiago Splitter started next to Tim Duncan in yet another Pop lineup experiment. The Spurs' offense wasn't clicking early and the Celtics got a small lead off jumpers. Duncan was forcing things on the block, which caused the offense to stagnate. Once the ball started moving, the Spurs got back on track. Splitter and Parker led the charge each scoring eight 1st quarter points. The defense also improved as the minutes went by and the Spurs regained control of the game. At the end of the 1st, the Spurs were up by five.
The second quarter started with the bench, with Boris Diaw as the biggest culprit, over passing instead of taking open shots. Bonner checked in for him and the offense started clicking, leading to an 8-0 run. When the starters returned, the lead shrunk but with some timely contributions from Parker, Neal and Bonner the Spurs seemed poised to break away. Unfortunately, some serious defensive lapses followed and the Celtics took full advantage of the Spurs leaving Terry and Pierce open beyond the arc. Boston scored 28 2nd quarter points and kept it close, trailing only by three going into the break.
The 3rd quarter started like the 1st, with the Spurs' offense in a bit of funk until Gary Neal kick-started things with a three pointer. Tiago Splitter made his mark in this period as well by moving without the ball, defending Garnett's jumpers well and generally being aggressive at both ends. With the offense now flowing and the ball moving well, the Spurs' shooters started to find room and the threes started falling.
After getting a max lead of 11 the Spurs seemed to relax a bit and some of the guys coming off the bench couldn't keep the energy level consistently high. Boston chipped away and the 3rd quarter ended with the Spurs up by eight instead of double digits.
When the 4th was about to start, I had a bad feeling that Rondo might take over. I was right about a point guard leading his team to victory, but it was actually Parker who made sure the Spurs got the W. He took over for Splitter and De Colo, who had a beautiful stretch together to start the run, and scored nine 4th quarter points. Parker crushed whatever chances the Celtics had with acrobatic finishes, accurate jumpers and a couple of steals and the Spurs closed out the game in style, giving seldom used players floor time en route to a 103-88 home victory. After the last two road losses, a nice home win was needed.
- Boris Diaw was a mess out there. I find comfort in the fact that he seems to actually be trying, not like he has in the past when things didn't go his way. I really think he'd be better served starting if Pop has decided Blair should come off the bench, since his strengths are magnified and many of his weaknesses erased by that starting lineup.
- Similarly, Splitter did a good job in his second start of the season next to Duncan but he thrives in high pace situations where the ball moves freely. He should still get plenty of time next to Duncan but having him come off the bench after Tim already had some post touches could be the best situation for him.
- After a couple bad games, Green and especially Neal were on fire from beyond the arc against the Celtics. They were a combined 6-13 and some of those were key to either build momentum or stop a Boston run. As a team, the Spurs shot 12-25. The Spurs won't lose a lot of games with those numbers.
- The less we talk about Timmeh's offense on this one, the better. Duncan went 2-13 and had two TOs. In the last five games he has shot 21.8% from outside nine feet. Jumpers are a huge part of what makes Tim effective on offense at this point in his career so let's hope he gets his shooting touch back. Of course, being Tim Duncan, he pulled down 12 boards, had two block and, most importantly, got into a shoving match with Kevin Garnett. I love that Tim seems to genuinely dislike KG and his antics.
- Patty Mills and Nando De Colo are such a luxury to have. When everyone gets healthy they will surely go back to the end of the bench but right now their energy can change games. De Colo was particularly great in this one, doing a little bit of everything and pushing the pace constantly. Mills affords the Spurs the chance to pressure ball handlers, which is a nice change option to have.
Even if this was far from the team's best performance, the Spurs beat a good opponent at home rather comfortably. They did it without Manu Ginobli for most of the game and with a terribly inefficient Duncan. The Cs were on the SEGABABA on the road just like the one the Spurs finished but it's impressive nonetheless. Let's hope Manu comes back soon and the momentum from this win carries over to the game against OKC on Monday.
Your Three Stars
3 - Tiago Splitter (16 points, eight rebounds, four assists)
Splitter was the best big on the floor in a game that included two future hall of famers. Tiago did it all. He hustled, moved well without the ball, found cutters, got himself to the line and contested jumpers well. It's becoming normal for Splitter to have games like this one, which eases my anxiety a bit.
2 - Gary Neal (20 points, three rebounds and three assists)
Neal bounced back after a couple bad games by scoring whenever the team needed it the most. He lost his man on a couple of possessions on defense but overall he had a positive impact in the game for the Spurs.
1 - Tony Parker (22 points, eight assists and only one TO)
Parker keeps showing that the team can count on him to take the important shots by taking over the 4th quarter and sealing the win. He vastly outplayed a weirdly ineffective Rajon Rondo (six points, five rebounds, nine assists and seven turnovers) and looked quick and in control.
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Stats courtesy of NBA.com/Stats