Your quick Thunder game rehash:
The Spurs were missing Tiago Splitter and Danny Green, and then quickly lost Kawhi Leonard, leaving Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli, Cory Joseph and Tony Parker to guard the best scorer on the planet.
This has been your Thunder game rehash.
Be sure to check out Part One of the halfway point grades.
Now, to the important stuff:
Halfway Point: 39 games, 23.9 mpg, 8.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.5 stl, 0.4 blk, 1.3 TOs, .558/.302/.745, 111.5 ORtg, 102.6 DRtg, 14.8 PER, .134 WS/48, +177 (4.5 per game)
Quarter Pole: 21 games, 23.3 mpg, 10.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.4 stl, 0.5 blk, 1.4 TOs, .538/.286/.741, 15.1 PER, 109.7* ORtg, 100.2* DRtg, .132 WS48, +5.9 per game
Well, it was nice while it lasted. Welcome back, Boris the Meek.
The Spurs' mid-season report card: Part 1
Which Spurs have been good and which have been bad? And who keeps putting Gatorade cups on the principal's chair? Halfway through the season, it's time to hand out grades once again.
After averaging 7.6 field goal attempts per game in November and December, Diaw has attempted just 4.2 shots per game through the nine January matches. His usage and scoring rates have dropped every month, and he's not saving any of that energy to help out on the boards either, as he's averaged a mere 2.9 rebounds in 24.9 minutes this month, which, obviously, is quite pathetic.
It's not all bad for the Land Walrus. When he does get shots up, they've gone in as regularly as ever. He's been one of the most dependable scorers in the league from the restricted area, and even his mid-range stroke isn't too shabby. The three-point percentage has crept up over 30, which still isn't good, but not quite "I forbid you from ever shooting them again" territory. And it's not as if Diaw needs encouragement to be more selective. Also, the less he has shot, the more he has passed, and anyone the least bit familiar with the Frenchman's game understands that it's not necessarily a bad thing.
Diaw's underrated quickness and not-underrated-at-all wide body serve him well when guarding certain people, most notoriously LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki, but against the super-athletic spindly types like Kevin Durant, he's as helpless as the rest of the league.
My main criticism of Diaw, besides his failing to show up at all for an occasional game (that Monday night at New Orleans he was particularly disengaged), is that even with Tiago Splitter out he felt no aspiration at all for upping his ruggedness on the boards and made no real effort to approximate a big man. I'm not sure how short the rest of his teammates would have to be for Diaw to lead a squad in rebounds, but it's a fascinating thought experiment. In that sense, Splitter - and now Leonard - can't get back soon enough.
Halfway point: 38 games, 29.1 mpg, 14.5 pts, 9.7 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.4 stl, 2.0 blk, 1.9 TOs, .470/.000/.740, 107.0 ORtg, 99.3 DRtg, 20.9 PER, .160 WS/48, +162 (4.3 per game)
Quarter Pole: 20 games, 27.8 mpg, 13.3 ppg, 8.6 rebs, 3.1 ast, 0.4 stl, 1.8 blk, 1.8 TOs, .459/.000./.754, 20.3 PER, 104.8* ORtg, 95.8* DRtg, .164 WS48, +4.9 per game
I think by now we can dispense the fantasy notion of the 2012-13 Duncan ever coming back. That guy, whom we last saw in Games 6 and 7 of the Finals, is gone forever, sadly.
The good news is that the 2013-14 version is still, by and large, pretty damn good: a fringe-All-Star-level center and worth every penny of his eight-figure salary, even if you disregard his legacy and past accomplishments and just consider what he's doing on the floor this year. That Duncan is averaging nearly a double-double close to his 38th birthday is rather remarkable by itself, but then a month ago against Atlanta he became the oldest player in history to record a 20-20 game, besides hitting the game-winner for good measure.
Duncan has taken on even more of the rebounding burden in Splitter's absence and done a splendid job of that, but it has to be said that his defense has suffered without his running mate. He still protects the rim as well as ever, but there's no denying the fact that any big who can knock it down from 15-feet or further will get all he wants against The Golden God.
Speaking of jump shots, Duncan's continues to be a flat, inconsistent mess. He's hitting just about a third of his mid-range jumpers, which is very concerning because of the negative domino effect it has on the offense. Even worse, now his free throw stroke is starting to suffer, as he's only made 11 of his past 24 freebies. At least he's getting to the line more, so there's that.
It's a tribute to his all-time greatness that we can complain about "only" getting 15 and 12, with three assists and two blocks from a Duncan in his late 30's. The Spurs have a myriad of problems these days, but he's well down the list of them.
