Life on the road is tough. Especially when you're trying to get things going while some of your best performers are missing. Manu Ginobili is going to be out for a while recovering from surgery, but Tim Duncan worked out before the game and was a last second scratch as Pop decided he wasn't quite ready yet. Matt Bonner was in San Antonio, but Kyle Anderson was also out with an illness.
But despite a cold start, the Spurs were able to close out the Heat as LaMarcus Aldridge easily exploited the Heat's big men on offense and dominated them on the boards with his experience and patience. Kawhi Leonard, who had been looking herky jerky lately on offense, was smooth and looked as comfortable as he has all season. Danny Green continued to provide scoring punch and key defensive plays and the Spurs were able to finish out the game with their reserves on the floor late on the floor late, resting the starters for tomorrow's contest against the Orlando Magic.
The Heat scored the first two points, and then the Spurs went on a 7-0 scoring spree, well at least it was a spree compared to the rest of the quarter. The Heat went on a 10 point streak, and the Spurs went cold. Amar'e Stoudamire showed he still had some in the tank, and so did Chris Bosh. At one point in the quarter the Spurs had hit only one of their last fifteen shots, and the Heat were able to take advantage of a lack of communication of the Spurs on defense to get some easy runs to the hoop. Late in the quarter, Boban Marjanovic and Patty Mills came in and kept the Heat from running away with and Miami had a 24-20 lead at the break. Mills almost cut it to just one with a half court shot that just missed at the buzzer.
Beno Udrih started off hot for the Heat in the second quarter, but LaMarcus Aldridge took advantage of Hassan Whiteside's eagerness to get blocks to get off shots and draw fouls. Dwyane Wade, looking at times like he had turned back the clock to 2006, got off some midrange shots to keep the Heat ahead, but Danny Green started to find his range, beating the shot clock with a long three at 6:30 left. Boris Diaw got his shot blocked by Josh McRoberts, but recovered it and hit a three to put the Spurs ahead. Kawhi, who had been in a little shooting slump recently, started to look a little more smooth and scored effortlessly. Wade did his part to keep the Heat nearly even, but the Spurs were dominating the boards, and slowly pulled away. The Spurs held a 54-47 lead at halftime behind a 34 point second quarter.
LaMarcus picked up in the second half where he left off in the first, using his patience to either score easily or get the ball to an open man, and the Spurs padded their lead as the quarter wore on. The Spurs picked up their intensity on defense too, with Tony Parker stealing the ball from Goran Dragic for a 3 on 1 break finished by Aldridge. But Gerald Green got hot late in the quarter and hit a pair of three-point shots to keep the Heat to within just 10 points at 85-75.
With 10:25 left in the game, the Heat got their first offensive rebound, and Beno Udrih turned into a three point as he drove it to the basket and got fouled by Diaw. Gerald Green drained a midrange shot to cut the lead to 7, leading to a timeout from Coach Gregg Popovich. Out of the timeout, Patty Mills hit a three and got fouled by Udrih for a four point play. On the free throw, Whiteside threw an elbow into the throat of Boban Marjanovic, which required him to reach up, and got ejected from the game. The Spurs got another free throw and the ball. Kawhi hit a baseline fadeaway and the Spurs had scored 7 points on one trip down the floor. Bosh answered on the other end, but after an exchange of turnovers Danny Green ended up getting fouled on a drive to the basket. He missed the second free throw, but stole the rebound and ran out to the three point line and hit a corner three to put the Spurs up 98-82.
Wade and Bosh continued to score for the Heat, but Aldridge, Leonard and Diaw had answers for all of their questions. The Spurs eventually opened up a 20 point lead at 110-90 at 4:37 left. Pop had seen enough, and Marjanovic was subbed in for LaMarcus. The bench players did their job and the teams traded baskets for the last four minutes as the Spurs won 119-101.
- Hassan Whiteside is really good at blocking shots, but bad at defense. Aldridge easily exploited his tendencies to always go after fakes and drift off randomly in search of blocks to get easy shots. He's very talented, but he needs to play smarter to become a top level NBA talent.
- Boban Marjanovic isn't just a curiousity any more. He played a lot of minutes in this game and although he wasn't spectacular, he held his own against the Heat's athletic bigs.
- Jonathon Simmons provides a ton of energy whenever he's in. He's an important player with Manu Ginobili out, and he's doing his part helping to propel the bench unit.
- Kawhi Leonard ... he's good, isn't he?
Really, what good can it do?
The Spurs started off the road trip in a way that makes fans feel good, as they now have a gaudy 1-0 Rodeo Road Trip record. Their record is now 44-8, and they are in second place in the west. Enough said about that. Their next game is tomorrow night at 6:00 pm CT in Orlando against the Magic, so you might want to leave work early. Aw heck, you might want to leave work early every day, but tomorrow you'll have an extra good reason, because the Spurs are playing.