In front of an electric crowd at the AT&T center, the Spurs came firing out of the gate against a rebuilding Mavericks squad. However that early momentum was quickly negated by turnovers. Does that sound familiar? Pop had apparently seen this one play itself out too many times this season.
Trailing by 9 halfway through the second quarter, the future hall of fame coach let loose a rant on an official that caused the AT&T center to erupt. While Pop hit the wine cellar a few hours earlier than we expected, his team battled back and grabbed a third quarter lead they never relinquished.
Throughout the grind of an 82 game season, it’s important for a team to learn how to win games in different ways. Sometimes that means flawlessly running a team out of the gym, and other times that means overcoming a sluggish start and finding a way to grind out a victory. That resiliency will pay off later in the season. Here are a few takeaways from a fun night of basketball.
- The entire team missed some very makeable shots in the first half. If the home team knocks down even half of those looks, we're talking about Murray, Paul, and Bertans playing the entire second half, and Pop not buying a years supply of Advil Tuesday morning. Instead, the Spurs had to fight tooth and nail to put away a pesky Mavericks team that refused to stay down. Big time props to Rick Carlisle’s bunch, who continue to fight despite being in the midst of another tough season.
- LaMarcus Aldridge played at an elite level. #12 was as dominant as I've ever seen him in a Spurs jersey against a Mavericks team that looked lost trying to defend him. When LA's shot is falling from the perimeter, he has become impossible to guard this season. But what has impressed me the most is his decision making. He has been much quicker getting the ball out of his hands when the opposition brings a double team and has also improved at immediately attacking a smaller defender who gets switched onto him after an initial ball screen. If this type of play continues, it wouldn’t shock me at all to see the former Longhorn get his name tossed into the MVP conversation.
- It's crazy to think how much trouble this team would be in if Manu Ginobili had ridden into the sunset at the end of last season and retired like we all expected. The 40 year old might not be leading the team scoring, but there are some stretches on the floor where the team looks lost without him. He still has that calming presence with the ball in his hands and is good for (at least) one hustle play per game that gets the team going. If there’s one criticism I have of the legendary 6th man’s game tonight it was that he pressed too hard at times. In a game that saw Aldridge and Gasol abuse the Maverick front court, I expected #20 to feed the hot hand a bit more than he did Monday night.
- Tony Parker fought off some rust in his first game back on the floor since last April; but man, it was nice seeing #9 in a jersey instead of a blazer. Even from the 14 obviously restricted minutes he played, the offense looked smoother with the 35 year old running the show. Another thing to note from Parker's return was the utter slashing of Dejounte Murray's minutes. It will be interesting to see how PATFO develops the promising young point guard, as he suddenly finds himself buried on the depth chart.
- Danny Green was monumental in the Spurs comeback. #14 sparked a 12-1 run in the third quarter that was ignited by his 2 three pointers and an off the dribble 18-footer. The sharpshooter is quietly putting together the most complete season of his career. I have little doubt the he’ll swing a game or two in the playoffs.
- Bryn Forbes dropped some timely buckets and continued his hot shooting from beyond the arc. The second year pro is slowly working his way into the lineup with performances like this, and it will be intriguing to see whether we see an uptick in his minutes. I think #11 has a bright future in the silver and black.
- The Mavericks made Gasol earn every bucket he got. He might have missed some bunnies, but the 37 year old was relentless. He banged in the trenches for much of the game and provided a toughness that the team needed in the second half. He rode that intensity all the way to the tune of 25 points, 6 boards, and 4 assists in 35 minutes; easily his best statistical game of the season. I’ve been impressed with Pau's play this season.
- Davis Bertans might have completely played himself out of the rotation after another head scratching performance Monday night. The roller coaster ride he has been on this year has been puzzling after such a promising rookie season a year ago. Part of the issue has been his tough transition into playing the 3. Unfortunately for Davis, his adjustment to the role has been rocky — filled with turnovers and streaky shooting. We will see if the Latvian sharpshooter can bounce back.
- Kyle Anderson didn’t have the best night from midrange. SlowMo had a slow start to the game offensively and found himself making some uncharacteristic plays with the ball in his hands. But my favorite part about this guy’s game is that he still found ways to contribute despite a sub-par night shooting the ball. It’s amazing; the guy put together a double-double and knotted 5 assists on a night when it seemed like he could not buy a jumper.
"Up faaaaakes. Get your upfakes here! I'm sorry, sir. You'll have to take a number." pic.twitter.com/9zKuJqschX— J.R. Wilco (@jollyrogerwilco) November 28, 2017
To me, that's what Pop's talking about when he proudly claims that players "got over themselves." You don't sit there and pout because the ball’s not bouncing your way; you relentlessly bust it to find a way to help the team. That's what being a Spur means; and if that doesn't make you want to rock a jersey to work tomorrow morning, I don't know what will.