Tonight belonged to Tim Duncan, whose retirement ceremony allowed Spurs fans to honor #21 as they raised his jersey to the rafters.
But before that happened, there was a game to play, as the Spurs took on the talented Pelicans, led by the league's best big man, Anthony Davis. Unfortunately for the Pels, they've been hit with injuries with key players for much of the season. This has given them the chance to play talented young guys like Buddy Hield and E'Twaun Moore, who have risen to the occasion. They also had Tyreke Evans, who returned from injury and played pretty well in limited minutes.
The Spurs played one of their better games of the year as they wore down the Pelicans in the first half behind LaMarcus Aldridge's dominance inside. They put New Orleans away in the third quarter with brilliant play from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
The Pelicans cut into the lead late in the game as the Spurs deep bench sagged a little late, but Jonathon Simmons put the game away with a late surge to close it out.
LaMarcus Aldridge started the scoring for the good guys but Buddy Hield got an open three point look and drained it. While neither team had trouble scoring, Anthony Davis made a nice block on Pau Gasol in the lane to keep the Spurs center from scoring. The Spurs reserves took over the game midway through the first, and after a few clutch shots from Manu Ginobilii and Patty Mills the Spurs led 26-19. But after Anthony Davis scored over David Lee and Terrance Jones freed himself up for a dunk, the game was even. The Spurs scored the last four points of the quarter and led 30-26.
The Pelicans scored the first five points of the second quarter to retake the lead. New Orleans began to heat up from outside and drive the lane, but Ginobili kept pace for the Spurs. Danny Green drained a pair of open threes, and the Spurs built a double digit lead. It would have been even more, were it not for key shots from bench performers like ETwaun Moore who hit a triple. The Spurs closed the quarter poorly with some stagnant ball movement, but the Silver and Black still led 61-49 at the half. The halftime show included an artist painting a portrait of Timmy.
This painting of Timmy is actually pretty good once I realized he's doing it upside down. pic.twitter.com/7ucRbug5Cs— Mark Barrington (@MarkBarrington2) December 19, 2016
Davis scored the first bucket of the second half with a smooth jumper from the free throw line, and Hield got open for a three to cut the lead to seven. A pair of Parker jumpers pushed the lead back to 11. The Pelicans got key plays from Alexis Ajinca and Davis, but Danny Green continued to use screens to get open and hit shots. Late in the quarter, the feisty Spurs bench entered the game and picked up the defense, causing several turnovers that led to easy points. A Dewayne Dedmon alley-oop pushed the lead to 19 with just over a minute left in the quarter. The Spurs surged to a 92-71 lead after three quarters.
Everything about this play is so slickpic.twitter.com/SECtHcZrLo— Project Spurs (@projectspurs) December 19, 2016
Mills kept the heat on with a three pointer from the top of the key to start the final quarter. Langston Galloway answered for the Pels, but Patty made them pay with a layup before they got set on defense. Another one-handed dunk from Dedmon extended the lead to 24. A 6-0 run from New Orleans cut the lead to 18, but that wasn't enough as the teams began trading baskets. With Davis taking a rest, Dedmon was able to take advantage and get easy baskets in the paint.
Late in the game, the deep bench with Nicolas Laprovittola, Simmons and Kyle Anderson started turning the ball over and let the Pelicans bench cut the lead to nine with 3:11 left. The Juice scored a pair of baskets on drives to the hoop and after another Simmons triple, the game was out of reach. After some sloppy play in garbage time, the clock ran out on New Orleans.
- All of the accolades for Tim from broadcasters and players were really impressive, but the most amazing thing was hearing all of the fans whose lives had been affected by being close to him for so many years. His leadership and commitment to excellence had an effect much bigger than basketball.
- I tried to write a sentence comparing Anthony Davis to Tim Duncan. I couldn't do it. AD is going to be great, but he's a completely different player than Tim.
- Buddy Hield is turning into a very good player for the Pelicans. He played four years at Oklahoma and came out of college NBA-ready.
- Jonathan Simmons entered the game very early in the first quarter – a minute and half in – for Danny Green for just a few trips down the floor. I'm not sure why Danny came out so early, but I'm guessing Pop had something to say to him. Maybe it was because of Hield's first shot, which wasn't contested all that well by Danny. Whatever the reason, Green played well for the rest of the game.
- Anthony Davis' length really affects play around the basket. Dewayne Dedmon, who dunked easily over the Suns and Nets in his last two outings was a lot more hesitant with Davis guarding the rim.
- Aldridge used his strength and size to bully the Pelicans in the paint. He ought to do that more often.
[This is from the Replacements' album Tim]
The Spurs next game is in Houston against the Rockets, at 7:00 PM. The Rockets have been breaking all sorts of records for three point attempts and makes, and they might shoot a hundred of them on Tuesday. It should be interesting to watch.