The Spurs were on the road after three straight home wins. They had this away game and then a visit from the Heat. A quick look at the standings suggests that the Cavaliers are a terrible team, so the guys might have been a little overconfident. But Cleveland has been better after adding Spencer Hawes and Luol Deng and have been unpredictable all year, playing terribly one game and great the next. This had all the makings of a trap game. Fortunately, it's hard to catch a healthy Spurs team truly off guard.
Something appeared slightly off with the Spurs' offense to start the game. It's not like the team wasn't executing. The ball movement was there, Parker was using ball screens to get open and the bigs were moving to avoid spacing issues. But the passes were not pinpoint, which seemed to take the shooters off rhythm. Parker was missing from mid-range and Splitter was not able to finish inside, either. The Spurs were mostly looking like the Spurs on the surface on offense but the results weren't there. Of course, part of the credit needs to go to a surprisingly strong Cavs defense that was moving and communicating.
Now it's time to set the rotation
Didn't quite recognize the guy in the No. 9 jersey. He kind of looked like Patty Mills but he didn't shoot three pointers as well. He could be useful as a rotation piece if there are any more injuries.
Fortunately the Spurs' defense was just as good as we know it to be and it kept the Cavs' lead from ballooning despite San Antonio's offensive ineptitude. But as Dion Waiters exploded on his first game back after missing seven due to injury, Cleveland got some separation. A three by Kyrie Irving with four seconds to go stretched it to ten, 23-13.
The second quarter started with the Spurs' offense still stuck in neutral. But the wonderful thing about the Spurs' bench unit is that they can get hot in a hurry. A lineup of Mills, Belinelli, Leonard, Diaw and Ayres went on a 9-0 run to erase the deficit. Then Patty Mills took matters into his own hands and scored ten of his total 16 in the second. There was not much the Cavs could do to stop the onslaught, as the Spurs seemed unable to miss after a terrible start. A 37-17 quarter allowed the good guys to go into the break up ten, 50-40.
The second half went as well as it could have possible gone for San Antonio. The defense wasn't stellar to start but the offense stayed hot, with Tony Parker finally looking like himself after a cold first quarter. The Cavs couldn't cut the lead to single digits but the Spurs couldn't crack it wide open, either. The game seemed to be in control but a couple of untimely Cavalier threes would have meant having Parker, Ginobili and Duncan on the court more than it would have been ideal. Fortunately, Patty Mills made sure that didn't happen.
Mills' back-to-back three pointers ignited a 9-3 run to finish the third and put the game out of reach for Cleveland. A 17 point lead kept growing, with Danny Green doing most of the damage as the Big Three watched from the bench.
After a rocky start, the Spurs superior depth, talent and execution prevailed. The entire fourth quarter was garbage time and the Spurs ended up winning by 21 on the road and move to 44-16 for the season.
- Tony Parker really struggled on the first half. His shot wasn't falling and he was not impacting the game in any way. The entire Spurs team looked bad in the first but after his stellar return against the Mavericks I was expecting Tony to stay on a roll. He got it going in the second half but it was not a particularly impressive performance by Parker. It's OK. He has been out for a long time, so it will take him a while to get his consistency back.
- The Spurs can afford to wait for Parker to get all the way back because of Patty Mills. Mills has developed a knack for making timely contributions that define games. The Spurs would have probably rallied, fought back and won this game anyway. But the second quarter explosion by Mills and those third quarter points turned a potentially tight game into a rout. With Parker returning, Mills' role will be reduced. But if he can have that game-changing impact in limited minutes he will continue to be a huge asset for the Spurs.
- Tim Duncan had a quiet Tim Duncan game. Seven points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks in 26 minutes. I would have loved to see the outside shot falling but there will be other times when it's needed more.
- Boris Diaw finished 7-7 from the field (2-2 from three) with five rebounds, three assists and two blocks(!). In a night in which Tiago Splitter was a disaster on offense the Spurs turned to Diaw and, like he has the entire season, BoBo answered the call. He was huge for the Spurs at the beginning of the second half, when the Cavs were still in it. With Ayres and Baynes not looking ready to contribute in the post season it's natural to be concerned with the Spurs' big man rotation. But, at least in my case, those concerns evaporate every time I see Boris play at the level he is at right now.
- This one was tough for Splitter on offense, as mentioned. I think he is starting to get a little bit too frustrated with the officiating. He complained about being fouled in most of his attempts and at one point he pulled a Kevin Love, staying back to speak to the ref instead of running back in transition, which is uncharacteristic of him. Tiago is a limited offensive player at his best. He simply can't afford to let a couple of misses or a couple of blown calls take him away from the game as it seemed to happen this time.
- A simply fantastic game for the Spurs' wings. Leonard, Green, Belinelli and Ginobili combined for 64 points, 10 rebounds, 14 assists and seven steals. It was good to see Green and Ginobili shooting confidently, Belinelli finding ways to contribute when his shot wasn't falling and Leonard being an absolute terror on defense. Sure, adding another wing via trade or free agency would have been nice. But the Spurs have all the talent they need on their roster already.
- It's hard to find a silver lining on the Cavs' season. First, Waiters is unhappy, then the Bynum experiment fails. Deng doesn't seem to want to be there. There are some rumors that neither does Irving. Varejao can't get healthy. Their draft picks are not panning out. They fired their GM. And they are not even the saddest team out there! It puts things in context to watch what other franchises go through. I'm thankful I'm a Spurs fan.
On Thursday the Spurs will face the Heat in San Antonio. It's possible we see both teams at full force, so it should be fun.
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