AT&T CENTER – In their sixth preseason game on Tuesday, the San Antonio Spurs blew out the Orlando Magic 123-101. How did forward Tim Duncan see the preseason match, well, a bit more fun than just having to participate in a normal practice.
“It’s fun,” said Duncan. “It’s better than practice. We get to play against a different team, a different offense, a different set of guys and get to run our stuff against someone who does not know exactly what we’re going to run.”
Resting for the Spurs Tuesday was point guard Tony Parker, while Jameer Nelson rested for the Magic. Spurs guard Cory Joseph got the start and it began with a quick offensive outburst in the first quarter as the Spurs put 33 points on the scoreboard and never looked back.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Spurs had their highest scoring affair of the preseason with three 30-plus point quarters; and minus Parker, everyone saw time on the floor. To add to the offensive night, six players ended with double-figures as Patty Mills led the group with 22 points, five steals, and two blocks. Kawhi Leonard had an explosive second quarter which will be discussed a bit more in further detail below, as he finished with 19 points, five rebounds, and two assists. Newcomer Marco Belinelli scored 16 points, while Danny Green found the basket a few times for 14 points. Lastly, Manu Ginobili scored 12 points off the bench and Tim Duncan score 10 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and threw seven assists.
Here were some in game observations that were recorded during the game.
First quarter: Spurs 33-25
· The Spurs are running the offense through Kawhi early on in the first quarter. He's scoring at the rim and taking guys into the post. He also fed Duncan in the open court with a bounce pass.
· Mills was the first point guard off the bench for those wondering about the backup point guard depth chart.
· A lineup of Belinelli, Ginobili, Mills, Jeff Ayers, and Boris Diaw are really getting out in transition to end the first quarter.
Second quarter: Spurs 71-46
· The same lineup that finished the first quarter started the second quarter with a 6-0 run. There is so much passing by this group. Belinelli, Ginobili, and Diaw are all throwing fake passes/pump fakes on several possessions to get the Magic defenders out of balance.
· Manu and Bellinelli's continued to put on a show with their passing in their time together. Manu even tried to throw him an alley-hoop but then head coach Gregg Popovich pulled Manu to give him a break.
· The Spurs ran the offense through Leonard in the middle of the second quarter. He continued to attack and score with crossovers and he even drew a double-team before passing out to an open teammate.
· Leonard continued to steam roll through the second quarter. He scored 13 of his 17 first half points in the second quarter. He had several “and-1's” and even made a pull up jumper over two defenders. He also made the basket just before the half ended. Defenders tried to foul him but he still made his layups.
Third quarter: Spurs 102-72
· A lineup of Mills, Manu, Kawhi, Duncan, and Tiago Splitter started the second half.
· Leonard made a one-step to the side jumper before being pulled with 19 points in the game early in the third quarter.
· The Spurs continued to coast by 30-plus points in the third quarter.
Fourth quarter: Spurs 123-101
· To end the game, Coach Popovich played Joseph at point guard, Mills at shooting guard (like he does with the Australian National team), and Nando De Colo at small forward.
· The Magic would trim the lead back into the teens in the fourth quarter but the game was never close as the Spurs held on to win by 22 points.
What they said after the game
· Coach Popovich on Belinelli fitting in early on: “Well, he’ll continue to do that. He just got here and he’s got a really high basketball IQ. It won’t take him long to figure everything out, but so far he’s blended in real well.”
· Coach Popovich on whether Leonard can stay as aggressive when Parker, the full roster plays: “Well you know, that’s something we don’t worry about. We don’t have a need for touches. Whatever is appropriate and whatever wins is what we are concerned with. We don’t have guys that, you know, need to have the ball. It’s not something we do.”
· Magic forward Arron Afflalo on the Spurs: “This is a team that was in the Finals, that knows how to win. They were without one of their best players, and still showed that they can get the job done.”
“One more” – Gregg Popovich
As he was finishing his postgame interview, Coach Popovich let out a “one more” type of grumble referring to just one more preseason game. That final game will be played in San Antonio on Thursday as the Spurs host the new-look Houston Rockets who have revamped their team with Dwight Howard. The Spurs are 3-3 in the preseason.
I was there last night and had the rare privilege of court-side seats (given by a friend). First time court-side at the ATT Center. Normally when we get to go I'm in the stratosphere section. So many things I took away from last night. Here are a few that won't be reported on that I enjoyed observing and won't be able to observe once I am back up in the nosebleed section. Yes it's long, just reporting what I saw (and again, the stuff you won't read elsewhere):
* It's very obvious our guys really like each other as teammates and everyone is fitting in well, for the most part. We got there early and my daughter and I had a blast watching the interaction between players. There was a lot of cutting up and laughing going on, which is good. Only guy who didn't really seem to goof around with other players: Nando. To a lesser extent, Bonner, Joseph and Mills-but the other guys, there was some goofy stuff going on. TD, Tiago, Boris Baynes and Ayres seem to be pretty tight and enjoy each other. Lots of cutting up with those bigs. Marco was interacting with guys like he's been here his whole life. That was interesting. He seems very comfortable here. My favorite moment: About 2 minutes before the formal introductions, Timothy Duncan on the sidelines being a dork with some boxing and then kung fu moves on Tiago. Second favorite moment, saw Kawhi smile big a couple of times in warm ups-but that cat is mostly all business. And man, his game just reflects the hard work he's put in.
