A 3-1 week doesn’t seem so bad for the San Antonio Spurs, but as a team that has slowly been on the rise in defensive stats, they need to regain balance on that end. Recently, the Spurs have been allowing teams to score nearly 40 points in one quarter, which is a method that never sounds good. By simply watching, it seems as though the effort itself is the biggest problem.
Whether the regular season is uninteresting to the Spurs or the players are saving themselves for later in the playoffs, the look that the team is giving is that they may not have it in them to take on the other contenders come May. Tinkering with the starting lineup and lack of execution on defense highlight this misleading week.
Week in Review
Dec. 23 vs. Toronto Raptors – Win (112-99)
Starting off the week, the Spurs closed out the Raptors in a match that was even through the first three quarters. For the fourth quarter, the Raptors would shoot 39 percent while the Spurs made six 3-pointers to secure the win.
Among things to note from this game are that it seems as though Marco Belinelli prefers to play with the bench rotation, as he went 2-for-7 on the night with no 3s. A nice sight to see was Danny Green breaking his slump from the bench and shooting a perfect 4-for-4 on 3s in the fourth quarter. He gave the Spurs a 3 to extend the lead to 13 with just more than a minute left that basically sealed the deal on this win. For the game, he totaled 14 points.
Leading the way for the Spurs was Tony Parker with 26 points and eight assists, while Manu Ginobili scored 18 points and went a perfect 9-for-9 from the free throw line. There would be no sequel to the Aron Baynes career night from the first meeting against the Raptors, but Tim Duncan (nine points and 12 rebounds) and Kawhi Leonard (13 points and 10 rebounds) handled the paint well. Terrence Ross and Kyle Lowry tied the Raptors high with 23 points apiece. Duncan also gave us this fundamental beauty, dropping Amir Johnson with the most basic crossover you’ll ever see.
Dec. 25 vs. Houston Rockets – Loss (111-98)
The Rockets showed no holiday spirit as they came into the AT&T Center for the second time this year and handled the Spurs. San Antonio’s iffy defense allowed Houston to post 40 first-quarter points, which gave them a 40-25 deficit and set the tone for the rest of the way.
Once again, the 3-point shot fell in Houston’s favor, as Chandler Parsons got five to drop, James Harden was a perfect 3-for-3 beyond the arc. As a whole, the Rockets shot 50 percent on 3-pointers. Meanwhile, offensive efficiency was the biggest downfall for the Spurs, as the team shot 40.7 percent overall and got 7-for-23 combined from Parker and Duncan.
The Spurs trimmed the Rockets’ lead to eight heading into the fourth quarter, but that’s when Harden took over and scored 16 points in the final 12 minutes. From his days back with the Oklahoma City Thunder when he dropped daggers in the 2012 Western Conference Finals, Harden’s terror in San Antonio continues.
Harden led all scorers with 28 points to go with six rebounds and six assists, while the high man for San Antonio was Manu Ginobili, who came off the bench to score 22 points. Dwight Howard shined with his double-double of 15 points and 20 rebounds. In order for the Spurs to have a better shot against Houston in the future, they need to figure out how to better guard the three-point line. Allowing one of the top offenses in the league to make half of the attempted three-pointers is a recipe for disaster.
Dec. 26 @ Dallas Mavericks – Win (116-107)
It seems as though Danny Green is on a mission to get back that starting spot. He posted a rare feat of 22 points on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting, include five 3-point shots. His game was no doubt a motivation to play better on the defensive side as well, as he chipped in three steals and two blocks.
Green continues his IcyHot play, but the Spurs can’t complain when he has these on-fire games. Parker was the high scorer with 23, while Duncan posted a double-double of 21 points and 13 rebounds.
A close scare in the fourth quarter saw the Mavericks nearly take the lead after a 12-0 run that took place in 93 seconds of game time, reducing the Spurs lead to three with 3:55 remaining. The deficit revisited with under a minute to go, but the Mavs wouldn’t see another field goal for the rest of the night as Ginobili would draw a foul on Monta Ellis, sink two free throws and be followed up by four free throws from Parker.
There’s no one in the league who can negate Dirk Nowitzki, but Boris Diaw did a good job bothering him by denying him the post opportunites when matched up. Diaw also chipped in with 10 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Former Spur DeJuan Blair posted an impressive stat line of 14 points and 11 assists, but would have his two fourth-quarter field goal attempts blocked and be sent to the bench with 8:32 remaining in the game, never to step on the court again in this game.
Dec. 29 vs. Sacramento Kings – Win (112-104)
Coming off a win against the Miami Heat, the Kings must’ve felt pretty good about themselves to be locked in a tight one against the Spurs. After being down eight at halftime, they would outscore San Antonio by 14 in the third to take the lead.
The Spurs continue to play lackadaisical defense, allowing the Kings to score 38 points in the third quarter and open up a nine-point lead with 11 minutes to go in the game. They then limited Sacramento to 17 points in the quarter, but needed quick offense and the best game of the season yet from Ginobili to win this one. Ginobili led the team with 28 points, including back-to-back three-pointers in the fourth to tie the game with 3:10 remaining. From there, the game would end on a 10-2 run by San Antonio.
DeMarcus Cousins was an absolute monster, posting 29 points and 14 rebounds. Rudy Gay would score 24 while Isaiah Thomas would deliver with 27 points. Parker was next behind Ginobili with 22 points and seven assists.
IcyHot was back in action as he followed up his perfect 22-point performance by going 3-for-10 overall for seven points, and his rival on the depth chart Marco Belinelli didn’t well either, going 2-for-11 for four points.
Looking Into Luol Deng?
A recent report listed the Spurs as one team to be interested in Luol Deng come next summer when he hits free agency. Needless to say, Deng would be a great fit in San Antonio as a small-ball power forward who can shoot from outside. His shot hasn’t been there this season, as he is 28.1 percent beyond the arc currently, but the openings he would find in the Spurs system would improve that number easily.
However, it’s definitely a long shot to get Deng. Even if it’s something that goes beyond the initial interest, it would take a sign-and-trade to get Deng the contract he’ll get with any team under the salary cap next offseason. As the Bulls seem to be flirting with the idea of rebuilding by letting Deng go, surely it would take draft picks and young talent to pry him away from Chicago.
The Spurs draft picks hardly carry that much value since they’re usually in the 26-30 range, and the only young player the Bulls would want is Kawhi Leonard, who is seen as the foundation for the Spurs life after the Big Three era. It’s nice to ponder, but don’t count on Deng sporting silver and black this time next year.
Dec. 31 vs. Brooklyn Nets
And so begins the Spurs facing the two disappointments from New York state. As Brooklyn faces turmoil of all sorts, this could be seen as a good starting point to get the Spurs defense back on track. Currently 10-20, the Nets are in a panic for something positive to happen, but as long as the Spurs keep focus, don’t count on that something to happen in San Antonio.
Jan. 2 vs. New York Knicks
Now that the slightly worse team comes to San Antonio, the Spurs will look to build momentum for their game against the Clippers by first taking care of the Knicks (9-21). Currently, the team is coming off back-to-back losses against the Toronto Raptors, whom they made the Andrea Bargnani trade with this offseason and have had recent discussion on a Lowry deal as well.
Jan. 4 vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Games at this point into the season have to count for something, so the Spurs may take this one a bit more seriously than the previous meeting. San Antonio hasn’t done a good job of standing its ground against other contending teams this season, which is pretty worrisome. Yet, the Spurs are one team that knows when to turn the switch on come playoff time. Nonetheless, a statement needs to be made here.