The NBA All-Star Game is fast approaching and the San Antonio Spurs have three players on the ballot: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
The NBA has released the third returns of fan voting and let's see how things are shaping up for the Spurs "Big 3."
Tim Duncan is curently in fourth place in fan voting for the forward position:
Kevin Durant (Thunder) 945,944
Carmelo Anthony (Nuggets) 742,284
Pau Gasol (Lakers) 702,859
Tim Duncan (Spurs) 551,226
Manu Ginobili is in third place and Tony Parker is in seventh place in fan voting for the guards:
Kobe Bryant (Lakers) 1,391,597
Chris Paul (Hornets) 724,605
Manu Ginobili (Spurs) 504,123
Steve Nash (Suns) 397,975
Deron Williams (Jazz) 384,515
Russell Westbrook (Thunder) 327,453
Tony Parker (Spurs) 298,771
There is still time for Spurs fans to get all three players into the starting line up in Los Angeles by clicking HERE to vote.
The NBA All-Star Game is fast approaching and the San Antonio Spurs have three players on the ballot: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
Theses two teams will be facing each other in a span of three days and should the Spurs win, they would sweep the Timberwolves for four straight seasons. However, the Spurs have their troubles against Minnesota. The Spurs have had to fight from double-digit deficits to pick up wins against the Timberwolves and to beat the same team in a matter of days will prove difficult.
To discuss tonight's contest, I once again turn to Dave from Bloguin's own TWolves Blog. Aside from keeping things light-hearted with the ways things are going for Minnesota this season, the site is a wealth of information and your one-stop site for all things Timberwolves. To read my Q&A I did with Dave click HERE.
Jeff: The Timberwolves seem to present issues for the Spurs as we've seen this season. What is it about Minnesota which gives the Spurs issues?
Dave: As I responded in our first Q&A together this season (I believe), it's our big men. To be honest, our guards are pretty atrocious all things considered, so the need for production falls on our bigs kinda by default. Add in the fact that KLove is an all world rebounder and Darko is quite versatile himself; the Spurs can be taken advantage of from that facet. Otherwise, I think our guys play hard for the most part, and really don't ever give up, so we're just going to just lay down and give up against any team.
Coach Rambis is going to continue to go with Corey Brewer in the starting lineup in hopes of containing Manu Ginobili. Is that move really going to slow down Manu?
Beasley recently injured his ankle yet is probable to start for Minnesota. Think it's wise to risk further injury?
If I were coach, and sadly I'm not (couldn't be worse than Coach Darrell Rhombus!), I'd sit Beasley out. He got hurt Sunday by re-aggregating that same ankle injury from Friday night. He also hurt it earlier this year as well. No reason to rush him back in a lost season, especially when ankle injuries can be such fickle and troublesome injuries. If you don't let them heal up completely, it can hinder a player all season long.
Should the Spurs win, they would sweep Minnesota four straight seasons. What does Minnesota have to do to avoid this tonight against the Spurs?
Give the ball to Darko and Love, and let them shoot it 40+ times combined. Our guards are terrible, and I'd personally sit out Beasley anyways. No one else on our team can really create their own shot, and Darko and Love have already had a ton of success against the Spurs already this season. It would appear they are our best option for victory. We certainly can't run with you guys or score enough if you push the tempo. If the Wolves simply play along without attempting to counter the increased pace, we're doomed.
• The San Antonio Spurs will take on the Minnesota Timberwolves tomorrow but might face Minnesota sans Michael Beasley:
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley did not practice on Monday with an ankle injury and is questionable for the game against San Antonio on Tuesday.
Beasley was hurt on Sunday night against the Spurs in San Antonio. He rolled his ankle and was limited to 11 minutes while scoring just two points in the 94-91 loss.
The Timberwolves say Beasley will be evaluated again on Tuesday before the game.
Beasley leads the team in scoring at 21.9 points per game. (source usatoday.com)
• Spurs' rookie Gary Neal has been having a sensational season and Draft Express did a retrospective on Neal. Here is an excerpt:
One of the more interesting rookies in this year's class, Gary Neal has taken a roundabout route in getting to the NBA, last playing college ball in 2007 when he graduated from Towson. A player we covered in great depth in college, Europe and after his latest summer league stint, Neal has spent time in Turkey, Spain, and Italy with varying success before getting his first crack at NBA Summer League ball prior to this season, which he promptly turned into a three-year guaranteed deal with the Spurs. Thus far, Neal has been settling in quite well, and this in spite of his role changing dramatically from his time in college and Europe.
