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Spurs sweep the season series against the Heat

Not a dominant performance but the home fans will take the win after an unusually slow start at the AT&T Center to begin the season.

NBA: Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

For the second game in a row the Spurs took a double-digit lead, looked ready to put it away and weren’t able to shut the door. The good news: two close-ish wins for San Antonio, this one getting them back to .500 at home. After several games where the Spurs were on the right side of blowouts last season, these close ones are something that the Spurs faithful aren’t used to but may now grow routine as this season progresses.

The opening night rout of the Warriors, their one 20+ point win of the season, seems like ages ago at this point, but patience is the prescription with a team still finding their identity. These Spurs have had their starting five available for just six quarters this season with Danny Green missing the entire second half of this one after receiving a knee to his man region at the end of the second quarter. After the game Gregg Popovich said keeping him out of the game was just a precaution.

The first half went well for the home team, with the Spurs putting up 55 points and holding the Heat to just 43.6% from the field and 40 points. It’s the second time in as many games that the Spurs limited their foe to just 40 first-half points. It’s good to see the team tighten up on the defensive end out of the gate. Over the last two games San Antonio has posted the second-best first-half defensive rating in the NBA. Before Saturday’s tilt in Houston the Spurs had the second-best defensive rating in the league in the second half of games but were just 17th in the first half.

That’s an interesting split, but I think we can safely say that the team is definitely capable of playing great defense. While I’d like to see it happen for a full 48 I’m fairly confident that the consistency will get there as the season progresses. For now, I’d say it’s definitely better to be playing from ahead. Building a lead is nice but the comfort that brings can present its own problems.

The second half started with a Kawhi Leonard attempt swatted away by Hassan Whiteside and a Heat bucket in transition. This was quickly followed by a Leonard turnover (one of four for the night) and another Heat bucket in transition. That led to a Pop timeout 48 seconds into the third. Tony Parker, who’s played well since returning from injury despite what many fans would have you believe, steadied the Spurs by finding Pau Gasol on the right baseline on back-to-back possessions. This scoring spurt didn’t last long – San Antonio had problems with the Heat for the rest of the contest.

Turnovers, a season-high 17 for the Spurs, were the biggest issue, but we should credit the Heat for their intensity in the third quarter. By the start of the fourth, the Spurs had committed eight turnovers (after just six in the first half), had scored just 16 points in the quarter and were left with a tenuous 11-point lead.

Those are first-world NBA problems but expectations are what they are. Despite turning 46% of the roster over and losing Stone Buddha, San Antonio is still part of the elite, still part of a handful of teams with a hope of bringing home the Larry O’Brien in June.

A fairly competitive fourth quarter kept the game interesting, though the four-point margin at the end makes the game seem closer than it was. Erik Spoelstra and his boys gave it a good run, fighting until the end.

The offense is a work-in-progress and will likely remain that way for the foreseeable future. The defense is clearly capable of being very good but it’s probably not going to return to the level we saw last season. But that’s fun – it makes it interesting. Blowouts are boring and, hey, there’s this.

The Spurs improved to 8-3 for the season. That’s a winning percentage of 72.7%. If you’re wondering, Tim Duncan’s winning percentage was 71.9% for his career. The Spurs are good.

Even though they haven’t been as dominant as many would like, including me, they’re good and the season pretty much just started. They join the Cavs, Dubs and Clips as the only teams in the league with eight wins and sit in the three-seed out West.

Quick Notes:

  • Davis Bertans played eight seconds in this one at the end of the third quarter. The big Latvian missed his at-the-buzzer 27-footer. Back and forth to Austin is in his future.
  • Kawhi Leonard has been as inconsistent with his shooting as you can imagine. In his last four games his shooting from inside and outside the arc has been one or the other. 7-for-20 inside/4-of-6 outside against Houston, 1-for-13 inside/4-of-5 outside against Detroit, 9-of-11 inside/0-of-5 outside against Houston and 4-of-14/3-of-5 outside tonight. Just an observation. He finished with a 24-12-4 line, though he was the only starter with a negative plus/minus on the night. He’s obviously one of the NBA’s elite and the Spurs’ best player. Now’s the time to figure out exactly what he needs to do to make San Antonio the best they can be. Leonard has now led the Spurs in scoring in nine of their eleven games.
  • Pau Gasol continues to become more comfortable with the team and has now scored in double-figures in four of his last five games after doing so just once in his first six.
  • Tony Parker scored in double-figures for the second straight game, finishing with 11 points and six assists. Tony was also the game’s only player with a positive double-digit plus/minus (+15). For what it’s worth, Patty Mills finished with a team-low minus-11. Check out Parker on the coast-to-coast
  • Old Man Ginobili can still give me the feels. With Timmy gone, I’m less emotional about this season. But man, The Manu can still do it for me. After watching a player for well over a decade there’s much more to the little things. Thanks for another season, Gino. H/T to J.R. Wilco for the non-highlight video.

Not that there wasn’t a Manu highlight. Another impossible triple from the Argentine.

  • LaMarcus Aldridge had a game of two halves. He was an unstoppable force in the first, going 8-of-8 from the field, but struggled shooting it in the second, posting an 0-for-6 shooting line. But hey, 8-of-14 is a nice night. The big man finished with 18 points, a plus-eight and a team-high 36 minutes.
  • Because we ALL miss him in his short stint in the Alamo City. Boban for smiles.

Up Next:

The Spurs get a day off before they head to the West Coast to take on the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night and then the Lakers on Friday night. Both of those games tip at 9:30 Spurs time.