AT&T CENTER – Asked what he thought about how the San Antonio Spurs play basketball even without Tony Parker in the lineup, Milwaukee Bucks coach Larry Drew said Sunday evening after his Bucks were blown out 110-82:
“They’re just good, a really solid basketball team. They can beat you inside. They can beat you outside. They move the ball extremely well.”
Whether it was knocking down 11-of-18 three pointers, seven players scoring in double-figures, or outscoring Milwaukee 46-32 in the paint, the Spurs’ play on Sunday proved all of Drew’s points.
By the second quarter, Patty Mills (20 points, 4-of-6 from three) and the Spurs had essentially locked up the game as they had already boosted their lead to 17 points and they went into the half ahead by 15 points. In the second half, the Spurs’ lead would stretch to 28 points as no one played more than 28 minutes on the night and every player who dressed, received playing time. Including, Malcolm Thomas who just returned from the Austin Toros.
“Some of those guys haven’t played, and they were excited,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich of his bench which scored 57 points combined if you take out Manu Ginobili’s single point. “They did a really fine job. I thought their defense was solid and they really moved the ball.”
The Spurs as a team passed for 28 assists on 43 made field goals. “We wanted to do a good job as early as we can,” said Ginobili of building a quick lead and providing an opportunity for the younger players like Cory Joseph (12 points), Jeff Ayres (13 points – season high), Nando De Colo (13 points – season high), Aron Baynes (9 points), and Thomas (9 rebounds) to get a chance at some decent minutes.
Neal returns to San Antonio
In his return against his former team, Gary Neal played 18 minutes and finished shooting 1-of-8 for 3 points, and had 3 assists.
“You have to give credit where credit is due,” said Neal of the Spurs after the game, “that system has been in effect for a long time and it’s been successful for a long time. You know what you’re going to get, it’s just a matter of being able to go out there and stop it, and there’s a lot of team that haven’t figured out how to stop it.”
Asked what it felt like to return to San Antonio, Neal said, strange.
“Yeah it’s a strange feeling,” said Neal post-game. “Sometimes it’s different when guys come back to their old teams and maybe they left bad or maybe there is guys that they weren’t the team yet, but it’s even worse when you get along with everybody.”
“You see Tim (Duncan), I talked to Pop before the game,” continued Neal. “So it makes it hard. But it’s a business and I wish those guys nothing but the best and continued success, and I’ll just keep chugging along doing what I do.”
After the final buzzer, Neal ran to the Spurs’ side of the court and hugged a majority of his former teammates, he gave Popovich a longer hug.
Thomas has season debut
In his 14:40 second half minutes, Thomas finished with 2 points (1-of-4 shooting), 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Some of Thomas’ observed strengths were his rebounding ability on the glass, and his post-play where he was very physical and quick in taking defenders into the paint. He also spaced the floor relatively well and penetrated on one play that sequenced to an open corner three for a teammate. Some of his observed weaknesses were his interior defense as he gave up three offensive rebounds to John Henson, who he was guarding, and outside of his two blocks, he didn’t alter a lot of Bucks shots.
“I thought he was nervous,” said Popovich of Thomas after the game. “I thought he was real active, he blocked shots, we don’t block shots, that’s not a part of our program – that’s a joke. It was good for him to get some minutes.”
Asked post-game if he’s thought about where Thomas could fit in the rotation, Popovich told the reporter not too get too ahead of himself.
“We’re not trying to worry about that right now,” said Popovich, “he’s still trying to develop as a player, you’re getting way ahead of yourself.”
Shot Chart of the Night – Patty Mills
Patty Mills received the shot chart of the night as he continued to provide a spark for the Spurs on both sides of the floor anytime he entered the game. Mills shot 8-of-12 from the floor and 4-of-6 from three.
“He’s a feisty little guy,” said Drew of Mills after the game. “A spark plug off the bench. He can make shots. Defensively he picks you up 94 feet.”
Thunder visit Wednesday
With the Oklahoma City Thunder visiting San Antonio on Wednesday, the Spurs will prepare for another chance to defeat one of the elite teams in the league. The Spurs are 0-2 against the Thunder but could possibly have Parker return and will have Matt Bonner return wearing a mask after fracturing his nose.
“We really need to win one of those games,” said Ginobili of facing another elite team Wednesday. “It’s important for our confidence.”
Where They Stand
Home record: 17-6
17th win by 10 or more points
Vs. teams below .500: 18-1
Nice team performance, but I wish we would save some of that good shooting and spacing against a top opponent. I think back to the losses to the Thunder, Blazers, Rockets and Pacers, where we missed so many open shots and lay-ups, then executed poorly down the stretch. I don't think we have witnessed that mentally tough Spurs team from last year's playoffs. Our execution was off the chain. THIS season's team is not THAT team yet.
Promising debut from Thomas. I think there is a spot on this team for a guy who can play with energy, rebound and space the floor. If he can bring his post and team defence up to NBA level he could be a real asset. I've got a soft spot for the guys who have to scrape and claw their way into the league. It shows character. Takes heart. He's got a long road ahead of him - but he took some (more) steps today. I'm hoping he makes it.