When Danny Green is on, his threes blow the doors off of games in which the Spurs allow an opponent to overstay their welcome. It’s the Spurs way of saying, “thanks for coming, but get out of my house.” Monday’s game against the Hawks was the perfect example. While his offense WITH the ball has been (before this season) rightfully maligned, Danny’s movement without the ball is masterclass.
With the Spurs up 5 and unable to squash Atlanta all game, Green cut off of a screen set for him by LaMarcus Aldridge and splashed in a long ball. Seconds later, Patty Mills handed the ball off to Danny in transition like he was the guy who hands the axe to the executioner. Danny’s second three put the Spurs up 11, and minutes later the Spurs had improved to 11-6 with a 96-85 victory.
The Hawks never saw Green pick up his axe, but their coach did. On the broadcast, Sean Elliot mentioned that Coach Mike Budenholzer was “calling the play out to his guys.” Though Bud’s 18 years as a coach in San Antonio had prepared him for Green’s final strikes, his team didn’t see it coming.
The team that was just a few years ago dubbed as “Spurs East” does not look like the Spurs at all anymore. In 2015, the Hawks were playing the beautiful game that the Spurs had demonstrated a year before. They were #1 in the Eastern Conference and pumping love into the hearts of a city that had never fully embraced them. But, in the first quarter of this game, it was apparent that those Hawks were gone. Now Bud is still trying to inject Spursian ideas into his team as the Hawks have two former Spurs in Dewayne Dedmon and Marco Belinelli, who both played well against their former club. They also have a couple of young talents in Taurean Prince and John Collins, but their claim to anything Spurs-like is far away.
Both teams struggled to generate any offense in the first quarter and the Spurs looked to be having one of “those games.” The Spurs are in “backup quarterback” mode until Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker return from quad injuries. By that I mean they try to find something that works on a given night and roll with it and hope it leads to a victory. Most of the time that has been LaMarcus Aldridge, but he struggled mightily in the first half and only had four points. Tonight, the Spurs needed a burst or “grandpa juice” and they looked to 40 years young Manu Ginobili to pour them a glass.
Manu made his presence felt with lefty layups, timely jumpers and no-look passes. In the second quarter, he penetrated and flicked a beautiful pass to Patty Mills for a corner three, then immediately intercepted a Hawks pass, kept the ball in bounds and avoided the pressure to softly lay the ball into the basket.
Later in the game he tapped out a missed attempt, then raced to the corner and buried a three. No matter what age he is, Manu is the spark that ignites this team on cold nights.
Throughout the game Sean Elliott continued a “back in my day” dialogue, mostly centered on the way the game has changed to one of pace, space and position-less basketball. He said that his former teammate Dominique Wilkins had made the comment that he and Elliot would be Power Forwards if they played today and he isn’t wrong. Though the new era has made for entertaining basketball (nobody wants to watch a rockfight), its downfalls were correctly pointed out by Sean Elliott. As if listening to your grandpa talk about “kids today,” take Sean’s comments with a grain of salt. On several occasions, the Hawks found themselves unable to generate offense or get a rebound due to the fact that they had planted Dedmon or a big on the perimeter. Sean was dumbfounded as to why someone as athletic as Dedmon should be standing at the three point line and not used in pick and roll situations or allowed to be a menace around the rim. Dedmon has added a three point shot to his game, but does that matter? If everyone shoots threes and does the exact same thing, is that a good thing? Especially if that neutralizes the things that make people special, ala Dedmon’s athleticism.
