A perfect 4-0 week keeps the San Antonio Spurs at second in the Western Conference and allows them to pick back up the momentum they had earlier in the season. Due to Tiago Splitter‘s injury, big man Aron Baynes received playing time and showed why he’s more than a capable big man in this league. In addition, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili give some classic performances.
Dec. 10 @ Toronto Raptors – Win (116-103)
This game will be known now as The Game of BAYNES. Aron Baynes got extended playing time since Tiago Splitter re-aggravated his calf injury against the Indiana Pacers last Saturday.
Baynes scored 14 points ( his season points total was 17 at that point) and pulled in six rebounds. After Jonas Valanciunas scored 10 points in the first quarter, Baynes entered the game. Valanciunas only scored four points the rest of the way. The Spurs averaged 146.8 points per 100 possessions while Baynes was on the floor and helped the team cruise its way to it’s victory.
Jeff Ayres started for Splitter, yet he failed to produce the kind of game of his fellow big men. He only gathered in four points and one rebound in nine minutes. Manu Ginobili was the leading scorer and distributor for this night with 16 points and nine assists.
Dec. 11 @ Milwaukee Bucks – Win (109-77)
Visiting former Spur Gary Neal became less interesting when he sat out of the game due to the plantar fascitis he’s facing. From start to finish this game was total domination by San Antonio.
The Spurs opened the game on a 9-0 run and never gave up the lead after that. The team shot 52.3 percent from the field and held Milwaukee to just 34.5 percent. The energy was flat throughout on the Milwaukee homecourt, which fed the Spurs’ run. The third quarter is what did the Bucks in, as they only shot 6-for-23 during the quarter and ended it with a 92-54 deficit.
Tim Duncan again delivered the goods from the fountain of youth, posting a line of 21 points and 16 rebounds on 9-for-12 shooting in 24 minutes. Up and coming big man John Henson couldn’t contain Duncan at all.
Dec. 13 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves – Win (110-107)
The Spurs were able to pull off the comeback in the fourth quarter, going from down nine to winning by seven. They withstood Kevin Love‘s epic night of 42 points, 14 rebounds and 8-for-9 shooting on 3-pointers.
The difference of the game was the inside and outside scoring. While Love and the Wolves were hot from outside, the Spurs dominated the paint, outscoring the Wolves 62-36 in that area. Tony Parker led the way with 29 points and six assists, while Duncan nearly posted a triple-double of 12 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.
This game belonged to Manu Ginobili, though. He’s making a serious run at the Sixth Man of the Year Award, and he showed why against Minnesota. In 25 minutes, he scored 20 points, dished nine assists and grabbed four rebounds. This is the Ginobili the Spurs will need come playoff time, so hopefully he bottled up what made him go off so he can reopen it in May.
Dec. 14 @ Utah Jazz – Win (100-84)
Against the worst team in the conference, the Spurs took care of business just as they should. And they did with another career night from Aron Baynes.
Though his numbers aren’t huge, the efficiency and ability to get physical with anyone down low is impressive. He scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds in 17 minutes of action. He missed every game since the Raptors game due to an ankle sprain, and clearly bounced back well.
The big man with the stats, to no surprise, was Tim Duncan, who scored 22 points and got 12 rebounds for his third consecutive double-double. With every game that passes, he’s making doubters look like fools for believing he was done earlier in the season.
Patty Mills also scored 11 points in just 17 minutes. It’s important to note that he’s become a very pesky defender and is an amazing sparkplug on offense. You couldn’t really ask for more out of Patty this season.
Tiago Splitter Is Still Needed
Despite seeing some potential in Baynes and Duncan turning back the clock once more, the Spurs won’t be able to make it to the championship without Tiago Splitter. His season is not jeopardy, but the loss to the Indiana Pacers the previous week showed that, because of offensive qualities and I.Q., he’s needed to handle the frontcourts of contenders.
Another aspect that makes the roles of all the big men more crucial is the shortcomings of Jeff Ayres. Coming over from Indiana with assistant coach Jim Boylen, Ayres has only averaged 2.2 points and 3.2 rebounds in less than 13 minutes per game. He filled in the spot left by DeJuan Blair, but he was expected to have a bigger role as well. He’s been a lateral move at best.
Dec. 16 @ Los Angeles Clippers
Recently, the Clippers created a reason for drama for this matchup. The team added swingman Stephen Jackson, who the Spurs cut right before the playoffs last season. All season, Jackson butted heads with Gregg Popovich on playing time, to a point that the chemistry couldn’t be repaired. Jackson isn’t a vital part of the Clippers now, but words will most likely be exchanged about seeing his old team again.
Dec. 18 @ Phoenix Suns
The Suns gave the Spurs a little scare last month in San Antonio when they nearly pulled off an upset, but fell three points short in the 96-99 loss. The duo of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, after being criticized for being somewhat redundant, has been very impressive. Hopefully, the last game taught the Spurs that they shouldn’t be too relaxed against this Suns team.
Dec. 19 @ Golden State Warriors
Worry is coming about in the Oakland area, as the Warriors have slipped out of the playoff bracket, ranked ninth currently in the conference. They may play with a sense of desperation to climb back up the rankings, so the Spurs should expect a shootout with their old semi-final foes.
Dec. 21 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
In order for the Spurs to be taken more seriously, they need to get a meaningful victory against another contender. After falling to OKC last month just before Thanksgiving, they’ve taken a few more hits, which hopefully will get their act straightened out. A win here would be huge.