Halfway Point: 38 games, 24.0 mpg, 12.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.6 apg, 1.1 stl, 0.2 blk, 2.0 TOs, .462/.370/.888, 114.4 ORtg, 101.5 DRtg, 20.8 PER, .195 WS/48, +259 (6.8 per game)
Quarter Pole: 23 games, 23.0 mpg, 10.8 ppg, 3.6 rebs, 4.7 ast, 1.0 stl, 0.2 blk, 1.8 TOs, .465/.374/.875, 19.5 PER, 113.8* ORtg, 96.9* DRtg, .194 WS48, +8.0 per game
As inspiring as Duncan's season has been, relative to his age, I think what Ginobili has done as a 36-year-old guard is even more extraordinary. There is just no way he should be playing this well, but here we are, with him as the league's clear-cut leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate. I honestly think he is the most deserving of the Spurs All-Star candidates simply because out of the three he is the one who has vastly out-performed expectations, while the other two have slightly under-performed. Also, while there is a throng of deserving candidates at the 4/5 spot and at point guard in the West, the conference is kind of weak at the swingman spot, once you get past James Harden and maybe Phoenix's Goran Dragic, if you want to be generous, and he's pretty much a point guard these days himself.
Then again, so is Ginobili, at least for all the minutes he logs with the backups without Parker alongside him. He's the quarterback of the second unit, responsible for feeding the ball to Mills, Ayres, Diaw and Belinelli, when he's not moonlighting with the starters. Ginobili's shooting percentages have stabilized across the board to his career norms, and he's flashed the ability to score as he once did, eclipsing 20 points four times in the past month. By most analytic measures, he continues to be one of the most devastating offensive players in the world, creating for himself and others.
Defensively, the less said about Ginobili's second quarter of the season the better. His defensive rating was 110 in December, 107 so far in January, and it's been 117 for the season in losses (i.e. against teams worth a heck). I'm not sure if he's taking it easy on that end of the court or this is simply all he can do at this point, but the task presented to him will only be tougher for the next few weeks with both Leonard and Green out, and it's fair to wonder if the physical toll on him will cause his offense to suffer as well. We've seen in the past that Gino rises to the challenge with Parker out of the lineup, but this test is something else entirely.
Is it too late to re-sign Bowen?
Halfway Point: 37 games, 22.4 mpg, 7.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.1 stl, 0.9 blk, 1.0 TOs, .417/.384/.833, 103.7 ORtg, 97.0 DRtg, 12.9 PER, .109 WS/48, +166 (4.5 per game)
Quarter Pole: 23 games, 22.3 mpg, 7.7 ppg, 3.1 rebs, 1.3 ast, 1.1 stl, 0.9 blk, 1.0 TOs, .432/.411/1.000, 13.5 PER, 102.7* ORtg, 92.7* DRtg, .131 WS48, +5.4 per game
For all the hand-wringing of Green's disappointing season and his prolonged slump, I bet that Spurs fans would kill to have him in the lineup these days, as beset as they are by injuries. For what it's worth, as frigid as Green's 38.4 percentage from downtown seems, it's still a higher figure than what Stephen Curry has put up, and he's generally regarded as the best shooter in the league and someone whose every shot "feels" like it's going in, whatever that means. LeBron James, renowned for his improved three-point accuracy this season, is shooting worse than Green was. Paul George, a fringe-MVP candidate, is barely over, at 39.0 percent. Making 38.4 percent of your three-point shots is not exactly disastrous.
The rest of Green's numbers stayed fairly consistent through the 14 games he played after the quarter pole, even though he got relegated to the bench for most of it. It's true enough that his three-point shooting in particular was bad as a reserve, but, ironically, his offensive rating shot through the roof once he got away from Kawhi Leonard.
What is tougher to ignore was that Green's numbers were absolutely brutal through five games in January before he got hurt, and while that is a tiny sample size, it is concerning that he was trending the wrong way. Still, I'm curious to see what the Spurs will look like with Green back in the fold and without Leonard. I'd like to have some kind of definitive answer of Green's defensive worth, without Leonard, one way or the other.
One thing I appreciate about Green is that he has more of a shot-blocking instinct than any of his teammates, save for Duncan, obviously. Even though he doesn't have anywhere near Leonard's length, he blocks almost twice as many shots, and while shot blocks don't matter much in the greater scheme of things, when it comes to defensive prowess, I just like his tenacity in that respect. Again, I'm eager to watch Green in isolation against the better scorers in the league.
Too eager at this point.