SAN ANTONIO - There are times in life where everybody needs that recovery pill, that bounce-back moment. And after Wednesday's loss to the Chicago Bulls it was the Spurs who needed to shake off the rust and make another step toward fulfilling post-All-Star expectations. Luckily, the Bobcats were in San Antonio on Friday night, and they're a pretty popular rebound date.
Side note: I told myself this wouldn't be a bash-the-Bobcats-while-making-fun-of-Jordan post, so the jokes at Charlotte's expense will cease, or at least slow down from here as we can all acknowledge that's a tough situation for the players and their fans. Plus, the jokes would be too easy. I like to believe I'm a deeper thinker than that
but it's debatable. And jokes are fun.
Tim Duncan hit a bank shot, Richard Jefferson nailed a 3-pointer, DeJuan Blair dropped a floater and Tony Parker got a lay-up on four consecutive possessions midway through the first to start an 11-0 run that gave the Spurs a 23-16 lead, one they would never relinquish. Though Charlotte hung around for a little while, the run put an end to any real doubt as to the outcome. At least I think it did because I'm pretty sure I fell asleep late in the third quarter, so thank goodness for box scores. Parker had 15 points to lead all scorers while Jefferson, Duncan and Matt Bonner pitched in 14 apiece in a 102-72 blowout of the lowly Bobcats at the AT&T Center. And all of this came on the heels of an incredibly slow start.
Isn't it amazing what a Gregg Popovich timeout can do? San Antonio didn't exactly storm out of the gates in this one, committing four turnovers in the first seven minutes of the game and allowing far too many easy buckets while not creating enough of its own. Prior to tip-off Pop talked about how any team in this league is capable of getting a win if the opposition is lazy or complacent. It is the NBA, and the Bobcats are
arguably still professionals. So when he saw his team down 16-12 with just more than five minutes remaining in the opening quarter, the Pop-induced break in the action was the kick in the pants the silver and black needed. His team commenced to blow Charlotte out without a single Spur logging more than 29 minutes.
By no means was this the measuring stick Wednesday's game against Chicago was. But as we've talked about repeatedly, a win is a win. And regardless of whether or not it's a lockout-shortened season or the usual 82-game marathon, a loss is never better than a victory no matter the opponent. In this case, if the Spurs had lost to this 4-win team I truly believe Jeff McDonald or Mike Monroe would have been reporting that San Antonio had just sent the entire team to the D-League immediately following last night's game.
And let's face it, the Spurs have certainly played better. But I stand by my thoughts about the effects of rust on a team after the All-Star break. They're still getting it going. Think about it. When you go on vacation from work, remember what that first day back feels like? You have a difficult time getting back in the swing of things. The first hour is spent reminiscing over the great moments you experienced during your hiatus, the second hour despising the fact you have to be back at work and the third accepting everything that's happening. Before you know it it's lunch time and all is good in the world. And most of us don't have jobs that rely on precise rhythm and timing to accomplish a goal only few humans on the planet are able to consistently do. Putting the ball in the basket is not easy.
So you can safely bet that the Spurs were still rusty on Wednesday. Maybe it's a bit of an excuse, but isn't it a valid one? Jefferson made the point of saying after the game the Bulls had the luxury of playing the previous night before coming to San Antonio, and in a close game that kind of chance to regain rhythm and timing may have been the difference. It's somewhat counter-intuitive, as we know that, throughout the year, back-to-back games are difficult tasks. This might be the only time during the season that playing on consecutive nights is advantageous when competing against a rested opponent.
But this game against Charlotte was just another step in the process of getting where the Spurs want to be, come late April. There are still players working their way back from various nagging injuries (Kawhi looked good with 10 points and three steals), and, oh yeah, Manu Ginobili is still missing in action. He should be back against the Nuggets on Sunday barring any setback at today's practice, and I applaud the decision to rest him last night. There's no sense in putting him out there against a team San Antonio should have defeated soundly without him. Also, remember that Eddie Najera plays for the Bobcats. He hurts people.
As we turn our attention to Sunday's late, nationally televised game, what sticks out most is the expected return of Manu at the AT&T Center, a place in which he has yet to play in 2012. And being that it's the third game back from the break we should see the type of basketball we had become accustomed to during the RRT. No more rust, no more turning the ball over 19 times (which was the total from last night) and, most importantly, no more LWM.
Stars of the game (I'm throwing three darts at the roster)
3. Matt Bonner: 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 threes
Love it when Matty B comes in knocking his shots down, which is something he's been doing with regularity recently. But it's just a game against the Bobcats in early March. The Spurs need this in early May.
2. Richard Jefferson: 14 points, 7 rebounds, 4 threes
RJ made some nice contributions in this one, but, again, we need to see it in the playoffs.
1. Tony Parker: 15 points, 4 assists, 5 TOs
I get that the turnovers are too much, but he was the catalyst. And really, maybe I just put him here because he scored the most. I don't know. Nobody really stood out in this 30-point blowout.
Honorable mention: DeJuan Blair (11 rebounds), Tim Duncan (because he's Tim Duncan), Kawhi Leonard (because he returned to the lineup and got 10 points and three steals) and the rest of the Spurs roster.