How I wish I could say that the Spurs' rousing comeback from ten points down late in the third quarter to a runaway 102-94 win was a tribute to the character, mental toughness, or even the talent of our lads. All of those narratives would sure be a heckuva lot more fun to read than the truth, which basically boils down to...
Nuggets gonna Nuggets.
I almost feel like I owe George Karl an apology, really. All these years I thought he and Don Nelson should've starred in a wacky NBC sitcom about incredibly overrated coaches cashing gigantic checks and laughing their wrinkled old keisters off. But it turns out, at least in Karl's case, that Denver's ballers pretty much play the same high-flying brain-dead brand of ball regardless of who the head whistle is.
For nearly three quarters, the game was teetering between a six-point Denver lead and absolute blowout because the following guys could shoot for the Spurs:
1. Tony Parker
2. Nobody else
Also, the Nuggets, led by the likes of JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried, always seem to go crazy with dunks and layups every time they play the Spurs, especially at home. Usually we're pretty good about defending the interior, but against Denver the whole team plays like a bunch of Bonners and the Nuggets all play like half-time trampoline dunk squads. It's emasculating to watch as a fan, and feeds into all the negative Spurs stereotypes.
The only reason the game was within hailing distance at all, given how laughably poor the Spurs were shooting, was Denver's rash of turnovers, at least half of which were unforced, and the fact that all their bigs save Faried got in serious foul trouble in the third quarter, leading to a parade of Spurs at the charity stripe to keep San Antonio in the game.
Going into the fourth quarter, I'm guessing Pop's message to the team went something like this:
Pop: Hey, can y'all pull your heads out of your butts long enough to look at that hole at center court?Parker: What hole?Pop: That one, that trap door right in the middle of the court.Parker: Ooh yes, I see it now!Manu: What is it?Pop: It's the trap door the Nuggets are all going to fall into to let us win the $^*$&%@ game if we let them.Duncan: Cool. How long has it been there?Pop: All night, and it keeps getting larger as the game goes along. All you have to do, Timmy, is not fall into it yourself, okay?Duncan: Got it.Pop: Okay, Tony?Duncan: Oui.Pop: Manu?Manu: Can I try to pass it through the hole?Pop: I will trade you to the Bobcats. I swear to God.Manu: Okay, okay, I'll leave the hole alone.Pop: Just pretend it's the basket and you'll be fine.Manu: :-(Pop: And tell Tiago to stay away from it too.Tiago: Sim, no hole.Pop: Kawhi, we good?Kawhi: ...Pop: All right, so we all understand the plan?Diaw: You're not going to tell me about the hole, Pop?Pop: I almost forgot. Boris, don't plug the damn thing up to the point that none of their guys can fall in.
The Nuggets finished the game with 23 turnovers and while the Spurs had six giveaways of their own in the final quarter, they still blitzed 'em 30-16 in the fourth thanks to Denver finally going ice cold from the field, after being at or near the 50 percent park for the first three. Oddly enough it was Brian Shaw's decision to pull Jordan Hamilton from the game midway through the third -- and waiting way too long, nearly eight minutes, to re-insert him -- that might have swung the game. Hamilton's hot shooting compelled Pop to pull Leonard really early in the third quarter for inattentive three-point defense (though it really didn't appear that Kawhi had strayed too far), and he hit another triple shortly after. But once he sat, Denver's three-point shooting went with him, and they missed of their final six shots from downtown.
The most important takeaway of the game for me was how Leonard quietly stole the show, taking advantage of the chaos all around him and creating carnage all his own, even on a night where his shot was nowhere to be found.
Here he was, early on, finishing off a two-on-one with Manu. So many teams mess this up, but the spacing between the two of them is so perfect ...
Even more telling was a 2:13 stretch midway through the fourth where Pop took out Ginobili and let Kawhi operate "naked" (without Duncan or Parker on the court). It was his show, and immediately, he asserted himself with two quick post-ups, scoring on one and just rimming out the other. Better yet was this sequence...
Finally, here was the ultimate example of Leonard's wondrous talents, to ice the game. You almost feel sorry for poor Ty Lawson.
I'd move to San Antonio tomorrow if me and Kawhi could get an apartment together. That's not weird, right?
In conclusion, the Nuggets aren't very good but I'm kinda glad that the Spurs didn't have to deal with Danilo Gallinari or Wilson Chandler. On to the next one, happy to take a 3-1 record home.
Your 3 Stars:
3. Kawhi Leonard (1 pt): Couldn't shoot, benched briefly, and yet his fingerprints, literally, were all over the game at the end. Finished with four dunks, which are the most for any Spur this decade unless you count Youtube compilations.
2. Tony Parker (8 pts): 24 points on 9-of-13 from the field, six assists and made Lawson work. For once, Andre Miller didn't torment him. Five turnovers, but overall he kept the team in it for three quarters.
1. Tim Duncan (10 pts): Back-to-back first stars for Timmeh coming off his chest contusion. Just your standard 17-8-8-4 from him, showing once more why he's the best all-around center in the league, even on a night where his jumper was a bit flat and he wasn't all that interested in banging down low. We'll see how much he and Manu have in the tank for tomorrow.
Next Up: Vs. Suns (3-1), Wednesday, Nov. 6
Another dreaded SEGABABA and the fourth game in six nights for the Spurs, who return home from a successful road trip and find a surprisingly competitive Suns team waiting for them. Few thought Phoenix would have three wins by the end of November, yet not only do they own wins over Portland and New Orleans, but their only loss was a close one at OKC.
Eric Bledsoe has looked every bit the franchise player so far, averaging over 25 points and nearly eight assists for Phoenix (though turning it over five times a game too). Second-year center Miles Plumlee is starting over rookie Alex Len and playing very well, and even vagabond swingman Gerald Green has been good. Noted Spurs-killer Goran Dragic has a bad ankle though, and will likely miss his second straight game.
The Suns will be on a SEGABABA too, having beaten the Pelicans on Tuesday, but they'll have a few hours' rest advantage on the Spurs. I think the good guys will pull it out, but jumping on the Suns early will be key because their legs could have more left in the end if it's close.
More from Pounding The Rock:
- Quick Cap: dominant fourth quarter propels Spurs past Nuggets
- Can a small market like San Antonio keep Kawhi Leonard happy?
- The Spurs' defensive weakness continues to be contesting jumpers
- Phil's Fantasy Basketball Tuesday: Ginobili's a Sleeper