Game 20 @Toronto: Spurs 1?? > Raptors ?? Rec: 16-4 1st in Southwest, 3rd in West Streak: W-1
GIF Breakdown: Aron Baynes' career night
With Tiago Splitter nursing with a calf injury, Baynes made the most of his opportunity last night.
Now that's more like it!
In a game that started out pretty hairy for the Spurs, who were down something like 15 points in the first quarter at Toronto and were clearly missing Tiago Splitter early on, they got a much-needed contribution from little-used Australian bigman Aron Baynes and another huge performance from Manu Ginobili and their other bench mainstays to coast to a comfortable win over the Raptors by maybe 18 points or so.
The Raptors began the game red hot, making at least their first five shots but no more than eight I think, with big men Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson taking it to Tim Duncan and the overmatched Jeff Ayres, who started in Splitter's stead. Each of those guys probably scored 10 points in the first quarter alone and then Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross got into the act too with a couple of threes. Toronto, I'm positive, had at least 30 points after the first quarter and quite likely more than that.
As lopsided as the first quarter was, it would've been much worse without the contributions of Ginobili and Baynes, who each had a couple of buckets to keep the Spurs within hailing distance. In the second quarter though, they really took off. I swear Baynes must've scored a career-high with like 12 points just in the first half alone before he had to sit after getting whistled for his third foul, I guess? Maybe his fourth, I'm not sure. Manu, meanwhile nailed three from long range that I recall and Tony Parker had a little flurry of tear drops late in the quarter and the Spurs went into the half up something like five points or in that neighborhood. I'm not sure but the announcers sounded upbeat so they must've been leading.
The third quarter, I think, is where the Spurs really pulled away. Parker cooled down and couldn't get a call going to the basket, but nearly everybody else was passing and shooting with aplomb. Danny Green made a couple of tough runners and two or three threes, Duncan got going inside even though his jumper was flat and got a few lay-ups courtesy of Ginobili and then the bench caught fire again with Manu finding Patty Mills for I'm gonna say four three pointers and also hitting Boris Diaw and Baynes for layups and Belinelli for a couple of scores too. Ginobili had to have like 11 assists I'd guess, and the bench probably combined for 60-ish points.
Obviously the Raptors aren't strong competition. They just traded away Rudy Gay and all the dudes who they got back for him weren't available yet, plus Tyler Hansborough was out with a sore shoulder. Still, it was nice to see a game like this after the slog of the past couple of weeks. The team shot the lights out with I want to say maybe a dozen three-pointers, they had to have shot a high percentage (in the 55 neighborhood) and I'm almost positive they had over 30 assists. Maybe it was a blowout, I'm not sure, but I'm positive it was fun to watch.
Man, it'd be such a bummer if it turns out they lost, but just judging by the body language and Pop's substitution patterns, I'm like 90 percent sure it was a win.
Standard Pop Quote:
"(Aron) Baynes did a great job. He hasn't played that much but he went down to the D-League and played a few games to stay in shape, kept himself ready and it showed tonight. He came in and did a really good job for us."
By The Numbers: All numbers unavailable by order of Rudy Gay.
Sequence of the Game:
The Spurs scored on their first five possessions of the fourth quarter, with Baynes hustling to rebound a Belinelli miss, throw it over his head right to the Italian Stallion as he was falling out of bounds, with Belinelli spinning in the lane to find a wide open Mills for a three. The next trip down Belinelli dished it to Mills for another bomb, this one from behind the basket near the Spurs bench. Then it was a three-point hat trick for Patty, with Ginobili finding him on a drive and kick. After that a bullet from Manu to Belinelli for a reverse layup. Finally, a quasi-alley oop from Gino to Baynes. The combination of passing, shooting and teamwork was just a wonder to behold. I'm obviously biased, but I think the Spurs bench is one of the most fun things in the NBA right now.
Tweets of the Night:
Amir Johnson is the most underrated player in the league.— Jesus Gomez (@JejeGomez_PtR) December 11, 2013
Settle down. (My vote's for Ty Lawson)
Pop threw Ayres into the deep end tonight and handed him an anvil.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) December 11, 2013
I'm starting to think he's kinda sorta terrible at basketball.
Manu Ginobili has the league's highest FG% (76%) on drives to the basket among players with at least 50 drives this season.— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) December 11, 2013
Imagine what the percentage would be if he could run, jump or get a call from the zebras.
I see Nando waving. Did they leave him on board? RT @jortle: a graphic of the Spurs’ defense over the past 5 games pic.twitter.com/WWL4EOUBOs— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) December 11, 2013
OH THE HUMANITY
That shot from Danny Green was just …. I think it was just awful.— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) December 11, 2013
Toronto with a nomination for worst fast-break of the season. Goodness.— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) December 11, 2013
Nick Young is jealous of that turnover.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) December 11, 2013
RT @JLew1050: A Kawhi Leonard-Giannis Antetokounmpo high five would end the world— Andrew A. McNeill (@drew_48moh) December 11, 2013
Me after that Baynes-Belinelli-Patty play http://t.co/ShJ96057ad— Andrew A. McNeill (@drew_48moh) December 11, 2013
(Ironically, the Mavs went on to lose that game)
The Spurs have outscored the Raptors 80-52 since Baynes checked in for the first time tonight.— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) December 11, 2013
Your Three Stars:
3. Kawhi Leonard (21 pts): Made a couple of hustle plays on defense and had maybe the best passing game of his career, finding Duncan, Ginobili, Green and Parker in the halfcourt for buckets. He's really developing well in that regard and his court vision is coming along nicely. His accuracy is wonky in fast break or pick-and-roll situations but otherwise he's fine.
