For years, the San Antonio Spurs and its fans have been dreaming of the day they can put a perfect big man next to Tim Duncan to help shoulder the load of scoring and rebounding. So far this season, they've gotten their wish.
Tiago Splitter has been a prayer answered for its fans. He's averaging 9.9ppg and 5.4rpg along with great man and help defense. Last night against the Golden State Warriors he proved it once again. His statistics read 19 points and 9 rebounds, but the most glaring statistic is how he made his contributions.
"When we have that advantage down there, we want to continue to attack," said Duncan on his frontcourt teammate. "He's really smart playing defense, running the floor and finding ways to score. So, we're going to use him."
And use him the Spurs did versus the Warriors last night. Splitter dominated the paint against Golden State which helped the Spurs to the win. Check out Splitter's game-total contributions for the game (via ESPN.com).
This is a welcome sight to Duncan and his aging knees.
The Spurs having a player who can consistently score on the inside alongside Duncan helps rest his legs and allows him to become a jump shooter. Splitter has allowed Duncan to be more dominant on the defensive end with his 2.8bpg, which is second in career highs only to his 2002-2003 average of 2.9bpg.
If we remember what Duncan did that year, he was his most dominant on both ends of the floor. Don't think Tim hasn't had help from Splitter in that department either. While Splitter is averaging 5.4rpg, he's had three games where he's doubled his average and grabbed 10 or more rebounds. While it's true players such as DeJuan Blair have brought in similar or more rebounds, Splitter's is grabbing boards where he's positioned well and not off of having his shot blocked under him like Blair is known for.
With the Spurs playing a faster tempo style which means more points and more possessions, the defensive pair of Duncan/Splitter has helped the Spurs stay at a good ranking overall defensively while outscoring other teams by the bunches. The Spurs have had a great season so far that their third string players are closing out the games with more than enough shots to keep them fresh if needed.
With being 10 years older, the "Big Fundamental" knows he has to play this year smart and Splitter is definitely helping him out there. If Duncan can keep playing dominantly on the defensive end on the floor, we may see some vintage performances out of Tim in the playoffs if Tiago can keep this up.
He's shooting 56% for the month of January and 59% for the season so far. As Spurs fans, we'll be hoping to see more youth out of Duncan and Splitter will be a big reason why it will happen.
Splitter is providing a more than effective sidekick to Duncan. Scouting reports of opposing teams are now having to seriously consider Splitter especially on the pick and roll. He is doing much better at the foul line, but most of all he is tougher defensively one on one. Numbers, however, aren't a real tell tale indicator as to his effectiveness. Just ask Pop! I'm excited for Baynes to learn from Duncan and Splitter and contribute this season. GO SPURS