On the 10th anniversary of Kobe Bryant's iconic 81 point performance, Kobe was virtually non-existent. Despite the Los Angeles crowd jumping out of their seats every time he took a shot, it was all Spurs for almost all of this one.
The Spurs were without LaMarcus Aldridge due to back spasms, and as Sean Elliot hinted at pregame, that "injury" most likely could have simply been labeled "resting to play the Warriors on Monday". Pop has been masterfully strategic in resting certain players on certain nights, and luckily the Spurs didn't miss Aldridge.
The Spurs struggled to score early on, but Danny Green came out firing and nailed two triples in the first few minutes. As bad as he was from behind the arc to start the season, he may be getting his shot back at the perfect time as the second half of the Spurs' season schedule will be noticeably more difficult than the first. And while we're on the subject, the praise Green continually receives from his teammates when he does well is just beautiful:
After that, the Spurs let everyone get involved offensively, whipping the ball around for open threes and letting Kawhi Leonard simply do his thing. I mean, he went on an 8-0 run by himself in the second quarter and he's just so much fun to watch. The Spurs hit six of their ten three-point attempts in the first quarter, giving us flashbacks to the "Beautiful Game" Spurs that torched teams with ball movement and were a little looser when firing from deep. Defensively, San Antonio did a great job in the first half at forcing tough shots and turnovers. The Spurs just controlled the flow of the game for the entire half.
Manu Ginobili was magnificent, with 11 points in the first half, including these two:
It's just ridiculous how, on any given night, any Spur can have an outburst like the one Manu had tonight. This team is so incredibly deep and just about every player is a weapon of some sort (some weapons that were claimed "done for" by many just last year). Ginobili finished the game with a season high 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting, a whopping FIVE steals, four rebounds, four assists, and two blocks in JUST 19 minutes of play. There are just so many players stepping up this season for the Spurs...it just proves how badly this team wants to win another title.
While the Spurs had complete control for the majority of the game, the only quibble (if any) that I have was how they didn't put the Lakers away in the third the way they could have. Some lazy defense to start the second half prevented the Spurs from blowing the doors wide open in the third quarter. As Sean Elliot put it, they let "a team who's hungry-for-a-win stick around". Obviously, the Spurs never let the Lakers gain any sort of real edge and ended up putting the game out of reach before the fourth quarter, and it was another commanding victory. The final score made the contest seem closer than it actually was.
The Spurs improve to 38-6, and extend their NBA best winning streak to 13, which now allows them to sport this nice little stat:
Manu Ginobili: 20 points (9-for-10), five steals, four rebounds, four assists, two blocks.
Kawhi Leonard: 18 points (5-for-11), four rebounds, two assists, no turnovers.
Danny Green: 12 points (4-for-8 *all three point attempts*), five rebounds, two assists, no turnovers.
- The Spurs went 11-for-21 from behind the arc (52%). The most important take away from this is that Danny Green contributed four of those makes. Patty Mills also knocked down three triples of his own, as he's struggled as of late. As dominant as the Spurs have been, Green and Mills finding their shots could be the difference maker come playoff time.
- The Spurs' bench had 56 points tonight, outscoring the Lakers bench by 20 points. If I were to pick one thing that separates the Spurs from any other elite team in the league, it's the bench. As good as Kawhi and the starters are, the bench is debatably just as important to maintaining or extending leads gained by the first unit.
- Kobe's 81 point game anniversary was spoiled by him being forced to visit Kawhi-Island. Kobe had just five points on 2-of-9 from the floor, the lowest amount he's ever scored against the Spurs. Interestingly enough, it was Manu who had the throwback performance on Kobe's anniversary night.
- The Spurs' 38-6 start makes for the best start in franchise history.
The game we've all been waiting for; the Spurs visit the Warriors on Monday night. This may be the most anticipated regular season Spurs game of my (21 year) lifetime. The No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the league. The only two teams that most say have a realistic shot at winning the title this season. Both teams setting numerous records in the first half of the season. Both teams are undefeated at home. Each team has a player in the MVP conversation (the No.1 and No.2 guys in the MVP rankings, by most accounts). How could it get any better than that in the regular season?
Steph Curry will be coming off of his triple double on Friday night in a win against the Pacers, in which he had 39, 12, and 10 with eight three pointers. He's been absolutely unbelievable this season, but the Spurs could be one of the best teams suited to contain him.
That's a wrap, folks.