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Spurs Blow out the Hornets and Pop's birthday candles

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Thankfully for Pop, the Spurs gave him 3 "birthday" quarters, and 1 quarter to scream about in the 95-86 victory.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

This was a game that the Spurs simply couldn’t lose.

Not only because it was college night and the Longhorn Band was playing "The Eyes of Texas" at timeouts (must’ve been a brain-trip for Cory Joseph). Not only because the Hornets were without a player to initiate their offense (Al Jefferson can’t pass the ball to himself in the low block, now can he?) or protect the rim. Not only because the Spurs were starting Matt Bonner. Not only because the Spurs came in 9.5 games ahead of the Hornets.

No, the Spurs wouldn’t dare lose because it was Gregg Popovich’s 66th birthday, and according to the Social Security Administration’s Website, he can now receive full retirement benefits. Do you really want to lose against the Hornets and give him reason to consider becoming a full time literary critic and vintner?

The Spurs started the game hot, with Tony Parker looking as fluid and healthy as he has all season, with a full arsenal of hesitations and spin moves. It seemed like every Spurs player had a stretch where they were solid in the first half, with the Spurs outscoring the Hornets 27-19, 28-19 to lead by 17 at the half.

There was merriment during half time as Spurs fans foolishly thought the game was already in hand. Kawhi, Danny, Patty, Manu, Boris, and Tim all had at least a half-dozen and Tony had 15. The Spurs were shooting a sustainable 57%, with room to improve from beyond the arc.

But then the 3rd quarter came crashing down on them like Aron Baynes at an all-you-can-eat Slovenian buffet.

The Spurs shot 4 for 21 in the 3rd quarter and scraped together a mere 14 points. In a span between a Matt Bonner 3 around the 8 minute mark and his 3 to open the 4th quarter, the Spurs went 0 for 14!

The Spurs starters then closed on a 21-9  run (including a pair of Danny Green nails for the coffin) before making way for "Baynes and the Human Victory Formation," featuring special guest artist Reggie Williams.

Tiago Splitter received a DNP.

QUOTE OF THE GAME

"Tim and I don't talk, we don't talk. We stopped talking six, seven, eight years ago."

- Popovich, on whether he asked Tim to sing him Happy Birthday

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Cory Joseph is a walking testimony to advanced statistics and one of those things you have to watch the games to truly appreciate. Glad to see Popovich sharing some of his birthday spotlight:
  • Pop on Cory: "I think he was the most important part of the game. Everybody will scratch their head, they won’t get it, but his defense, his 50/50 balls, rebounds. The things he did out there were huge in keeping our run going, preventing them from getting on a run. He was very valuable to us in the second half. He did a great job."
  • Duncan missed 2 dunks and an above the rim gimme. It was a reminder that while he may have won the last few rounds in this eternal boxing match with Father Time, Mr. Time is the ultimate rope-a-doper, and remains undefeated. While this wasn't any sort of a fatal strike, it was something of a faint low blow from a tired grapple, just to remind him he's still there.
  • Those 3 plays didn't stop Duncan from an otherwise solid night, posting his second straight double-double. #AllStar

GAME MVP

Gregg Popovich's mother, for giving birth to the most interesting man in sports 66 years ago. I'm sure he came out of the womb and scowled at the doctor for asking him to cry.

GAME LVP

Lance "Cool Breeze" Stephenson. 0-5 with 4 turnovers and 3 fouls in 20 minutes. I guess you could say...he blows.

Blow_medium

A NUMBERS GAME

  • 66. Coach Popovich was born about a week after Truman's inaugural address (Four Points Speech) and a week before Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" opened. For perspective.
  • 3. Reggie Williams saw his first 3 minutes as a Spur. Too small a sample size, though he did have a nice pass, if memory serves.
  • 50. Boris Diaw must've lost 50 pounds from his Charlotte (née Bobcats) playing days.
  • 38. Parker is shooting a mortal 38% from beyond the arc since returning from his injury this month. This will hurt his chances of setting an NBA record.

AROUND THE INTERNET WATERCOOLER

(Maxiell)

ONWARD AND UPWARD

The Spurs, who are 10-3 in January, moved into a tie for the 6th seed with a Maverick's loss, and within 2.5 games of the 3 seed. The West is as beastly as it has ever been, and the progress will be slow, but this Spurs team has shown that they belong there. It was hard to see what motivation the reigning champs would have, but with Parker, Mills, and Kawhi all back and healthy, this looks like a very good playoff team, with potential to improve to a Championship contender.