Two games have passed since Tiago Splitter‘s shoulder separation that’s expected to keep him out about three to five weeks and so far the San Antonio Spurs have made it by just fine.
With Splitter out of the picture for awhile, it’s up to Tim Duncan, Jeff Ayres and Boris Diaw to fill in that gap. Though these are tickets to the small sample size theater, the early signs show the team can be make it by just fine.
The first task sans Splitter was Zach Randolph and the Memphis Grizzlies. Splitter usually got the assignment of Randolph when matching up with Memphis and is a big reason why the Spurs were able to get the sweep in the Western Conference Finals last season.
Without Marc Gasol, the focus did shift to Randolph, but the Spurs did well defending him and forced him into another off game. Jeff Ayres, while his stat sheet of two points, three rebounds and one block in 22 minutes isn’t amazing, did a good job of one-on-one defense and did the dirty work against Randolph. Though he had 17 points, it took 18 shots for Randolph to get there.
When Tim Duncan wasn’t dominating on the offensive end with his 24 points, he was clearing the paint and collected rebounds like no other. Something tells me that grabbing 17 rebounds in a game is good. Without Splitter, Duncan had the offense to himself in the frontcourt and delivered with 12 points in the overtime period.
After that, the team went back to San Antonio for a matchup with the Dallas Mavericks. And what does a team do without its starting center? Dominate in the rebounding column, of course. The team’s combination of shooting well in the second half and forcing plenty of bad shots on defense gave them a 55-32 rebounding advantage, with Duncan leading the way again with 13 to go with his 16 points.
As far as one-on-one matchups, this game belonged to Boris Diaw. His defensive effort on Dirk Nowitzki was just amazing, as Nowitzki ended up shooting 3-for-14 from the field. Not what you typically see out of the seven-foot sharpshooter. Despite often being on the bad end of jokes for not being in great shape, he possesses a nimbleness to his game that somehow makes defensive assignments work to his advantage.
Against the Dallas Mavericks, Ayres only got 11 minutes but what to love about this guy is that he’s always bringing energy to the floor. When he’s bringing in eight rebounds in that time, the question of effort answers itself.
In the coming games, the frontcourt will be put to tougher tests against the likes of Kevin Love, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge and others. There’s still plenty of Splitter-less game to be played, but so far so good.