After matching a franchise-best start to a regular season at 13-1, the San Antonio Spurs have taken a few stumbles, going 2-3 since. One of those losses came this week against the Indiana Pacers, who look ready to dethrone the Miami Heat and return to the Finals for the first time since 2000.
The best takeaways of this week are that Tim Duncan continues to show consistency after his early season funk and Kawhi Leonard may be on track to breaking out of his own slump. The team system continues to give the players open looks, but when facing other contenders, bad shooting nights can’t happen. At least it’s still December.
Week in Review
Dec. 2 vs. Atlanta Hawks – Win (102-100)
Tim Duncan stole the spotlight of this night in the NBA. With his stat line of 23 points and 21 rebounds, he cemented his spot in league history as the oldest player to post a 20-20 game at 37 years and 221 days old. He also buried the game-winning shot, which he seemed pretty satisfied with after he saw the shot go through.
Going up against former Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer proved to be a challenging match, as he led the Hawks down to the wire and would have most likely won if it wasn’t for Duncan’s night. The first half was back and forth, and Atlanta grabbed hold of an eight point lead in the third quarter before relinquishing it by the opening of the fourth. San Antonio coughed up 19 turnovers, but held Atlanta to 43.8 percent shooting for the night.
A bright spot in this game came from Boris Diaw, who dislocated his left middle finger in the loss against the Houston Rockets last week. Limited in that hand, Diaw still managed to score 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting to go with three assists. He didn’t hinder the offense and went about his usual game. He’s really determined to land his solid contract after this season.
Dec. 4 @ Minnesota Timberwolves in Mexico City – Postponed (Welp)
As part of the league reaching out to other countries in an effort of further globalization, the Spurs and Wolves traveled to Mexico City to play at the Mexico City Arena. However, that night a generator in the arena malfunctioned and caught fire, sending smoke throughout the arena that made it difficult see and, well, be in the arena at all, and Twitter took full advantage of this mishap.
The game is expected to be rescheduled sometime later this season to take place in Minnesota, as this game was listed Wolves home game (which totally makes sense). Upside was that the Spurs got some more rest, but the Mexican residents went home disappointed and knowing it’s going to be a while until the country gets another opportunity like this.
Dec. 7 vs. Indiana Pacers – Loss (111-100)
In the two meetings last season against Indiana, the Spurs held Paul George to 14.5 points per game on 40 percent shooting and won the series 2-0. This game turned out a bit differently. George led the Pacers to victory on his 28 points on 9-for-14 shooting, including a perfect 4-for-4 on 3-pointers. The Spurs did a decent job of holding their own on offense against the frontcourt of David West and Roy Hibbert, but couldn’t get any stops on defense, especially when Tiago Splitter left at the half with a calf injury.
The Spurs appeared to have some control when they held a 13-point lead in the second quarter, they managed to let Indiana go on top with a four-point lead into the half and continued to allow remarkable shooting and while not getting any shots of their in the third quarter, as the team went into the fourth down 87-65. The garbage time lineup gave the Spurs a bit of hope as they got the lead down to 10 with two minutes left, but that was as close as San Antonio would get.
A positive to take away from this game is that Kawhi Leonard finally had a good shooting night and poured in 18 points, a total he’s only reached once so far this season. He shot 8-for-13 on field goals and 2-for-4 on 3-pointers, which is great considering he was only shooting 22.7 percent on threes before tonight’s game.
However, Danny Green is still living up to his IcyHot nickname, putting an emphasis on the Icy lately. In the last six games, Green is averaging 4.6 points per game and is 5-for-22 beyond the arc, which is really the only part of the offensive game he’s been able to reach above average level. Green tends to let his struggles dictate the rest of his game, so as his shot goes, so does his effort in other areas, including defense. Can the Spurs afford to rely on such a streaky player in the playoffs? Is it too early to say to watch for him on the trading block?
The Newest Spur, Malcolm Thomas
In D-League news, the Spurs signed 6-foot-9 forward Malcolm Thomas for the Los Angeles D-Fenders. He only played in two games but averaged 33.5 points and 15.5 rebounds. This will be his second stint with San Antonio, the first coming in the 2011-12 lockout season when he only played three games.
One lacking area on the team that Thomas can help in is youth and athleticism in the frontcourt. The 25-year-old has also worked on his 3-point shot, an area of offense he was never known for before this season. He shot 8-for-13 from beyond the arc in his two games before getting called up, after never making one in 27 games over the previous two seasons in the D-League. A smallball power forward who can space the floor and keep up with the rest of them can be very valuable to this team.
Though at first the signing appeared as a reaction to the Boris Diaw injury, Diaw’s quick return is a sign that the team is interested in Thomas long-term. A former teammate of Kawhi Leonard at San Diego State University, Thomas is now reunited with his old college buddy and is signed with the Spurs through the 2014-15 season.
Dec. 10 @ Toronto Raptors
Concluding its international trip after the stop in Mexico and back in San Antonio, the Spurs head on up to Canada and plan to return to the winning column. The Raptors will be on a second game of a back-to-back and will be escaping the homeland of the Black Mamba, who will be making return against them.
Dec. 11 @ Milwaukee Bucks
This week the Spurs will have another same face-new place moment as they visit former guard Gary Neal, whose stats of 10.6 points and in 21.5 minutes are nearly on par with what he averaged in San Antonio. The Bucks are second in the #TankforWiggins race with a 4-16 record, worst in the East and only better than the Utah Jazz.
Dec. 13 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Hopefully this one won’t go up in smoke. As the team showed against Indiana, the Spurs need Splitter when facing quality frontcourts, so his top form will be a necessity in this game. Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic aren’t the duo to mess with.
Dec. 14 @ Utah Jazz
This is all but for certain the last trip to Salt Lake City for the Spurs this year. The Jazz will look to avenge its 91-82 loss to the Spurs from Nov. 15. Perhaps having Trey Burke back will make things a bit interesting.