After the debacle that was the Knicks game on Tuesday night, a good showing and victory for the Spurs was just what the team and their fans needed. San Antonio's offense was superb all night against the league's second best defense and they finished the game having shot 50% from the field and 40% from deep. It was actually better than that until the game was decided, as the Spurs shot over 52% for the first 45 minutes of the night.
The Spurs performed very well on the offensive side against Jason Kidd's surprisingly feisty and defensively elite Bucks. San Antonio finished with an offensive rating of 115.5. There aren't too many nights that the Spurs will post that kind of efficiency and lose a game. That they did it against such a solid defense is another good sign for a team that has torn opponents up this month, the NYK game excepted.
That come-to-life-lately offense has led the team to the best net rating (+10.4) in the league during the month of March as the Spurs have posted an absurd 115.8 OffRtg, per nba.com. Sure, the schedule's been relatively easy, but it's still a great sign for the silver and black.
Khris Middleton, who had posted an impressive 19.1 points (on 47% shooting and 48% from deep), 5.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game over his last 11, was kept in check all night by the suffocating perimeter defense of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. He finished shooting 62.5% on the night, but was limited to just eight attempts on Wednesday night. That's half of the attempts he put up per game over the last 11. The Spurs decided they were going to make the rest of the team beat them and they succeeded there.
The Spurs also got an outstanding performance from Tiago Splitter, who has taken quite a while to warm up and regain the form he showed in his outstanding 2013-14 campaign after struggling though a weird and nagging calf injury. While he struggled from the line (2-of-5) he was as solid as he gets defensively and despite scoring just six points, he made the most of his touches and finished 2-for-2 from the field. He only played 18 minutes, but they were a fine 18 minutes. Check out what might be Tiago's manliest block of his career. The Brazilian has certainly found his game lately. No offense to Splitter, but let's be real, that kind of block is not something that Spurs fans expect from Sparkles.
The best player for the Spurs on Wednesday night, with apologies to the outstanding Danny Green, was the mostly-missing-this-season Boris Diaw. If you're a longtime reader of Pounding the Rock you know that I have a special appreciation for the big Frenchman, so watching the do-it-all player have such an all-around great performance was a lot of fun for this fan. The Big Croissant finished with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and a steal. He hit five of his eight attempts from the field and knocked down all eight of his free throws. Bobo had three or four replay-worthy dimes, but this helper to Tim Duncan in traffic really stood out to me. That's a great pass and the way Boris effortlessly finds Tim just looks cool.
Danny Green led all scorers with 20 points and led the Spurs with eight rebounds. He didn't stop there and racked up four assists and a couple of steals during his fantastic outing. When Danny is dribble driving and getting and-ones it's a good thing. It's going to be interesting to see what happens to V3RD3 over the summer, he's going to cost substantial cash money to retain come the offseason.
I don't know why Jerryd Bayless decided to pull this cheap move out, but it worked well for the Spurs. I don't know if Belinelli spent some time talking trash about his mom but this unnecessary foul was truly surprising. I've never thought anything negative about Bayless prior to this and the Spurs aren't a team that really gets under their opponent's skin. The reason for Bayless' dangerous bump may remain a mystery forever, but the result was great for the good guys. The Spurs led by just 10 with eight minutes left in the game after being up by as many as 19, but after Marco hit all three of his free throws followed by a defensive stop on the other end and a couple more Boris Diaw free throws, the Spurs owned a commanding 15 point lead.
To reiterate, after the Bucks found themselves down 19 halfway through the third quarter they did a great job chipping away at SA's lead but that sequence put an end to their comeback effort - the Bucks would never pull within less than a dozen until the game was decided.
It was a reassuring performance overall from San Antonio and it makes the loss to the Knicks even more of a head-scratcher. If we've learned one thing about the team this season, it's that we can't expect anything from this team. They're certainly capable of playing at an extremely high level but they haven't shown the ability to do so on a consistent basis. That doesn't actually matter right now, but they will need Tim Duncan to share/remind the team how to be steady when the second season rolls around.
Still, we can be happy about this win until at least Friday when the Spurs host the Celtics, who are playing well of late. For now, the Spurs improve to 42-25 and sit a half game out of the fifth seed in the crowded bottom half of the Western Conference standings.
- Tim Duncan was his usual fantastic self. I know I've said it 1000 times, but what he brings to the court every night at almost 39 years old is truly special. I've approached this season the way I've approached the past two or three -- with the intention of really trying to appreciate the legend. Still, in game, many times I've found myself taking Big Fun for granted. Tonight wasn't really one of those nights, with the GOATPUFF doing solid work down low as well as cutting and rolling as well as he has all season. He finished with 19 points on 9-of-16 shooting, grabbed five boards, swatted three shots and dished a game-high seven assists. He, of course, was outstanding on his own end as well.
- Gregg Popovich again played Reggie Williams outside of garbage time. This time he waited until the end of the first half to insert the 14th man and Williams scored four straight for the Spurs on two excellent cuts. The first off of one of Boris' helpers and the second with Tim finding him all alone on a dash from the wing.
- Tony Parker hit six of his seven attempts but was largely forgettable in his 27 minutes. Not that he was bad, just kind of in the background. He did finish +11 for the night. It's interesting that Kawhi and Tony seem to share good nights and so-so nights.
- Kawhi took just eight shots and failed to reach the 20-point mark for the third straight game after scoring 20 in six straight. He played good defense, tallying four steals, but his scoring and rebounding (2) have taken a step back from his nice run. I'm not sure it's worth worrying about, but it's something to keep an eye on. This team is so much better when Kawhi is confident, assertive and fully invested. I'm not trying to say his effort was poor, just that there's a visual difference with Kawhi sometimes. Some games he's a no-question max guy and some games he's just really good. Not everyone can be Tim Duncan.
- Cory Joseph: Who doesn't love Cory Joseph for what he did when the Spurs called on him while Tony Parker and Patty Mills were sidelined. The Canadian was just so much fun to watch and root for earlier in the season. It was kind of hard to see him struggle so much in his brief stints in the game. He finished a -12 in his five minutes on Wednesday night and has struggled lately. It can't be easy to have had so much playing time previously and now be relegated to the third string with the return of Patty. I think he's won over most fans by now and has to be the league's best point guard insurance policy. We're still with you, CoJo.
- Who doesn't like watching Giannis Antetokuonmpo, who's name I can now spell from memory but still can't pronounce the same way twice. What a specimen. What a bundle of limbs and rawness. It's going to be a lot of fun watching that dude for the next decade. He's a highlight waiting to happen. Check him out here, with help from the Spurs D, making Popovich so angry that he had to stop the game.
The Spurs head back to San Antonio to prepare for Friday night's matchup with the Boston Celtics at the AT&T Center.
Check out Brew Hoop for the opponent's fan's perspective.