Go ahead and be giddy. For being the defending champions, the past few months haven't left all that much for Spurs fans to be overtly joyous about. But don't be thrilled with the fact that the Spurs simply won, or that they won in California, or that they won by double digits (this was, after all, a win over a 20-36 team without their best player). Be thrilled because the Spurs looked engaged, played really solid defense for most of the game, showed passion, showed progress, and most of all...because they can be MUCH better. Any win where you shoot below 40% from the field and 35% from deep is a treat.
The Kings started out a little bit ridiculously. It was déjà vu as opposing players were hitting shots against the Spurs that they had no business to, but with the added incredulity that the shooters were guys like Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum instead of Steph Curry or Wesley Matthews.
The first quarter looked ominous, as the Spurs were outscored 25-20 with a potential 5-game losing streak on the line. But the Kings scored 20 points in the first 6 minutes of the quarter and only 5 in the last 6 minutes in some combination of the Spurs realizing they can be a very good defensive team when they want, Cory Joseph, and a statistical regression to the mean.
The 2nd quarter was a pretty even battle until the final 4 minutes when the Spurs went on a 18-5 run (18-7 with McElmore's buzzer beater) that saw them retake the lead for the first time since the score was 8-7. This was an exciting sign, but as we saw against the Blazers: a great second quarter is only as good as the daunting third will allow.
By this season's meager standards, the Spurs only being outscored by 1 in the third was an outright success. They allowed 32 points (again, to a Cousins-less Kings) but scored 31, ultimately leading by two. After hitting their first two shots from deep, the Spurs went 1-for-7. This very well may've been related to Danny Green having 4 fouls in 5 minutes like he was the only one running the hack-a-someone defense.
The fourth quarter didn’t start perfectly, the Spurs’ first 8 possessions were: DG3 turnover, DG3 miss, Boris miss, DG3 miss, DG3 turnover, TP miss, Banger miss, Kawhi miss. Then at the around the 8:30 mark, something magical happened. After the Kings made two free throws to tie the game at 80, the Spurs went on a 27-12 run led by two slumping Frenchmen and an over-the-hill Argentine (with a bit of promising future franchise player thrown in for good measure). At the conclusion of this seven-minute run, the cleanup crew was sent in by Popovich with the recently unfamiliar role of seeing out a substantial lead.
More importantly, Tony and Manu got to head to the bench with smiles and a knowledge of a job well done. That is the type of emotion that can be planted, watered, harvested, and turned into something substantial. We'll see if the recently slumping Spurs can build off the end of game momentum into the team we all know they can be.
Quote of the Night
Odds and Ends
In the second half, Parker scored 17 of his 19 and Ginobili scored 11 of his 16. It's really reassuring to see guys with a combined age of 69 who played a combined 50 minutes finishing strong.
The Spurs only shot 35-88, but got a few difficult-to-circus shots to fall. You have to shake off paradoxical shooting nights, the same way you do when the opponent hits 6 well-contested shots in succession. The shots will eventually start falling.
Seven players scored at least 8 points for the Spurs, with all of the Big-4 (yes, it's beyond time to expand) in double digits.
Most people will leave talking about Tony Parker, and what a 2nd half it was, but Tiago Splitter had been just as M.I.A. in 2015. Popovich put him in the starting lineup to deal with the force that is Boogie Cousins, but didn't change when Cousins was ruled out. That vote of confidence sparked something in the Brazilian who, despite the box score, was a huge presence in this game and controlled the paint/rim better than he has all season. (6 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks is incredibly misleading).
Screw cancer. It was his fourth game back, but seeing Geroge Karl coaching again and remembering his bouts with prostate, throat, and neck cancer was an inspiration. He is getting to do the thing that he loves, hopefully serving as an inspiration for the life that is on the other side of the awful, painful, difficult disease.
26. The Spurs bench outscored the Kings 45-19.
2. Two points in 14 first half minutes for Parker.
- 1Q: 2 points, 1/2 FG
- 2Q: 0 points, 0/3 FG
17. 17 points in 16 2nd half minutes.
- 3Q: 6 points, 2/4 FG
- 4Q: 11 points, 4/7 FG
0. No turnovers for Parker in 30 minutes. Only 5 for the entire game. (Which make Danny Green's 3-in-12 minutes all the more impressive)
Before we get to the Spurs, let's take a second to appreciate the crazy genius of:
Russell Westbrook— Russell Westbrook (@russwest44) April 7, 2014
When Pop and George finally retire, somebody would pay them millions to do a "Coaches In Cars Getting Coffee" series together. I'd watch.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) February 28, 2015
Tiago Robinson! The Brazilian Admiral! (Brazil presumably has a Navy, right)— Kyle Carpenter (@KyleCarpenter) February 28, 2015
Crazy stat: Tiago Spltter averages the third highest points per possessions on post ups (50 possessions or more) http://t.co/mB3qQibqxe— Jesus Gomez (@JejeGomez_PtR) February 28, 2015
Andre Miller was born 37-years old and hasn't aged a day since.— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) February 28, 2015
Tony's season is like Superman 2, when he relinquished his powers to live a mortal life with Lois Lane, and got savagely beaten by truckers.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneySAEN) February 28, 2015
(This was pre-4th quarter)
what sucks about being the 7th seed is that every time a team ahead of us loses, it's usually to another team ahead of us.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) February 28, 2015
Scot Pollard saying that Tim Duncan hated him because Pollard dominated Duncan one time in college and Duncan never forgot about it.— Alex Dewey (@DewNO) February 28, 2015
...And then almost got drafted over him (even if almost was only a 60-second slice of time. It exists)
Our favorite play of the first half? The Big Fundamental to the Big Banger for the fast break flush! https://t.co/dab1VchhuL— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) February 28, 2015
Baynes flying thru the air with his loin cloth flapping in the wind.— I'm Ruben Martinez? (@The_Real_Ruben) February 28, 2015
This is a meme I'd like to see happen.
Manu with an amazing move, even for a man five years young than him. Seriously. That move would have been impressive from a 45 year old— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 28, 2015
This Manu is making me feel 12 again. I'm about to go bleach the tips of my hair. Where'd I put those puka shell necklace?— Kyle Carpenter (@KyleCarpenter) February 28, 2015
The Spurs are kickstarting the Spursing like it’s that old lawn mower your neighbor gave you for free— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 28, 2015
"What was the turning point this season, Pop?" "Skip Bayless said we were done"— Cameron Adamczyk (@CameronAdamczyk) February 28, 2015
Did not know this pic.twitter.com/J8gVtBBuBt— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) February 28, 2015