• Bloguin's own Hoops Manifesto had its weekly NBA questions of the week and one of the questions revolved around which NBA division was the toughest. Here is what one of the panelist had to say about the Southwest Division:
"I have to go with the Southwest at the moment. The Atlantic's close - with Philly playing some inspired basketball of late... but a division where Memphis is your worst team? With San Antonio, Dallas, New Orleans and Houston... Memphis is going to have a tough time of making the playoffs. And they're a good team!"
• Tim Duncan was named in the "Popular Athletes Who Walk on Water" list by the torontosun.com:
Who: Tim Duncan Success on the court: The captain of the San Antonio Spurs is a four-time NBA champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, and has been awarded the NBA’s MVP award twice. Why he walks on water: Sporting News named Tim Duncan as one of the ‘good guys’ in sports for a reason. His foundation – the Tim Duncan Foundation, holds two major fundraisers a year – the Tim Duncan Bowling for Dollar$ Charity Bowl-A-Thon and the annual Slam Duncan Charity Golf Classic. Between 2001-02 his foundation raised more than $350,000 to help fight breast and prostate cancer.
• Express News' Tim Griffin talks about ugly wins and the Spurs.
• Do you play in an NBA Fantasy League? Is so, you might want to look at adding George Hill if he is available in your league:
George Hill, G, San Antonio Spurs: Hill has been effective this season in the old Manu Ginobili role as the first guard off the Spurs' bench. While he hasn't been quite as consistent as he was last season as a starter, Hill has put up solid lines as a reserve and actually had his first solid three-game stretch in November. His production from late December through January has been above his season averages and he's shooting a fantasy-friendly 47 percent from the field this season. (source sportsillustrated.cnn.com)
• The Spurs have only 14 home games left in the season and the Spurs are offering a nice ticket package for fans to catch any remaining home game:
The San Antonio Spurs today announced that individual game tickets for the final 14 games of the 2010-11 regular season (February 23 – April 9) will go on sale this Friday, Jan. 14 at 10 a.m.
The month of March boasts exciting matchups including the Mar. 4 game vs. the Miami Heat, a Sunday, March 6 matinee against the Los Angeles Lakers and the March 31 game against the Boston Celtics at the AT&T Center. In April, the Spurs will wrap-up their 2010-11 regular season with three games against Phoenix (April 3), Sacramento (April 6) and Utah (April 9). (source spurs.com)
• If any Spurs fans were worried about the dispute between Time Warner Cable and Sinclair Broadcasting Group and its impact on Spurs games on the CW, they can relax. Seems they will still be able to catch a couple of Spurs games but on another local channel:
No matter what, Time Warner Cable subscribers will be able to watch the San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets battle on the court Sunday, but a potential blackout of the local CW affiliate still could impact seven other games down the road.
As Time Warner and Sinclair Broadcast Group continue their dispute over programming fees, the Spurs decided to move the game between the conference rivals to Kens 5. It originally was scheduled to air on the CW. (source Express News)
• Do not forget! If you want free tickets to this Friday's Spurs-Dallas Mavericks game all you have to do is follow ProjectSpursTiq on Twitter for a chance to win. It's that easy. Click HERE to follow.
Last week I was able to cover the San Antonio Spurs-New York Knicks matchup in Madison Square Garden. After the game, I headed to the Spurs' locker room to join the rest of the media as we awaited word to enter the Spurs' locker-room.
I had just finished interviewing Spurs' rookie Tiago Splitter and as I exited the locker room I ran into a familiar face walking the hallways -- former Spur Roger Mason.
Although the game has passed, I thought I'd share with you the interview I did with Mason. Needless to say he misses the Spurs.
As I caught up with him, he was catching up with George Hill:
Jeff: Huge win against your former team. Did you ever think you'd see a Spurs team allow 128 points?
Roger: You know you never know. We got them on a good night. They're the best team in the league right now so it's a big win for us. They're putting points on the board this year too, they're playing really well and you know we got a good one tonight.
This was probably a good win for the Knicks as they head on the road. I take it this is a great launching-point for the Knicks as you head into this road-trip.
Yeah it is. It gives us more confidence to know we can play with anybody. Huge win for us so yeah definitely.
How has your role changed since joining the Knicks?
Well right now I'm not playing but I'm bringing veteran leadership. I haven't had an opportunity yet. You know it's a long season and I got a lot to offer the team and we will see what happens.
You miss the folks back in San Antonio?
(smiles) I do! I miss them everyday. I haven't been to a place like it.
What is it about the San Antonio Spurs? I hear that a lot from ex-players I speak to.
Professional. Family atmosphere. You know, you grow to love it.
What were the lessons you brought from San Antonio to New York?
