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Morning Rehash: Playing in Mud

The now 50-16 San Antonio Spurs managed to hold off the visiting Dallas Mavericks last night for 92-91 win. The Mavericks, who are fighting tooth and nail for a playoff spot, missed out on their 31st win of the season when Vince Carter's game-winning shot rimmed out. Today's rehash runs through important numbers and visits the Spurs recent rough stretch of games.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Opening Hash

We continued to play in mud like we have been for the last two weeks. I'm not sure what to attribute it to, but it's a fact. It shows on the defensive end and it shows in a pretty dead offense. We were really fortunate to win this game.

-Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich.

With an exception to three quarters of the Oklahoma City game, the Spurs have looked exactly like what Coach Pop illustrated after last night's game. The Spurs offense has slowed down in recent weeks. Ball movement has not been nearly as fluid as it had been all season, leading to more contested looks and poor decision making. The Spurs have not been getting into the lane nearly as much (no Tony Parker will do that), creating a more stagnant offense of long-range looks.

San Antonio hasn't been the best defense in the NBA for a long time but they have been one of the better defensive squads this season. However, the Spurs defense looks like they're running through mud with no legs. Communication on the rotations has been abysmal at times, keeping opponents off the offensive glass has been even more of an issue than usual, and the defense on screens is looking more like it did last season. The result is inferior opponents shooting lights out from all parts of the floor.


Shoot-Around Notes

  • Patty Mills was working on his standard fast break drills. His work on shooting off the dribble has noticeably improved over the last few months.
  • Chip Engelland was really pushing Kawhi Leonard to improvise and continue with his drills even if he screwed them up.
  • O.J. Mayo's shot during shoot-around looks effortless.
  • Every movement of Tim Duncan is 100% with a purpose. The subtle ball shoulder drops, ball motion, where he looks, etc. There is no "try and let's see" with Mr. Duncan.
  • Tim Duncan appeared to be a bit irritable during his workout.
  • I've attended two Dallas-San Antonio games but Dirk Nowitzki was out in both games. I've never noticed that Dirk's feet move out from each other during his jumper.
  • Manu Ginobili looked care-free and relaxed during his workout. Last time I saw him, he looked rather tense and short-tempered. I was hoping this might lead to a turn around in play but, alas, it did not.

Quickie Game Hash

Check out Matthew Tynan's recap of last night's game.

Tiago Splitter has had a rough go of late on offense. The Brazilian was 1-10 for 4 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves and shot 3-9 FG last night for 8 points. The good news is that Splitter's aggressiveness hasn't waned. In last years Western Conference Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder pummeled Tiago out of the game both physically and mentally. Now when Splitter has poor offensive numbers or gets slapped around by the opponent, Tiago fights through it and finds different ways to contribute.

Since the post-season flame out, Tiago has strengthened his free throw shooting, aggressiveness down low, post-defense, rebounding, and is fluidity within the Spurs offensive scheme. Splitter's footwork and patience around the basket shows in his team-leading field goal percentage of 58.2%(Aron Baynes is higher but victory cigar players don't factor into this). Now Tiago doesn't score away from the rim (at all) but he's still scoring at more efficient clip than the last two seasons. He's also the only player on the team who hasn't missed a game this season so Tiago has had the benefit of developing a rhythm of consistency. Splitter has tallied double-digit points in 19 of his last 27 games, 5 of those were double-double nights.

With Tony Parker out for who knows how much longer, Manu Ginobili's struggles, and Tim Duncan's legs needing as much shelf time as they can get, the Spurs need to operate a larger portion of their offense through Tiago Splitter. The playoffs are right around the corner and there is no better time than now to begin reinforcing the confidence of a key player.

My Game Boss

28 12 20 19 2 1 2 35:50

Without Tim Duncan, this game would have resulted in the Spurs 3rd loss in four games. Duncan started off strong, grabbing 7 rebounds and scoring 6 points in the first quarter and adding 4 more boards and 3 points in the second. The Mavericks were getting physical inside with Tim, bullying through him to prevent the entry pass and getting inside his jersey when he had the ball down on the block.

My Game Runt

7 3 8 3 2 5 1 21:42

I honestly didn't want to put Brand as the runt because of the tall task of defending Tim Duncan. Plus, it actually was a great battle. Brand made looks down low to Timmy a tough ordeal and he didn't back down from the NBA legend. But Elton struggled for the most part when the ball did find it's way into Tim Duncan's hands. Along with the rest of teammates, Brand also struggled to score inside, making only 2 of his 6 shots in the paint.

By the Numbers

  • 897 - Gregg Popovich's career coaching wins.
  • 14 - Straight seasons of 50-plus wins. Next highest run belongs to the Los Angeles Lakers (1979-1990).
  • 16 - Consecutive seasons the Spurs have made the playoffs.
  • 83.8 - Percentage of the 37 made field goals the Spurs had an assist on.
  • 14 - The margin by which the Spurs out-rebounded the Mavericks.
  • 39 - Number of times the Spurs have been blocked over the last five games.
  • 11 - Offensive boards by San Antonio. 9 of those were in the first half.
  • 10 - Personal fouls by San Antonio.
  • 27.3 - Dirk Nowitzki's field goal percentage inside the three point arc last night.

Odds & Ends

  • Sure, he's a Maverick but Dirk Nowitzki seems like a good drinking buddy (Yes, I've seen the pictures).
  • Chris Kaman has skinny ankles. That matters enough to me to post it here.
  • Manu Ginobili appears to be passing out later than usual on his drive and kick-outs. I need to pay more attention to this.
  • Stephen Jackson had a shot that started as a wide open three pointer. Captain Jack decided to drive to the rim instead. He was still open when he got there but it seemed like he was unsettled by open he was. The layup was jerky, off-balanced, and had no chance of going in.
  • It was a short stint but Cory Joseph had a great start to the third quarter - he scored all 4 of his points, dished an assist, drew a charge, and played solid defense.
  • I need to see a replay still but I'm trying to figure out the double-dribble by Danny Green.
  • Leonard took a tumble early in the game and seemed to be grabbing at his left knee when getting back up .I didn't see any ill-effects afterwards.

Bird is the Word

Going into the Next Game, the Spurs Need to...

..., in my opinion, keep giving more time for Cory Joseph. If Gary Neal's injuries are ongoing and the Spurs aren't going to give Nando De Colo and Patty Mills a decent run on the floor, then they need to find the former Texas Longhorn more minutes on the floor. Manu Ginobili will be the primary facilitator when Tony Parker is on the bench but you can't have games where one or the other is out on the floor. Eventually, both will be on the bench and I just don't trust that role to Gary Neal. I'd rather see the Spurs prep Joseph for the responsibility of third-string point guard than watch them diddle around with the minutes.

And stop missing layups. That might be important.

Be a stalker and follow Aaron on Twitter at @DukeOfBexar for more Spurs notes, quotes, and opinions.