The Spurs passed beautifully at times in this game, but there are times when the Spurs seem to be moving the ball for the sake of ball movement, leading to sloppy turnovers or giving the perception that the passing was the point of the possession and the scoring just an afterthought. The Spurs had 29 assists tonight, but Pop called the passing “inconsistent.” Even though movement and space is still a part of their game and Pop has embraced small ball more, they haven’t bought into the league wide conformity in the same way that other teams have. Of course, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol now shoot threes and stretch the floor, but they’re still allowed to be themselves and aren’t neutralized like Dedmon on Atlanta. The Spurs let guys be themselves. Instead of making Kyle Anderson become a below average three and D guy, the Spurs are letting Kyle Anderson be SlowMo. A crafty point-forward with a YMCA game who can pick apart another team that is spread out and can glide to the hoop. Tonight Anderson flirted with a triple double as he poured in 13 points, 10 assists and six boards. Sean Elliott pointed out that Anderson’s got “all kinds of junk in his game.” On another team, where Anderson was forced to become more like league wide trends, do we ever see all that junk inside his tr…I’ll just leave now.
The Spurs are also able to dominate teams who go small with an aggressive LaMarcus taking advantage of a much smaller defender. This was apparent as Aldridge dropped 18 second half points. My hope is that LaMarcus starts being able to take shooters off the floor for opponents and he forces those teams to account for his presence by playing weaker lineups with bigs they aren’t accustomed to giving regular minutes.
This play is where the Spurs kind of small ball is the best kind of small ball…
Everybody touches it and (eventually) LMA scores. pic.twitter.com/DNirHUGKIv— J.R. Wilco (@jollyrogerwilco) November 21, 2017
The Spurs are not known for “individuality” and Pop never wants the individual to outshine the unit, but in a league where everyone now does the same thing, the Spurs have been able to identify market inefficiencies and now have a group of guys who do unique things very well. This allows the Spurs to keep grinding out wins until their Captain and Leader return. Whether that is Rudy Gay’s pick and roll game, Danny Green’s dagger threes, Kyle Anderson’s grandpa game or Manu Ginobili’s grandpa juice, the Spurs need a few of those unique talents on full display until Kawhi Leonard returns.
5 things and a wish:
1) I don’t ever remember the Spurs having this many guys who can score playing one on one basketball. Let’s count.... there’s Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Many Ginobili, Rudy Gay, Brynn Forbes and Kyle Anderson. Then you can throw in LaMarcus and Pau (yikes) if we’re talking about scoring in the post. Also, Pop really trusts Bryn Forbes…he’s given him the go ahead to shoot. Pop’s such a millennial, summer league’s got him too.
2) Marco Belinelli has been on 8 teams in 11 years and I can’t figure out why he has not stuck with a team. He moves great without the ball. I guess he’s good enough to be a valuable trade asset, but not “great” enough to be latched onto.
3) The Hawks have never won in the SBC/AT&T Center. 21 straight at home in San Antonio against ATL.
4) Look at this effort from LaMarcus Aldridge. This play is proof his mindset has changed…
LMA blocks, saves, runs, receives and slams. pic.twitter.com/sHevDDi2qt— J.R. Wilco (@jollyrogerwilco) November 21, 2017
5) This crossover by Danny Green is the intro for SportsCenter in Bizzaro World. Did he work with whoever the Chip Engelland of dribbling is this summer? Who’s handling powers has he Space Jammed?
I wish for: an individual award for a Spurs player. Kawhi’s MVP season has sadly slipped away, but let’s jump on board the bus for Rudy Gay “Sixth man of the year” or Kyle Anderson “Most Improved.”
A few tweets:
The Spurs are now 35-0 when they have 29+ assists since 2015-16.— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) November 21, 2017
When the Spurs are passing well, it's downright magical. It's like breaking into the celestial plane.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) November 21, 2017
Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think LaMarcus was leaping like that last season. Might be the spriest he's been as a Spur.— Bruno Passos (@bouncepassos) November 21, 2017
Kyle Anderson has now scored double figures 8 times in 17 games. He scored double figures 4 times in 72 games last season.— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) November 21, 2017
Watching Manu do this at 40 while still feeling sore from keg kickball on Saturday is the worst kind of wakeup call— Bruno Passos (@bouncepassos) November 21, 2017
Lastly, Happy Thanksgiving Pounders…
1. Stuffing— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) November 21, 2017
4. Mashed Potatoes
Those are just the facts