You know character matters. Team work and toughness. You know you got to be tough to play for Pop and I'll have that with me for the rest of my career.
Your thoughts on the Knicks progress this season. Pushing for a playoff spot?
Yeah I see this team in the playoffs for sure.
It was another close game, but this time there were no fourth quarter comeback or overtime. The San Antonio Spurs built a seven point lead with 4:39 minutes remaining in the game and held on for a 94-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The two teams will meet again on Tuesday when the Spurs visit the Timberwolves in Minnesota.
Now, it's time to look at the numbers that stood out in this Spurs' latest win.
84 - The Spurs had a huge advantage on free throw attempts and took advantage of it, they made 21-25 (84%) of their foul shots while the Timberwolves connected on just 8-12 (66.7%) from the foul line.
50 - The Timberwolves had a slight edge on the boards
outrebounding the Spurs 50-48.
39.6 - For the second straight game, the Spurs has held their opponents to less than 40% shooting from the field. They held the Wolves to just 38-96 (39.6%) field goal shooting.
41 - The Spurs' reserves outscored the Wolves' bench 41-36.
21 - Manu Ginobili had a game-high 21 points, 14 coming in the second quarter when the Spurs outscored the Wolves 32-23. The Timberwolves outscored the Spurs on fast break points 21-16.
18-17 - Kevin Love continues his stellar performance against the Spurs, scoring 18 points and grabbing 17 rebounds.
11 - Tony Parker, George Hill and Matt Bonner scored 11 points a piece for San Antonio. While Darko Milicic added 11 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks for Minnesota.
9 - Anthony Tolliver, Martel Webster and Wesley Johnson had nine points each for the Wolves. The Spurs had nine steals, four coming from Ginobili. The Wolves also had nine steals as a team.
8 - Tim Duncan added eight points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and two block shots in 33 minutes of action for the Spurs. Corey Brewer scored eight points and had two steals and two rebounds for the Wolves.
0 - Bonner did not commit a single turnover for the entire game and DeJuan Blair was scoreless in 13 minutes of action but had five rebounds.
Rookie Watch: Gary Neal had 13 points on 4-5 field goal shooting, including 3-4 from beyond the arc. Tiago Splitter continues to ride the bench for the third straight game.
What's Next? The Spurs will visit the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center in Minnesota on Tuesday.
Follow Robby Lim on Twitter @RobbyLim21
“They were hungrier than we were, and we started the game sloppy, and it, we, set a tone. “
Just a taste of what the Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich had to say after seeing his team fall to the Knicks 128-115 on Tuesday night, but none more true or appropriate. Not when when speaking to long-term success, at least.
Popovich would go on to make sure he didn’t discredit the Knicks early-season, crown jewel accomplishment—hanging the fifth loss on a team in the midst of a historic start to the season (30-6)—making sure to acknowledge the aggressive and physical nature of their counterpart and how his team lacked that same kind of disposition, play. But make no mistake, the loss was on his team, his players—his coaching?
In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday night’s game, I can’t say the loss to the Knicks particularly stuck in the craw or had me all that upset. The Spurs are going to lose games, teams will just be flat-out better some nights; the Spurs will have games where they just flat-out can’t get it done others. It’s a long season and ebb and flow is inherent in basketball. Sometimes you’ve just got to tip the ol’ cap and keep it moving (otherwise the Knicks would still be scoring).
So it’s easy to say,”Hey, what can you do? The Knicks were unconscious,” and keep it moving. Move on to the next city or game and burn the tape somewhere in between. But when the goals are as lofty as this Spurs team, it’s not quite as easy.
Each game is an opportunity to learn, grow. They’re an opportunity to sharpen and hone a team’s play and skill for a championship endgame—and they reveal and expose plenty about a team in the process.
The Spurs were swept out of last year’s Western Conference semifinals primarily because of their inability to match up to the smaller and faster Suns. Duncan was too immobile for the defensive switches and the Suns’ “smalls” were bigger and more athletic than than that of the Spurs. Often Duncan would find himself being pulled away from the basket to contest a midrange jumper or 3-point shot by Grant Hill, Jarred Dudley or Channing Frye, leaving the board vulnerable for second-chance points and/or the rim unprotected once the first line of defense was beaten. The Spurs played from their heels, scrambling as best they could to contest and contain, but they were always behind the 8-ball—the loss of Bowen and Duncan’s physical decline led to the demise of a once-sound game plan for the Suns.
Tuesday night only helped to strengthen and reinforce that point. The Spurs did as they had done for years with the Suns successfully—and most recently, unsuccessfully—going under screens and switching willingly, eagerly.
