First, the Spurs are playing some pretty incredible basketball as of late. There are still plenty of mistakes, but I think we've seen enough in the early season to see that continuity is a valuable asset. I know the schedule has been easy in terms of quality opponents, but the Spurs have navigated trap games, three BABAs, showed up to play in actual contests, and have found a way to win in a couple of tight ones.
New Orleans hasn't won in San Antonio in three years. The young
Hornets Pelicans, despite how they looked against a rolling, deep, and veteran squad, are actually playing decent ball. They came into tonight 6-6 in the super-deep West, and were the winners of three-in-a-row. The Pels, or Pellies, or New Orleans Pelicans- if you're not into the whole brevity thing, have what I think is the premier young big-man in the game. Anthony - Fear the Brow™ - Davis has started this season posting absolutely great numbers, per-game:
20.7 ppg (on a slightly disappointing 49.5% shooting), 11 rebounds, and a monster FOUR blocks.
A couple more advanced stats:
He has a 97 defensive rating, 122 offensive rating, is second in the league in block percentage, and is sixth league-wide in Win-Shares and WS/48 minutes. It's a dramatic improvement from his rookie campaign, in which he battled injuries and a variety of actually competent big men (while March Madness can bring excitement, college ball in general, does little to excite me - with all that disparity and lack of polished post-games). You could call his rookie season a disappointment, and you wouldn't get very many arguments. Through his first 12 games in his sophomore season, it has become clear why he was a first overall pick. I'm sure there are many around here that would agree that having an elite two-way big man is the easiest way to success in the league, despite that freak-of-nature, once-in-a-lifetime talent, LeBron and his success (with a little luck, always a plus in sports, life, and love), or KD and Westbrook trying to prove that old notion wrong as well.
Tonight, the 20-year-old, facing the OG Tim Duncan, struggled a bit. The Brow finished with 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting from the floor, adding six boards, and his customary four blocks. He also finished with a minus-20 for the night.
In the second quarter the Spurs built their lead in a very methodical, yet now familiar way. Play intense defense, and share the ball. This team screamed TEAM at just about every moment of the game, as the 30 assists show. Like you, I'm really curious to see what the Spurs do when they play a team that is considered a contender. Yes, they played Golden State, and pulled out a nice win in that one. But, it was tight and the Spurs hung onto the victory in a game where no one could score in the last couple of minutes. It was a good but not convincing win.
When the third quarter started, Ayres was playing in place of Splitter, who has a mild ankle sprain - but was available for the second half. The Spurs didn't need the services of the Brazilian big-man, and when the period was finally over the Spurs had a 26-point lead. The bench is too good, too much fun to watch, and much too exciting to miss-even in a game like tonight, where the last half wasn't actually in question. Seven Spurs finished in double figures, and only Nando De Colo didn't score a point.
- The Spurs held the Pelicans to 38% shooting from the field on the night. This was actually an increase, as most of the night the Pels were hitting under 33% of their attempts. The Spurs D continues to just dominate lesser opponents. We'll see how they do against the Thunder on Wednesday. The Pellies were actually putting up an almost identical amount of points per-game as the Spurs. Tonight, they scored nine less than their season per-game average.
- Tim Duncan hit his banker tonight. It looked smooth and classic. He shot 50% for 10 points, five boards, and he had three each of assists and blocks. He also tied Tony and Manu for a team-high plus-17. The bench is very good, and fun, but this team is still led by the big-three. No, as much as I love Kawhi, he has yet to become part of my big-three. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer classic.
- The Spurs' offense continues to make strides (112 points, 30 assists, 54% fg, 40% from deep tonight), albeit against weak competition. It's a good sign, and I look forward to Wednesday's test.
- The Pelicans had three players finish over 50% in shooting for the night, and they combined for 5-of-7 from the floor in 30 combined minutes. Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and Jrue Holiday finished a combined 16-of-48.
- Boris Diaw returned after a one game absence and had 13 points to go along with five boards, two assists, and a steal. Le Croissant is still balling.
- Tony Parker didn't grab anyone's attention, but finished with 14 points on eight shots to go along with his seven dimes in just under 25 minutes of work.
- Tiago Splitter, prior to tweaking his ankle was having a MONSTER game. In just 13 minutes he had 11 points (5-of-6), six boards, an assist, and a block. That $10 million this year is starting to almost look like a bargain.
For the second game in a row, the re-cappers here at Pounding the Rock are struggling to find something of substance to talk about. I mean, there is very little meaningful basketball to go over tonight. If you want to read about what the Spurs can improve on, and why we shouldn't strut the start, Stampler wrote a great piece here, and it's full of lexiconal goodness.
Personally, I'm enjoying this start and see no reason to temper my expectations. The Good Guys are coasting past their lesser competition, have tied their best ever start (13-1), and will retain the Championship Belt for at least three weeks. This is a great start, and I hope you fellow Pounders are enjoying it.
Up next for the Spurs - A trip up to OKC for a Thanksgiving Eve showdown with the rival Thunder. For tonight's opponent's perspective visit The Bird Writes.