It is a good sign when Tony makes an early corner three after two passes. Setting the game tone while settling the nerves.
Pau Gasol gets the ball with one foot practically on the three point line, and gets all the way to the rim against Tyson Chandler, who’s no slouch. Pau’s initial spurt is followed by a series of hesitation/herkey-jerkey dribbles that keep Chandler off balance. Eventually, once he’s close enough to the rim and Tyson isn’t sure what’s coming next, he makes the nice left handed banker. The way Gasol manages his momentum to keep his defender in the dark while still managing to strike quickly is what makes this play fun to watch multiple times.
This play is poetry in motion. Patty Mills takes a handoff from LaMarcus Aldridge and uses a hook pass to advance the ball to Manu Ginobili who passes it immediately because LMA dives to the rim after Mills’ man doesn't switch. The way the ball moves on this possession reminds me of how the Spurs bring a third player into the mix whenever one of their bigs is being fronted in the post. The Suns play Mills and Aldridge such that Patty can’t easily get the ball to LaMarcus, so he doesn’t even try — he just gets it to someone else who can.
As Kawhi Leonard beats his man and drives the baseline, Tyson Chandler helps off Dewayne Dedmon to prevent the easy score. Leonard executes a difficult pass (the on-the-move close-quarters bounce pass to a big man) to Dedmon who gathers it and continues in the direction Leonard just came from while turning his back to the basket for a incredibly difficult backwards lay in.
Patty Mills and David Lee beat the Suns with a version of the same pick and roll play that Steve Nash and Amare’ Stoudemire used for years. Need some evidence that Mills is a serious Sixth Man of the Year candidate? For the second play in this post, watch both defenders stay Patty and leave the screener, in this case Lee, who is left with all the room in the world once Mills has hit him with a textbook pocket pass.
Patty starts driving before Dedmon is able even set a screen, which means they’re on parallel paths to the basket. Because Patty has the ball and is a threat to beat his man, Alan Williams steps over to prevent a layup. That leaves Dedmon unhindered to take Mills’ perfect pass and throw it down. I wonder if Pop is going crazy with all these alley-oops.
This play reminds me so much of the way that Boris Diaw used to influence his man in one direction in order to score from a different angle. Here David Lee drives right to make his man commit to stop him, then picks up the ball and (all in one motion) spins to his left, switches the ball to his left hand, continues his momentum toward the basket and lets the lefty layup kiss right off the backboard for two.
This could be the steal of the night. Almost robotic like, Kawhi activates his paw and drives to the basket showing off his left-handed dunking skills.
It feels like this whole play is conducted above the crowd up in the air, like an NBA version of keep-away. Kawhi starts it high to Pau who keeps it high to the rolling Aldridge for the two. Another triangulation play that’s fun to watch over and over.
Kawhi drives, misses the shot, but can’t get the offensive rebound, so he literally rips the ball away from Chandler and lays it back in for the Determination Play Of The Game.
Tonight it was evident that the recent two practice sessions paid off. The guys are getting to know each other and the plays are being executed better and better.