Friday night was a little taste of basketball heaven my friends. After watching my Aggies dismantle West Virginia in their first game of the season, I geared up for the Spurs prime time showdown with an up and coming Bucks team. The game was a defensive battle, and the home team proved to be up for the challenge. The Spurs made all of the hustle plays you could ask for tonight. Diving for loose balls, grabbing the 50-50 rebounds, and executing some of the best help defense we’ve seen this season. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough to get the job done, as turnovers and a resilient Giannis Antetokounmpo prevented them from securing a victory on their home floor.
Although the November matchup may only be a blip on the radar right now, this is the type of game that you have to know how to win come playoff time. This team learned tonight that basketball is a game of runs. Being able to overcome adversity throughout the stretch of a 48 minute game is an invaluable skill to posses when the months of April and May hit. I think we would all prefer they learned that now, rather than in a 7 game series. Here are a few takeaways from the valiant effort.
- LaMarcus Aldridge continued his early season dominance on the low block, posting a line of 20 points, 10 boards, and 4 assists. The coaching staff has done a terrific job of finding different ways to get him the ball in a position to score in the mid-low post. The problem however, is that the offense has been non-existent at times without him on the floor.
- The Spurs appear to be in a love-hate relationship with their offense right now. The sporadic performances and lack of execution on that end of the floor has no doubt led to some late nights in the Popovich wine cellar. Turnovers are absolutely killing this team right now, plain and simple. There’s no question that missing two key members of their nucleus has affected their rhythm and taken some guys out of their comfort zones. However, if this team is going to tread water long enough for Tony Parker and the Klaw to get back and take the reins, then somebody other than the 40 year old sixth man has got to find a way to initiate the offense when Aldridge is off the floor.
- Manu Ginobili turned back the clock tonight and was instrumental in keeping his team in the ball game. The 40 year old floor-general put up a season high 18 points and quarterbacked the offense after multiple Milwaukee runs in the third quarter pushed their lead to double digits. Ginobili’s leadership and calming presence steadied the Spurs in spite of a tenacious defensive effort by the Bucks. It was vintage Manu in the AT&T center Saturday night and his teammates along with the 18,000+ plus in attendance fed off of that energy from ‘Grandpa Juice’. We won’t see a ton of nights like this from the future hall of famer anymore, so we need to enjoy them while we can.
- Rudy Gay struggled to find his shot tonight. The Spur’s top free agent acquisition was a porous 3-12 from the field Friday night, however there were still a few positives from his performance. Unlike in his past stops in Memphis, Sacramento, and Toronto, Gay’s rough night shooting the ball had zero effect on the rest of his game. I thought #22 played his ass off defensively despite being put into some tough positions. If he would have found a way to connect on a few more of his open looks, Friday might have been one of his better games of the season... and the Spurs just might have walked out of the AT&T center with a victory.
- In what I thought was a bit of a bizarre move, Pop kept Patty on the floor for 37 minutes tonight. Perhaps it was a teaching moment for his young backup, but Mills logging the second most minutes of his career was not something many of us saw coming prior to tip-off. Fortunately though, his stroke appears to be here to stay. The Australian ball of energy hit some timely shots against a feisty Milwaukee backcourt tonight, however he appeared to run out of gas after the third quarter.
- It was an incredibly rough night for Danny Green. After torching opponents the first 11 games of the season, he came back down to earth a little bit tonight. Unfortunately his step back 3 in the first quarter couldn’t mask his 6 turnovers and 2-7 night shooting the ball. These things will happen over the course of an 82 game season though, and I see no reason why DG14 won’t bounce back in a timely manner.
- Kyle Anderson continues to find ways to be effective on the court. SlowMo poured in a double-double tonight and even showed some prowess defensively in a tough matchup with Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak may have put up 28 tonight, but he worked for every bit of it. Anderson was a big part of that. It’ll be interesting to see how the organization approaches his free agency this summer if he keeps stringing together performances like tonight.
- Pau Gasol also deserves a mention for a solid night at the office. As flat footed as the 37 year old is defensively, he is still strong on the boards and presents so many threats offensively that it never seems to dilute his productivity. During a time when the Spurs are struggling to move the ball, having the savvy passer on the floor has really helped this team keep their head above water.