On the heels of a 3 game win streak, the Spurs rolled into their showdown with the ailing Golden State Warriors looking to build on their late season surge. Fortunately for the Silver and Black, the Dubs were a shell of themselves Monday night as they were missing the all star trio of Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry. Sure, the win should probably be taken with a grain of salt, but man does it feel good watching that team from the bay lose, no matter who they are playing.
The Spurs might be playing their best ball of the season right now. If it was not for an awkward change in the rotation, and a bit of complacency setting in during a grotesque 3rd quarter, this could have been another dominating performance for the good guys.
Maybe my level of optimism is a tad too high right now (NOTE: the Aggies are in the sweet 16, so it’s certainly a tad too high), but Parker is still taking a slow dip into the fountain of youth, Gay is beginning to gell, and Aldridge is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. The mountain to climb may be high, and they might lack the firepower to get past both the Rockets and W’s, but no team is going to want to face this group come April 14th.
Here are some takeaways from the victory.
- Patty Mills came out confident against the short-handed Warriors. The two man game between he and LaMarcus Aldridge helped the Spurs jump out to a quick lead and set the tone. What I liked in particular was Mills’ aggressiveness turning the corner off of screens and slicing his way to the rim. I’ve noticed when he does not have it going from deep he rarely does this and it can derail the offense at times. However, when the Australian gunner can play with confidence and stay on the attack, it opens the offense up and forces the defense to rotate. Defensively, I thought he was fantastic in the fourth quarter and injected some life into the team after a sluggish start to the second half threatened to take this game to down to the wire. Solid night of work for San Antonio’s beloved Aussie.
- Despite some foul trouble early on, Aldridge was yet again the most dominant player on the floor. The 6-time all star has punished the Warrior defense this season after a subpar showing against the defending champs in the conference finals last season. Resiliency, work ethic and dedication are championship traits. #12 has exhibited all of those this season. I can’t speak enough on the transformation LA has had over the past five months. He single-handedly took over in the fourth quarter and delivered a win that his team was on the cusp of letting slip away.
- Rudy Gay was fantastic during his short stretch in the first half. What I really like about his game is his ability to attack when needed, or sit back and stretch the floor as a spot up shooter. For whatever reason he didn’t see a ton of minutes against GSW, but his play in the last two weeks has been a major plus for a Spurs team that desperately needs perimeter scoring.
- Pau Gasol . . . wasn’t at his best against the defending champs. The future hall of famer struggled around the rim on both ends of the floor. He missed a plethora of open looks around the rim and was abused in the paint defensively. If this team is going to continue streaking into the post season, they’ll have to get more out of #16. He’s shown throughout the year that he is capable; he will just have to play through this tough stretch and find his rhythm.
- Danny Green started out hot, but slowly faded down the stretch due to a bizarre lack of playing time in the 3rd quarter. The long siesta seemed to throw him off and allowed the GSW wings to get in a rhythm. Once he got back on the floor things quickly got tougher on the Dubs offensively and his impact was felt immediately.
- Tony Parker did not see much burn, as I’m sure Pop did not want to overuse him, but they could have really used him in that 3rd frame. His recent surge is appreciated, and what the Spurs lacked was his calming presence. When the defensive intensity picks up, Parker does a great job of quarterbacking the offense and finding an opportunity to force the defense to rotate.
- Kyle Anderson’s career year has chilled a bit recently as Parker and Gay have transitioned into more prominent roles in the offense. If #1 is not going to be relied upon to create with the ball in his hands, it will be very interesting to see if his minutes will see a reduction, as he doesn’t have much to contribute from beyond the arc, and at times can hurt the offense’s spacing.
- It was great to see Dejounte Murray confidently stroke that 17 ft. jumper. He also did a great job of pushing the pace and creating some easy buckets for his teammates. His progression as both a passer and shooter will be a key in his quest to take his game to the next level.