A one time rivalry game quickly became a “wait, who is that guy” kind of game, as the Spurs took on a depleted Memphis Grizzlies team for the first time this season. The long divisional foe was nearly unrecognizable without the familiar faces of Mike Conley (injured), Tony Allen (now with the Pelicans), and Zach Randolph (now with the Kings) which unfortunately took away from the familiarity (and maybe some intensity) that used to be associated with this matchup.
None the less, it made no difference to LaMarcus Aldridge who was on the floor, as the 6’10” all star dominated the visiting Grizzlies. More on that in a minute.
Coming off of a tough game against the Mavericks earlier in the week, the Silver and Black had a much cleaner game this time around. The offense hummed along nicely as they kept the turnovers down and whipped the ball around until they found a crack in the defense. What I liked the most was the passion the team played with. It is never easy to get up for a 7-13 team. The fact that San Antonio competed at a high level from start to finish says a lot about the character of this team. That’s an important trait for an organization with championship aspirations. Here are the rest of my takeaways from win number 14.
- Despite coming off of an injury that many thought would end his career, in his second game back the 35 year old Tony Parker played with a freshness we haven’t seen in a while and looked explosive at times. While he may not be 100% until after the all-star break, his value on the floor in terms of his leadership and experience cannot be understated. Not to mention that he’s the only San Antonio point guard who can run the pick and roll like he does.
- Kyle Anderson continues to fill up the stat sheet. As early as six months ago I had completely given up on the 3rd year pro out of UCLA. I’m happy to say that SlowMo has proven me wrong. It appears that the point forward has finally found his niche on this Spurs team. The next step in his game will be increasing his range to make opposing teams pay for ignoring him from beyond the arc. I won’t be betting against him this time around.
- From the moment he connected on back-to-back corner threes early in the first quarter, you could just sense that LaMarcus was feeling it. It’s no secret the Dallas native is putting together one of his best seasons of his storied career, while simultaneously changing the negative narrative that has clouded his tenure in San Antonio. When the offense can run inside-out through Aldridge, the Spurs can torture opposing defenses, because you simply cannot contain the all star power forward without bringing a double team.
- Gasol had a bit of a slow night offensively, as he took a backseat to the hot hand of Aldridge. Pau had a tough time defensively as he was matched up against his younger brother. The elder Gasol’s timing and positioning has improved from last season, but you can only hide his lack of quickness so much. For as well as #16 has played thus far this season, I wouldn’t put too much stock in this one performance.
- I think Patty Mills’ productivity and the offense’s efficiency sees a major uptick when the Aussie point guard consistently tries to get to the rim. He is known around the league as a sniper from beyond the arc, so when he attacks his defender off the dribble it causes the entire defense to bat their eyes before they rotate due to its rarity. Mills may not have had a glamorous stat line, but he torched the Grizzlies defense. He initiated the offense and in turn unleashed a series of passes that had me flashing back to the Beautiful Game days. This is the style of play I’ve been wanting to see out of #8 all season.
- I think Rudy Gay and Danny Green alike will see a huge uptick in their games once Kawhi Leonard returns. The Spurs’ best player takes so much pressure off of his supporting cast which should also open things up on the offensive end of the floor for these guys. Green and Gay will get a plethora of open looks and mismatches to take advantage of as Leonard takes the focus of opposing defenses. That’s probably one of the most exciting takeaways from the first 21 games of the season; this team is no where close to its ceiling.