This was a tough week to deal with. Aside from that, the Spurs had lost back-to-back at home.
Against the Rockets at home, there was another first half deficit to over come, some poor defensive rotations, and a chance to win the game at the end.
Right now we are falling into one of two camps: the first is the It’s Early And Everyone Is Hurt the other is Getting Used to All The New Guys. There is some overlap here and I am in that Venn diagram middle.
Everyone is excited about the starting lineup getting together for the first time and the real season beginning.
All that is well and good and probably true. I do not want to put a lot of stock in this transition, but it does concern me that the Spurs are not winning the games they won last year, the games they should win, and instead are giving away large early leads.
Some of it can be blamed on the schedule, but there is not a one-to-one thing going on is there? The Utah home game was inverted, and so we cannot blame the loss on travel, and the Clippers were on a back-to-back also.
So . . .
Right now the GSW look better and more cohesive after Curry found his touch. They still are missing fully operational Klay Thompson, but they are winning. The Spurs are losing. They are struggling with non-Spursy plays.
On Wednesday the Spurs went down early, fought back, battled back in the third and lost on a last second shot.
There was a sequence in the third quarter where Kahwi was saving himself guarding Corey Brewer and then did not attack James Harden on the offensive end. Sean Elliott noticed it and said it was a missed opportunity. It is the kind of thing that LeBron James would have noticed, with his ridiculous Hoops IQ, and a thing to watch Leonard improve.
There were little things where he was trying that one hand floater and it was just a little off all night. Still, he scored 34.
Gasol increasingly looks like a liability, as Pop had to sit him for comebacks a few games already. I am a little worried about this. This is the kind of thing that is exaggerated in the postseason.
The little things Danny Green did were great to see. He only went 2-8 from three, but ad two straight great defensive plays early in the fourth that were sorely missing from the early Spurs run.
The Spurs were sloppy / unlucky all night and so were the Rockets. James Harden Harden’d and that killed them. He was efficient and got other guys shots, while our guys were struggling for the easy stuff.
The story was Gasol getting 21 points, but he had a more even matchup, as Andre Drummond is a more traditional center than any other team has. Still, the Spurs managed to look a bit disjointed as the second unit was weird, and went into half down three.
I liked that there were not as many obvious transition defense breakdowns, but then again Detroit is not really the type to get those. They are lengthy, and tough, and that kind of thing is the Spurs’ strength.
Tony reappeared, giving all of us Parker skeptics a few pangs of regret. He has lost a step, still is too streaky with his jumper, and probably is not as amenable to losing the limelight to Kawhi as he lets on. He still knows this system and can run this team better than Patty Mills.
Bala Pat is faster and has a much sweeter shooting stroke, but he lacks the patience and change of pace that Tony has. It is a subtle thing, but things are a little calmer when TP is in.
Speaking of the old guard, Manu hit back to back threes in the third to push the lead to 8. The first he ste the offense, calming the team after a stretch of frantic play (play that he was a part of). He posted LMA via Simmons, then hit the catch and shoot rhythm three. The second, he did a classic Manu wherein he pump faked 84 times and fired an off-balance shot going to his left.
The game was close but not really in doubt. Tobias Harris attempted to cut the Spurs lead to six but was rejected by Gasol. This is telling in that Gasol was not able to defend Chris Paul or James Harden at the rim. But Tobias Harris is obviously not in their league. So it goes. Spurs win.
Shea Serrano wrote a bit about this game through the prism of watching it with his kids.
My earliest memories were watching the Spurs vs Rockets with my little brother and the both of us listening to Stan Kelly’s nasally voice say “2 minutes!”. Good times.
The Spurs brought out the year’s projected starting line up of Tony, Danny, Kawhi, LMA, and Gasol and it looked good early. Everyone was surprisingly fresh which continued that weird streak of unexpected performances in games.
James Harden is good.
You can tell a really good player by how open his teammates get in his presence. Kawhi Leonard is getting to that point, but right now he still gets enough single coverage to do what he likes, wich partly explains his remarkable consistency to work these dudes nightly. Since he has been able to create his own shot — last two years basically — he has taken his game to new heights but has not quite gotten to the Harden levels offensively. This is fine, but just evident when Harden’s forays into the lane focus the entire defense and create wide open shots for role players.
Yes, Harden is light years away from KL defensively.
The Spurs controlled this game the entire way and Parker’s presence was the big story.
“He gets us organized,” Popovich said. “He hasn’t been with us so much this season. He’s just a stability factor, and that was a big help.” – Pop