No Manu, no problem. The Spurs were without the services of their stellar sixth man but didn't miss a beat, steamrolling the visiting Nuggets 109-98. It was the sixth win a row for the good guys as they improve to 9-2 on the year, maintaining the NBA's second-best record.
Tony Parker was the story of the game as he had by far his best game of the year. He must have visited the Fountain of Youth that Tim Duncan treks to every offseason. Tony was wheeling and dealing as the Nuggets' lack of a defensive presence in the paint coupled with extra attention being paid to Aldridge and Kawhi opened up the lanes for easy layups and teardrops. So far this year Tony hasn't looked to score much, but with Manu out he was more aggressive than usual. Just as notably, Parker wasn't torched by athletic rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay which is encouraging as defense has been a struggle for Tony all season. Though he's lost a step or two in recent years, it's nice to know Tony can still carve a defense up every once in a while.
A blowout seemed imminent in the early stages of the game, but second chance points kept Denver afloat in the first half. Danilo Gallinari, fresh off a 32-point performance last night against the Pelicans, was held to 9 points on just 2-9 shooting from the field. The Italian star is the latest victim to check into Kawhi Leonard's House of Horrors. Nlkola Jokic was the high scoring man for Denver, posting 23 points on 8-11 shooting.
Patty Mills exploded in the first half, starting the game 4-4 from the field and reaching 13 points early into the second quarter. He finished with 17 points in 25 minutes as his high energy level continues to be a spark for the Spurs' offense. LaMarcus Aldridge had 11 points, 12 rebounds and was the Spurs' fifth-leading scorer for the night. Many of his good looks just didn't go down, but he was aggressive early and looked far more comfortable than Monday night against Portland. It's a process.
Tim Duncan destroyed the stat sheet, finishing with an eye-popping line of 12 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, and 6 blocks. All this at 39 years of age. At this point he may end up retiring after Kawhi. The man defies all logic.
Speaking of Kawow, the young star posted a solid 20 points and 8 rebounds as he scored most of his points in the rhythm of the offense rather than on isolation plays. Even as his offensive role has expanded greatly, Leonard still knows the Spurs are at their best when the ball is zipping around the court. His defense was stellar, but what else is new? All in all, excellent night for The Klaw/Sugar K/El Mano/The Kingslayer.
David West, Boris Diaw, and Rasual Butler came off the bench, scored when the opportunity presented itself, and hustled. More to the point, West and Butler seem to be fully assimilated into the Spurs' system after starting the year looking lost at times. The Spurs Sixth Death Star is almost fully operational.
The Spurs offense has been stagnant to start games all year, and this was especially evident in Monday's contest against the Blazers as San Antonio only managed 36 points at halftime. Tonight, the Spurs had 31 after the first quarter as Patty Mills and Tony Parker led the charge. Team chemistry seems to be building with each passing game, which is bad news for the rest of the league. The Silver and Black often appeared to be thinking too much to start the season, but now they're just playing. Case in point: 33 assists on 42 made field goals. The Beautiful Game may be returning sooner than we'd expected.
I assumed that the Spurs offense, and especially the second unit, would struggle to find its footing without the stellar play of Manu Ginobili as a cushion. Never have I been so happy to be wrong. Great win, boys. Go Spurs Go.
On Friday night the Spurs will be in New Orleans to take on the struggling Pelicans who will likely be without injured big man Anthony Davis. The Spurs' offense will look to maintain the groove they found tonight and will once again be missing Manu Ginobili.