This week San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker and Tim Duncan were selected to the NBA’s Mid-Winter Classic in Houston with coach Gregg Popovich more than likely to coach the West All-Stars.
While it will be great way to cap the first half of the season, the team needs to make sure everyone makes it to the All-Star Break healthy and prepared for the remainder of the season.
If last season’s playoff run taught us, is the bench must be ready at all times to pick up or maintain the pace the starters establish. The frustration level kept on climbing in last season’s playoff series versus the Thunder. You would see the starters giving it all they had to build a lead or erase a deficit, only to have the bench, which came up big in the regular season, not knock down the shots or make the stops.
With head Popovich’s establish patterns of saving the “Big 3” during back-to-back games or games where things have gotten out of hand, one option would be to have the bench play big minutes during crunch time. That way, the bench logs critical end-of-game minutes and experience hitting momentum-shifting shots.
In the past, Pop has been known to treat end-of-season games, with playoff positioning decided, just like pre-season games. At times, the Spurs had lackluster starts during the playoff’s opening series. Playing the starters a little bit will help them keep their edge and keep them in game shape as opposed to working themselves back in to a groove.
You're completely spot on. Pop and RC have been smart to acquire specialists at bargain prices (Bonner = shooting, Gary Neal = shooting, Splitter = PnR, Danny Green = shooting, Blair = rebounding...sorta) in order to beat the field during the regular season by virtue of their superior discipline on offense and defense. The multidimensional players the Spurs have are Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and Stephen Jackson (for stretches). Leonard can also be considered a game-changer by virtue of his superior defense and ability to get steals to start a break. None of the above are consistently potent offensive players in his physical prime aside from Tony Parker. I honestly believe the Spurs are one player short of a championship, unless Kawhi Leonard REALLY raises his game beyond just hitting baseline treys. Come playoff time, Green, Gary Neal, Matt Bonner, Boris Diaw, and Blair just aren't good enough against talented and athletic teams like the Clippers, Thunder, and Heat.
Consider that the Clippers can bring such guys as Eric Bledsoe, Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford off the bench. The Heat, while typically having low bench output, can at least know that Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, and Rashard Lewis boast sufficient talent and experience to make big shots at critical moments. Are our key six players, Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Leonard, Splitter and Jackson -- 6 guys total -- really good enough to beat these teams? Also realize that the Thunder and Heat can play their big three or fours heavy minutes during the playoffs (Martin, Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka; Wade, James, Bosh), while the Spurs cannot play Duncan or Ginobili for more than 35 mins/game? There's gotta be a way for RC/Pop to package Gary Neal and Dejuan Blair with some picks for someone talented...I hope.
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