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Morning Rehash: Trill-less Victory

Tony Parker returned to action last night against the visiting Sacramento Kings but his return was overshadowed by the news of Boris Diaw's back surgery and the shocking release of Stephen Jackson. Behind his 22 points, Parker led the Spurs to a win, making the race for the top playoff seed in the West even tighter.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Opening Hash

With last night's victory, the San Antonio Spurs pushed their season record to 58-21. The Spurs still have an opportunity to reach the 60-win mark with 3 games remaining before the post-season. If the Spurs do manage to finish the season with 60+ wins, it will be the fourth time in the Tim Duncan era - one above Kobe Bryant and just one below Michael Jordan. Also keep in mind that last season would have been the 4th time if it weren't for the lockout-shortened season.

Ben Golliver over at SI's The Point Forward had this to say about the Spurs 2012-13 regular season:

Of all the silly stats that define their consistent excellence, this is my favorite: San Antonio has won at least 61 percent of its games in 19 of the last 20 years. (In 12 of those 19 years, including this season, that number jumps to more than 70 percent, but I digress). This winning habit predates Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Gregg Popovich; it dates to the days when Kawhi Leonard was still teething.

Last night's victory over the Sacramento Kings gave the Spurs their 888th win since the 1997-98 season, a winning percentage of 70.4% to be exact. The second closest NBA winning percentage (Los Angeles Lakers) in that time span is a solid 5% behind the Spurs. The New England Patriot are the second closest team in professional sports at 69.5% but, then again, they've only played 256 games since 1997-98 compared to the Spurs 1,261. The Spurs will also be completing their 16th consecutive season with a winning road record, pushing their NBA-record four seasons ahead the previous record set by the Lakers (1979-80 to 1990-91).

Outside of the 1996-97 season in which David Robinson injured his back, the San Antonio Spurs haven't had a losing season since Larry Brown's 1988-89 squad. In other words, the San Antonio Spurs fanbase has an entire generation of fans that know nothing of failure. Sport's Illustrated's Ben Golliver stated it rather simply and, in my opinion, beautifully:

Overall, this goes down as "just another great season" for San Antonio, whose highest highs are skyscrapers, but it adds to a legacy that is now best measured in decades, rather than years.

Standard Pre-Game Pop Quote

We're getting ready for playoffs and putting our team together, what we want to do and who we want to do it with. We thought that making this decision with Jack was best for the group. Tough decision, because on a personal basis I've known him for a long time and I enjoy him very much. But you have to make decisions that are tough sometimes.

-Coach Popovich commenting on the release of Stephen Jackson.

Shoot-Around Notes

  • The Spurs took their team photo only a few hours after the Stephen Jackson announcement. Cold...
  • DeJuan Blair spent nearly his entire practice working with Chip Engelland on pick and rolls and pick and pop sets.
  • Blair's workout was much more intense than usual and he did very well form midrange. Even knocked down a handful of shots off the glass.
  • Sean Marks was getting pretty physical with Tim Duncan and never stopped talking at the Big Fundamental. I overheard Sean a few times yell out "playoffs."
  • I've never seen this before with the Spurs but the coaching staff had Gary Neal and Patty Mills go against one another in a shooting competition.
  • The competition between Neal and Mills ended with a "game winner." The player would sprint across the top three-point arc, cut back for a catch-and shoot leaner.
  • Gary Neal looked much more relaxed in practice. Neal is typically wound up and demonstrative.
  • As smooth as Aron Baynes looked on his work close to the rim, the Aussie was just as rough 15-20 feet away. Baynes is not nearly as raw offensively as some people make him out to be though.

The Essential Hash

Be sure to read Fred Silva's recap of last night's game if you haven't already.

The game started with Tim Duncan facing up and scoring on DeMarcus Cousins from out of the short corner. With Cousins' noted history of frustration guarding the Big Fundamental, the play makes me wonder if it was a deliberate attack on Cousin's mental instability. Pounding the Rock's own Cameron Archer perfectly highlight's the mental short-comings of the Kings' big man:

The Kings are led by DeMarcus Cousins, who averages 17.0 pts and 9.8 rebounds per game. Actually, I'm not sure that "led" is the correct term here. It implies that Cousins exhibits the some level of respect from and authority over his teammates. The Big Boogie much more resembles an irascible infant who wont share his toys than a venerable commander-in-chief. Earlier this season Cousins verbally confronted Sean Elliot following a Spurs-Kings game after Elliot provided a less-than-favorable on-air assessment of his maturity level. It was a brilliant bit of poetic justice to hear Cousins cluelessly affirm Sean's sound reasoning.

