With Kristaps Porzingis and the New York Knicks visiting, the Spurs jumped out a quick eight-point lead, but couldn’t shake the visitors who fought back in the second quarter and took a one-point lead in the third. But Tony Parker’s quick start (10 points in the first quarter) Pau Gasol’s near triple-double (17-11-7) and LaMarcus Aldridge’s all-around effort (25-5-4) carried San Antonio to a twelve point victory.
Parker was masterful early, scoring 10 of the first 19 Spurs points and setting up an offense that forced the Knicks into difficult situations every time down the floor. Tony saw something he was ready to exploit for what seemed like every possession for six straight minutes. If you’re a young point guard, go back and watch TP’s opening shift over and over, and you’ll be set.
It was a little bit of everything from Aldridge: a block at that started a fast break that yielded a wide-open 3, a hustle down the floor to get himself great position for a high-low pass and a quick layup, hassling KP into a bad shot, sprinting to a loose and tapping it to a wing at the arc — LMA brought great effort and got his 25 without resorting to a ton of turnarounds. There will be games when his outside shot just makes the game easy for him, and taking advantage of those nights is just smart basketball. But on the everyday basis, it’s great to know that #12 will bring the effort, stay engaged, and be productive.
When LaMarcus plays well game after game, it’s so easy (just like it was with Tim, and just like it’s been the last two years with KL) to take him for granted — of COURSE he just made that turnaround fall-away off one leg with just a couple of ticks left on the shot clock ... nothing to see here.
It’d be a mistake to think that Bryn Forbes is just on the court because of his long distance sniping; he’s doing a lot of things right. Without taking any effort to notice what he was doing, here’s what I saw from him just as I watched the game. In the first quarter, he threw himself onthe floor to save a ball from going out of bounds and took an elbow in the face for his troubles. In the second, he tossed in a terrifically high floater in the lane. He showed some toughness in the third, mixing it up in the paint setting picks for the big guys, which meant that he was pushing on Porzingis’ frame to keep him from staying with his man.
Speaking of Porzingis, sure, San Antonio made it hard on him and kept him from getting the shots he wanted, limiting him to 6 below his season average. But his defense really impressed me, and his 6 blocks weren’t the kind that just end up in the stat sheet, they affected the game, stopped Spurs scoring opportunities, and got his team going the other way. He’s definitely a star, and no one needs me to give him my seal of approval to make him worthy of watching — but he gets it all the same. Even in a below-average game in a losing effort, he worked hard until fouling out and certainly won my respect.
Just 10 days ago, we were talking about how Gasol had finished an eminently forgettable stretch. Now he’s playing as well as he ever has in a Spurs uni. He became one of the 5 guys in NBA history to log a triple double after turning 37 — an he nearly turned the trick again against New York. His passing was sublime, setting up so many guys for easy scores. He nabbed 11 rebounds and they weren’t of the easy fall-at-your-feet variety. He was efficient, dropping 7 of his 11 shots. It’s just hard to say enough about his contributions because they were so varied. He deserves serious kudos.
Kyle Anderson really hasn’t missed a beat after taking two weeks off to heal up his tweaked MCL. Kyle started in place of Kawhi Leonard (a late scratch for injury maintenance) and he just put up 16 points 8 rebounds and a steal. But as it usually is with Anderson, how he did it was more interesting than what he did: he was perfect from the field and perfect from the line. He was a team-high +26, and he’s so regularly in the right place at the right time that it’s impossible for it to be an accident. I find myself talking about him all the time, and I refuse to be embarrassed about it. Anderson is legit and I won’t stop geeking out over him until everyone agrees with me. Maybe not even then.