The Spurs won their ninth game in a row, fifth of the Rodeo Road Trip, against the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night in a contest that resembled a video game. Tony Parker led all players in points, with 34, and assists, with 14, as he continued to validate his recent All Star bid. Although both teams were coming off a game the night before, they each managed to shoot a scorching 54% from the field. In the end, the good guys prevailed in a close win that extended their league leading win streak that has them in second place in the West.
At first glance, you may think that this was a trash win against just another Leastern team, but that's simply not the case. Toronto has a decent squad that's been decimated by injuries. Even so, the Raptors are a dangerous team and the Spurs managed to secure a quality win on the second night of a back to back. The Raptors are a sneaky good, bad team; or a sneaky bad, good team. I can't figure out which, but I digress. In their four games prior to this one, the Raptors lost to our Eastern nemesis, the Bucks, by just 6 points. They beat the Celtics by a comfortable 8 points. They then lost to the Lakers by 2 points and then were beat by Jeremy Lin's three pointer that we've all seen way too many times.
Quickly, I am not Linsane, but I don't like Linsanity. As a graduate of Dartmouth, I hate Harvard in general. As a Spurs fan, I do not appreciate the little guy stealing San Antonio's spotlight. The Knicks' 7 game win streak is the little brother of the '08 Houston Rockets' 22 game win streak; it's weak and I'm already tired of hearing about it. So, they beat the Nets, Jazz, Wizards, Lakers, Wolves, Raptors and Kings. Aside from maybe the Jazz and the Lakers, aren't those games that a playoff team is supposed to win? And I'm tired of the myth that New York has the best basketball fans in the world. We've all heard it so many times it's just accepted as a fact at this point. I've been to a game at MSG. I have many college friends from New York. If anything, they know less about basketball. New York is a real city; it's a fantastic city, as opposed to our (beloved as it is) overgrown village that is San Antonio. They have too much going on up there to study the game. I'm a firm believer that the bigger the city is, the less knowledgeable its fans are. Everyone has a finite amount of leisure time each week, and if you have a plethora of options, basketball simply cannot take priority. In contrast, if you live in a place like Oklahoma City or San Antonio, what else do you have to do with your time? Hunting season is only so many months, my friends. The rest of the year is Spurs time. And I digress yet again, back to the win.
At many points throughout the game, the Spurs extended their lead to double digits and always seemed as if they were on the verge of blowing it open. However, costly turnovers and hot shooting by the Raptors kept the game too close for comfort. With two minutes remaining, the Spurs found themselves with a three point lead. Pop chose to close this game with Tony, Manu, Neal, Green and Tiago. This is a luxury that Manu's return gives Pop. He will have the option of resting Tim down the stretch, which is very nice. Let's keep our big guy as healthy and spry as possible.
In the last two minutes Tiago made a great move underneath for two, Manu moved his feet and baited DeRozan into an offensive foul, and Tony attacked the basket and made both free-throws. The Raptors cut it to 5 but turned the ball over which led to more Tony free-throws, where he was a perfect 12 of 12 for the night. The officials called a double dribble instead of a carry; regardless, it was a violation. I don't think the Raptors can complain about the call that sealed the game.
Your Three Stars
3.) Greg Popovich: 24 Curse Words, 34 frowns, 1 Smile, 1 Bottle of Merlot at Halftime (which probably caused the Smile) in 48 Minutes.
I liked how Pop distributed the minutes tonight. In the second game of a back to back, Pop managed to play Tim and Manu only 19 and 20 minutes, respectively, while still coming away with a somewhat comfortable victory. He rode his hot hand, Tony, to victory and didn't try to do anything too crazy.
2.) Tiago Splitter: 13 Points on 6 of 8 Shooting, 5 Rebounds, 2 Assists, and 1 Block in 28 Minutes.
Tiago had yet another extremely efficient game. He set solid screens and anchored the defense in his 28 minutes of action. His level of comfort on the floor is so high it's becoming a given from game to game. His sneaky European moves around the basket are a thing of beauty and I like the confused face he makes when he gets called for walking. If the look was verbalized, it would definitely have an accent. I assume that's the face that everyone from Brazil makes when they turn on ESPN and are forced to watch wall-to-wall coverage of Jeremy Lin.
1.) Tony Parker: 34 Points, 14 Assists, 3 Rebounds and 1 Steal in 39 Minutes.
Tony is playing great. There's little to comment about at this point. He's been playing at an elite level all year, and during this 9 game win streak has played simply impeccable basketball. What else can you say other than he's playing as well as anyone in the entire NBA? Good game, good night.
(Editor's Note: The Spurs have two days off again (for only the 2nd time this season) but brace yourself for a ton of coverage on PtR today and tomorrow, beginning with a podcast in just a few hours. -jrw)