Like many players around the league, DeMarcus Cousins loves to talk smack at his opponents and pump out his chest after his small moments of getting the better of another player. Problem is, Cousins has consistently attempted these things against Tim Duncan - A man 14 years his senior and someone who Cousins' is a career 1-9 against.

Last night, Cousins had one of his better games (19 points and 12 rebounds) against the Spurs but the bulk of his match-up on both ends was against Tiago Splitter. Cousins did manage a good block on Duncan's running hook in the lane near the end of the first quarter. But Cousins showed off his temper yet again after Duncan attempted a steal out on the wing. The official was in the process of calling a foul on Tim but Cousins was already jumping up and down, screaming. DeMarcus was promptly given his 15th technical foul of the 2012-13 season.

Until the man gets his act together, Sacramento will never go far with a player like Cousins "leading" the team.

Game Boss

22 9 13 10 3 0 5 34:06

Parker finally played in his first game in nine days and Popovich didn't hold back on the minutes. Tony put up 22 points in 34 minutes along with 10 assists, which could have been closer to 20 if some of his teammates connected a little more often. Parker played nearly 19 minutes in the first half but he didn't attempt his first shot until his 15th minutes. So, essentially, Parker went 9 of 13 for 22 points in roughly 19 minutes. Tony also did a solid job on defense but sometimes the Sacramento's guards did most of the work for him.

Game Runt

9 3 9 2 1 0 3 21:20

Evans was just terrible on both ends last night. Evans hit his only 2 three-point attempts (has that ever happened before with Tyreke?), but missed 4 of 5 attempts inside the paint and even tossed up a pretty laughable air ball. Evans struggled to stay with who ever he ended up guarding and his 3 turnovers led to 5 easy Spurs points. Tyreke is capable of some great passes, like one he made to a trailing Cousins, but more often than not the ball freezes in Evans' hands.

By the Numbers

  • 7 - Number of Spurs players that scored in double digits.
  • 71.4 - The Kings three-point shooting percentage in the second half (5/7).
  • 12 - The amount of shot attempts the Kings (89) had over the Spurs (77).
  • 30.6 - The Spurs overall three-point percentage from the loss against the Miami Heat through last night's game (7 games).
  • 63.2 - DeJuan Blair's shooting average over the last three games (12-19 FG).
  • 5 - Blocks for Tim Duncan against the Kings.
  • 18 - Turnovers by the Spurs, the most since March 27th.
  • 1 - The number of games the Thunder (2 games remaining) need to lose in order for the Spurs to still have a shot at the top seed in the Western Conference.

Bird is the Word

Leftover Hash

  • Tiago Splitter's offensive game has softened over the past few weeks. Splitter is relying more on a sub-par hook shot instead of using his excellent footwork to get to the rim.
  • DeJuan Blair had a great performance last night with his only real blemishes being one turnover (offensive 3 seconds) and a bad pass down low that he managed to save. Blair ended his 14 minute night with 6 points, 5 rebounds, a steal, and 2 blocks.
  • DeJuan also came away with one assist - a beautiful bounce pass from the block into the lane for a cutting Tim Duncan. With Blair, I think most people forget, including himself, that he is an above-average passer for a big man.
  • Gary Neal is slowly returning to his old self (he still only hit 1-4 from deep though). The left leg doesn't appear to be bothering him nearly as much.
  • Without Stephen Jackson, the Spurs are treading a dangerous line with their playoff rotation. Pop stated after the game that the Spurs want Kawhi to play 35-40 minutes a night.
  • I spotted five fans in attendance wearing Seattle Supersonics gear.
  • Kawhi Leonard's confidence from deep was non-existent. Leonard went 0-4, all from the corner, and was later passing on open three-point looks in the game (twice leading to turnovers).

Going into the Next Game, the Spurs Need to... the high screens to death and keep the ball moving. The Lakers defense ranks in the bottom third of the league (24th in points allowed and 19th in defensive rating) and the Spurs have the capability to blister the scoreboards when the defensive is spaced out. Problem is, the Spurs haven't been able to do that of late due to injuries to key players and the recent discombobulation of the team's role players. Kobe is out with a probable tear in his Achilles tendon so, unless Steve Nash comes back from his hip injury, the Lakers offense will be fed through Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter will have their hands full in the paint. The Spurs need to make a statement heading into the playoffs and there isn't a better place to do it than the Staples Center.