The Spurs got Danny Green back at least a week earlier than expected and just after the Spurs saw the return of Tiago Splitter on Saturday against the Kings. Gregg Popovich inserted Danny Green into the starting lineup after starting Shannon Brown in the previous game, and Shannon played a quiet four minutes where he grabbed a single rebound as his only contribution to the box score. Pop started Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, Cory Joseph, and Tony Parker alongside Green.
The Pelicans came into the game without starting point guard Jrue Holiday, stretch-four extraordinaire Ryan Anderson, or seven-footer Jason Smith. But in something that is pretty common in Spurs' games, a bench player scores 20 against them. Tonight it was Anthony Morrow, who is shooting the ball well from deep, but is averaging 5.8 points per game. The Pelicans also got 10 points from Austin Rivers, who may not be good enough to be on any roster in the near future.
Of course, the Pelicans also have Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon, who combined to score 36 for New Orleans. Fortunately for the Spurs, it took them a combined 34 shots to get their 36.
The game was tight for the entire first quarter, and the Spurs had a brief lead at 17-16 before ending the quarter down by two, 27-25. Boris missed four shots he normally knocks down at a high clip. He missed two wide-open jumpers and two layups in the first quarter. The team struggled to score early on, and throughout the first half good looks just weren't falling for the good guys. The whole team seemed to be out of rhythm for the first half.
On the Spurs' first possession of the second quarter Timmy was whistled for an offensive foul on what should have been a no-call and could have been an and-one. Tim Duncan could not believe it.
The Pelicans knocked down their shots, and the Spurs looked discombobulated on offense during the second quarter and the Spurs found themselves down by 12 at halftime, after scoring only 17 points in the period.
The third quarter saw Tony Parker and Tim Duncan take over for the good guys. Timmy scored the first 10 points of the quarter for the Spurs, outscoring the Pelicans by five over the first four and a half minutes of the period. He hit his first jumper of the quarter, and did the rest of his damage in the paint. Tony Parker assisted him on his last two layups before putting on a show of his own. With the Spurs down eight, Parker scored ten straight for the Spurs and cut the deficit to just three. It seemed like the Spurs were going to come back and win this one.
But the Pelicans went on an 11-2 run to end the quarter still up by 12. During the New Orleans run, Tony drove to the hole and felt that he was fouled, but no whistle came. Parker strongly disagreed with the non-call and picked up a technical foul. It wasn't visible what Tim Duncan did, but he was also called for a technical foul during the ensuing Pelican free-throw. The Spurs looked uncomfortable, frustrated, and it was going to be tough for San Antonio to get a win after getting as close as three, only to see themselves down 12 going into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter started with a couple of Anthony Davis free-throws and the Spurs were quickly down 14. Marco Belinelli used a pump-fake and one dribble to hit a long two. Two plays later, he took Anthony Davis off the dribble and hit a floater while drawing a foul from the New Orleans big man. The and-one pulled the Spurs within eleven, and after a Belinelli miss, a Morrow two, and a Davis travel, it was Patty Mills' turn to try to get something going for the Spurs.
Mills used a screen from Splitter to hit nothing but net on an 18-footer, which he followed up by using another Splitter screen to knock down a step-back triple. Patty didn't give up the rock on either possession, and it worked. The Spurs were down just seven with eight minutes left, and the Aussie gave the Spurs the spark they needed to get back in the game. Pelicans timeout, Tony and Danny replace de Colo and Marco.
Green was rusty, as you might expect after he missed the previous 10 games. He missed his first six shots of the night, but after he grabbed a Tony Parker air ball, he coolly stepped out to the break and hit a three on his seventh attempt of the night. Two possessions later he cut to the basket and was fouled. He hit both free-throws to cut the lead to two before Tony Parker would tie it to cap a 12-0 run. Reset.
The momentum was fully with the Spurs at this point. Tony found the Masked Mamba for a triple, and that's not all Bonner did tonight. He made life difficult for Davis on his own end, staying in front of the young man and even blocking two of his shots. Matty only scored three points (one shot attempt), and he didn't grab a rebound or make an assist, but he did have three steals to go along with those two crunch-time blocks of the Pelicans' best player.
Also in the Spurs' favor at this point was Tony Parker. The Frenchman was having his way with the Pelicans, and hurt them with a slew of layups, assists, and free-throws. That guy is a fourth-quarter monster and he scored eleven on Monday night. It's good to see our closer finishing off opponents.
The veteran big man for the Spurs put the nails in the coffin after handling a great bounce pass from Green and slamming it down, followed by a layup on a well-placed entry pass from Parker which made it 97-89 in favor of the Spurs with 1:14 left to play. Duncan also finished the game with six blocks on the night to go along with his 21 points and seven rebounds. The Ageless One only played 29 minutes and the good guys got the win.
The Spurs are quickly getting pieces back, which is a great thing. It's going to take some time for the team to get comfortable playing together after spending so much of the past month mixing and matching warm bodies. For now, it's enough to get back on track with two straight wins. We can worry about the other stuff later.
Your Spurs improve to 35-13.
For the Pelican fan's perspective check out The Bird Writes.