* Jeff Ayres has the best mean looking stare down we've had since Willis or Mario Elie. It was interesting to watch him on D. He was communicating continually to other Spurs on the floor and really it was more of a barking out kind of thing. He's got a nasty streak in him. His rebounding numbers didn't reflect it, but he was very physical and altered shots and played well. Got to the line a lot. Good free throw shooter. I'm voting him, 'Spur most likely to get ejected at some point for standing up for one of his teammates." On D he looked like a tall, leaner Ray Lewis patrolling the middle. I really like his scowl. We need nasty. I thought, "At some point it would make perfect sense if he just tackled someone coming across the lane because he looks like he might enjoy that." Second favorite Ayres moment: Saw him coming out of the tunnel before 2nd half holding and kissing a baby. Assume it's his. He's a smart guy, carries himself well, has a high B-Ball IQ and has a high motor. I like this guy.
* I preferred Mills over Joseph on the floor. Both need a combo guy (Marco or Manu) in back court with them. Joseph's passes, the kind of passes a pg needs to make in traffic to an open man or a cutter, are iffy. He lacks touch. Three times that I remember, I saw him try to make the right pass to the open man (Kawhi, Tiago Ayres) and all three times he was fairly close to his target and zipped the pass at 900 mph either a bit high or a bit low-all that was needed was a soft touch. He rushed it. Once he threw the ball to no one in particular. Another time he led TD way too much and even though TD stretched out as much as he could, bounced off his finger tips. Those are touch passes TP and Manu make in their sleep. Marco displayed that ability quite well too.
* Neither CJ nor PM is a pure point. Defensively the edge went to Joseph, offensively, no contest-Mills. PM is not a great passer either. Defensively he did better than I thought he would mostly because he was going 100 mph and being a pest on D. Still, he got beat a few times because he overplayed his man, took unnecessary risks.
* That 'clunk' sound you hear is the sound of the drop off from TP to CoJo or Mills. If he goes down for a stretch, Marco and Manu will have to carry the weight of being distributors on offense and making sure the offense flows. We don't have a true backup pg.
*Marco really impressed me. Very calm. Nice stroke, very nice passer, and I was surprised that he played D as well as he did. He did have trouble at times fighting through screens, but the guy's length and hustle really is a big improvement over Gary Neal-and he has a better handle and is a better passer than Neal.
*Was surprised to see Danny creating his own shot and going to the hole (and finishing) a few times. He looks less wooden and one dimensional. Then again-this was Orlando and they are really, really bad. I did like what I saw of him though in those areas. If he can do that on a consistent basis then he's going to be a much better and more reliable asset this year. If he can make opponents respect his drive or mid-range pull up, then that makes it easier on him and those on the floor he's playing with.
* Baynes has a soft shooting touch and the guy is very physical and a lot quicker than I thought. I like his size,energy and physicality. We need that combination. Hopefully with Pop resting TD and probably Boris some this year too, he will get more playing time-that's all the kid needs. There will be times we need a guy with his size to bang with the bigger bigs in the league.
*Nando ....what can you say. He's off the ball, he runs point from time to times. He is what he is. He needs to be on a team where he can get a lot of minutes. He is a rhythm player. His body language is really bad. My 17 year old daughter loves the Spurs, never played b-ball but watched her brother play at a very high level for years. She said, 'Nando looks like he's both depressed and confused out there. What's his deal?'' I thought that was an interesting observation from her. He looks like a guy resigned to the fact he's the odd man out.
* There are some real nice folks in those court-side seats and also some serious tools. We had our row to ourselves basically until the end of the 1st quarter, beginning of the 2nd quarter-then the 'beautiful people' showed up. I guess time -travel has been invented because there was a group of 80's prepster guys in their late 20's who showed up (leaving half-way through the 3rd quarter of course) who mostly spent time trying to impress their eye candy girl-friends. I'm thinking these were all 'daddy's seats' the guys were using. We also enjoyed the 3 High School girls behind us who spent the whole game next to mom and dad with their ear buds on, listening to music and texting. I yelled at the ref at one point because Kawhi got mugged on a no call. Pop did as well and said words I can't type here. A few transitions later Tiago got fouled on a no-call, so I barked at the ref again (Pop did too). The tool in front of me leaned over to his wife and said, 'Someone's first time court-side.' He and his wife rarely raised their voices or got loud. Mostly he leaned back and clapped politely and turned around to talk to his friend behind him. I gave him a certain look at one point and he never made eye contact again. Again-some very nice people, great employees, but definitely plenty of tools (at least in our section) near that floor.
* Pop was in mid-season grumpy form which was great. Only time we saw him break character was out of the blue, during a time out, he looked over our way (DRob was 2 rows in front of us, just to the left) and broke out in a goofy grin and waved at him, which was hilarious. He then turned back to the team and was in grump mode. I love Pop.
I still think the Spurs need to make a couple of roster moves, but overall, this team looks very nice and is going to put up a ton of points on people if everyone stays healthy.
@gymbear Great piece! Very well written. You made me feel like I was there.
@gymbear Good info GB..sounds like y'all enjoyed yourselves
@Spursfan66 @gymbear We had so much fun. Man, would love to have those kind of sits on a regular basis! And forgot-other huge differences: Spurs conditioning was just ridiculously better than Magic's-and communication was incredible on Spurs part on offense and defense. Magic's not good at all. Big difference between vet team with chemistry communicating and young team trying to learn each other. Our boys are lean and mean man. Lookin good.