Game #48 found the ailing Spurs in a prime time matchup with Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavilers. Ironically, just days separated from the announcement that the Silver and Black would not be at full health for the foreseeable future, the Cavs were finally at full strength with Isaiah Thomas recently returning to the lineup. Strangely enough, it looked like the Cavs were the ones down multiple starters in the nationally broadcast matchup.
The lackluster Caviler defense allowed the Spurs to carve them up offensively, as the good guys got to the rim at will. As nice as it was to the Spurs right the ship after a rough couple of outings, it should be noted how porous of a performance this was by Cleveland. This team’s lack of urgency was evident, and the undermanned Spurs took advantage of it. The subtle slight seemed to light a fire under the Spurs defensively which led to a plethora of hustle plays the Spurs used to break the game open.
With that, here are the takeaways from a bizarre, but much needed victory.
- LaMarcus Aldridge (30 and 8 on 12-18 shooting) was simply magnificent against an undersized Cleveland front court. The newly anointed 2018 All Star scorched the Cavs from midrange, and backed down his defender at ease. Per usual, this led to a plethora of double teams being sent his way, which barely phased him. LA pouring in 30 used to be as rare as Pop smiling during a mid game interview, and now it’s more common than seeing the Admiral David Robinson front and center at home games.
- After some early misses Davis Bertans found a nice rhythm. His quick release allows the offense to not have to be so fluid and also keeps his defender on his toes. If his man isn’t ready to contest, DB will get a decent look from deep. If his defender over-extends, he’s shown the ability to drive past his man and force the defense to rotate. Going forward, this can add a new wrinkle offensively, which this team will desperately need while they await for their franchise player’s return to the floor.
- The offense operates at a much more efficient pace with Dejounte Murray at the point. With the 21 year old running the show, the uptick in tempo is obvious. On Tuesday night, the wings whipped the ball around and were constantly moving once they gave it up, which helped relieve some of the pressure on Aldridge in the low block. Murray's hustle and tenacity on the boards had a huge impact; especially in the fourth quarter when the Cars got within striking distance after a late run. He used his size to overpower the smaller Isaiah Thomas, and consistently caused havoc on the glass on his way to his 19 points and 10 boards.
- Kyle Anderson (10-5-12 on 5 for 10) might have had one of the best games of his young career against the reigning eastern conference champions. His ability to create offense and collapse the defense has been a saving grace for the Silver and Black this year as they continue to navigate their way toward another 50-win season despite their vicious bout with the injury bug. Beyond that, he has consistently helped the team control the glass, and he competed his tail off defensively against the youngest player to ever reach 30,000 career points.
- This team could use more from Patty Mills and Bryn Forbes. The two sharpshooting gunners had some big buckets on the night, but when facing a team who plays some of the worst defense I’ve ever laid eyes on, it is not unreasonable to expect either of these guys to make a bigger impact.
- It was a mixed night for Danny Green. He had some ugly misses, yet he buried a big three late to halt a Cavs run and he provided an array of hustle plays defensively that dismantled the Cleveland offense. As the season has progressed, his versatility on offense has slowed noticeably, but he’s still showing signs of his improved offensive skills.
- In his second straight game off the bench, Tony Parker looked like he had a few gulps from the fountain of youth prior to tipoff. TP9 was electric in the pick and roll game with Aldridge, and he consistently abused a sagging Cavilers defense by drilling mid range jumpers or making the right read as he knifed his way through the paint. It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff adjusts his minutes if Parker continues the strong play in his new reserve role.