2. Aron Baynes (3 pts): Threw down a pair of monster dunks, kept a number of balls alive on the offensive boards and absolutely thrived playing with actual good players instead of the usual third team dregs he sees the floor with. Am I crazy or is he not our fourth-best big? Hopefully he'll get a chance to open Pop's eyes while Splitter is out.
1. Manu Ginobili (28 pts): Second straight first star for Gino, who's been coming on like gangbusters of late. Just a tour-de-force passing game from him. I think if he could do it all over again he'd name his twin boys Patty and Marco.
Up Next: @Milwaukee Bucks (5-16), Wednesday, Dec. 11: A pair of red-hot clubs on one-game winning streaks will square off in frigid Milwaukee, with both teams having to struggle through a SEGABABA. The Bucks, fresh off 78-74 barnburner victory at Chicago, will look to take advantage of the Tiago-less Spurs inside with John Henson, who had more than a third of their made field goals (11 out of 30) and rebounds (14 out of 39). Milwaukee might well be the worst team in the league, as they're dead last in scoring (90.2 points per game), in offensive efficiency and in rebound rate, and 28th in defense. Obviously their whole team is filled with wretched players, but for my money Brandon Knight takes the cake as the worst of the bunch. He's the starting point guard and averaging a whopping 4.1 assists per game, to 3.1 turnovers. He's also shooting a sweet 35 percent from the floor. His line against the Bulls: 8-of-23 shooting, with two assists and six turnovers. Now that Trey Burke is doing some decent things for the Jazz, Knight is probably the worst starting point in the league, so I think Parker may have the slight edge in the match-up.
The Bucks will be without a number of their best (relatively speaking) players due to injury, including Larry Sanders, Zaza Pachulia, Caron Butler and, of note to Spurs fans, Gary Neal, who's battling once more with plantar fasciitis. He didn't make the Chicago trip and I doubt he'll suit up for this one. If you've been wondering how Neal is faring as a Buck, he's averaging a career-high 10.2 points per night and shooting a robust .456 from deep. Inexplicably though, he's only shooting .333 from two-point range and thus just 38 percent overall. Godspeed, Gary.
The Spurs should win this pretty comfortably. Henson, O.J. Mayo and Knight all logged over 40 minutes against the Bulls and you know that was a physical affair, so they should be pretty worn out for this one. I'm thinking something like 101-83.
World Cup Group B Preview:
Australia, Chile, Netherlands, Spain
The socceroos are doomed. To give you an idea of their chances, they've dropped a pair of recent friendlies to Brazil and France by scores of 6-0 each. Their best player, striker Tim Cahill, plays for the New York Red Bull. Clearly, they need Patty Mills and Aron Baynes.
Chile finished third in CONMEBOL qualifying behind Argentina and Colombia and their biggest strength is team chemistry, which they've earned by having a well-established team of internationals who've played a lot together the past few years, with not too many youngsters really challenging for spots. Most of the squad plays in either the Brazilian or Italian league, but the only player of note is striker Alexis Sanchez, who plays for Barcelona. The guys who play for club teams in Brazil should have a huge comfort advantage in the tournament and generally the Chileans should feel at home compared to their European and Oceanic counterparts.
The Dutch were dominant in qualifying, with nine wins and one draw, but they lack a lot of big-name talent at the moment and don't boast many players who play on big clubs except for superstar striker Robin Van Persie, who's 30 now and winger Arjen Robben, who's 29. Playmaker Wesley Sneijder has been on-again/off-again with the squad because supposedly he and Van Persie hate each other. Most of the spine of the squad play in the meh Dutch league, with darn near half the team made up of guys who play for Ajax or PSV. Netherlands would do well to finish ahead of Chile, but Brazil should make short work of them in the round of 16.
The co-favorites along with host Brazil, Spain are the World Cup title holders, as well as the two-time defending Euro champs. As some of you may know, they lost the final of the Confederations Cup to Brazil 3-0, which signaled to some a changing of the guard. We'll see if their golden generation, with midfielders Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and Xabi Alonso, as well as defenders Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique, keeper Iker Casillas, and forwards David Villa and Fernando Torres have one last run left in them, though coach Vicente Del Bosque is almost certain to try new strikers out for this tournament. Spain do look ancient in the back save for dynamic Jordi Alba, who's been injured all year for Barcelona, and you wonder if it's time for new blood to take over in the midfield too, with David Silva, Jesus Navas, Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata and Isco all looking for bigger roles. These guys could field like four terrific teams with their midfield talent, but they're thin everywhere else. Torres hasn't done much for Chelsea, but can you really justify sitting him when he's won the Golden Boot the last two international tournaments he's played for Spain and the only other choices, Alvero Negredo and Robeto Soldado, are also in their late 20's?
Prediction: Spain, Chile, Netherlands, Australia
A slight upset, with the Chileans using their first game against the Aussies to get off to a good start, while the Dutch will find themselves behind the eight ball right away after Spain dumps them in a rematch of the 2010 Final. It should set up a South American second round clash between Chile and Brazil, leaving Spain to deal with a happy-to-make-it-this-far Mexican side.