In years past, that strategy had success because of attention to detail—facing the Suns had a way of making a fan feel as if their team was standing in the NBA’s Hurt Locker: one false move and the whole thing could go up in smoke. But the Spurs had the ability to both control the Suns’ point of attack and backboard. They could disrupt Nash’s vision and playmaking with Bowen’s length and speed or they could dictate where Nash’s shots would come from by simply going under the screen; they could control the paint and tempo with their superior rebounding.
Times change—personnel, too.
Even as the Spurs acquiesced to a degree, picking a poison an altering their game plan and attack for the Suns, they still dictated the terms. They had the means to give a little to take more—the ability to keep themselves within striking distance to capitalize on the opposition’s mistakes at the most opportune of times. Their versatility was disciplined, and plenty capable.
Juxtapose that with the team currently donning the Spurs and the ones who found themselves bounced just after four games in last year’s second round of the playoffs, and you begin to understand how the Spurs could look so inept defensively just coming off one of their best defensive stretches of the year. Matchups—this Spurs team still can’t match up defensively with the high-octane, small-ball offense that’s defined D’antoni’s coaching career.
Simply put, the Spurs no longer have the personnel to dictate the terms or game-plan against a team like the Suns or Knicks the way they used to. And with their inability to do so, well, there will be nights like last Tuesday (even if the next lunar eclipse comes before the Knicks shoot that well again).
But it’s not as cut and dried as saying they don’t have the personnel. The Spurs are capable of winning a game or series against a similar outfit, just not the way they used to—and that goes to coaching.
Tone. How does one establish it, with your players and the opponent? Popovich decided to go back to his Phoenix Suns’ well for a game plan—even after seeing the type of results it had netted recently—and decided to switch and go under the screen. He put his team in a reactive mode from the jump, not a proactive or resourceful one. And given the type of personnel they employ and the kind of defense they have had success with—swarming and engaged, not physicality and size to be heavily percentage-based—asking the Spurs to concede shots or pass off responsibility to the next guy on a switch, right off the bat, doesn’t seem a recipe for success.
The Phoenix Suns asked Tony Parker to hit a jumper once upon a time. He did—again and again and again. And if you’re going to challenge a star player or good shooter to do the same, they’ll oblige more often than not. Certainty breeds comfort; comfort breeds confidence; confidence breeds death.
So when the Spurs went into Tuesday night with a 29-4 record and an opponent that wouldn’t pose much of a threat on the defensive end, some complacency set in. They were looking to score where and when they wanted, forcing action not needed to be forced, when, with patience, the Knicks were more than willing to give.
Turnovers and transition, that’s what the complacency and poor decisions led to. And combined with a soft, reactive defense, the Knicks found some confidence and rhythm-building scores—gasoline meets fire.
Popovich has taken a good amount of heat in recent years for throwing in the towel early (he’d receive it again against the Knicks, conceding the game with over 3-minutes left to play), sitting out players or seemingly sacrificing games for what he believed to be a Big Picture purpose. And while there’s certainly enough logic to be found in many of those decisions, it all goes back to that idea of “tone”—why was it that Ginobili and others were so adamant about getting the Spurs off to a fast start and that the coaches avoid the same lineup and scheme-tinkering of a year ago? Had it only been about a few extra losses, maybe some seeding, or had it been detrimental to the team’s urgency and competiveness? Had it gotten to a point where players were always looking ahead and finding themselves—as a team and individually—a step behind once it was time to put their best foot forward?
Four championship rings affords you the benefit of a doubt, not the absence of scrutiny. And when the stakes are as high and a team’s Golden Age of basketball and a franchise’s single greatest player’s career is winding to a close, a doubt’s benefit has a funny way of becoming doubted.
If you want a defensive identity, play defensive players. If you want to combat complacency, employ schemes and challenges that require players to engage, compete. If you want to set a tone, it’s done with actions, not words.
And when your team drops back-to-back games for the first time all year in much the same defensive fashion—playing soft at the point of attack, constantly chasing defensively and neglecting to play your best defensive personnel—actions speak louder than words ever could.
|SPURS||Manu Ginobili 18.9||Tim Duncan 9.4||Tony Parker 6.9|
|WOLVES||Michael Beasley 21.8||Kevin Love 15.6||Luke Ridnour 5.5|
The San Antonio Spurs look to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 15th straight time when the teams meet in San Antonio tonight to open a home-and-home set.
San Antonio (30-6) holds the league's best record but has struggled in both matchups this season against the Timberwolves.
The Spurs were down by 11 at the end of the third quarter of an eventual 113-109 overtime victory last November 24, and trailed by 15 entering the final period of a 107-101 win on December 3.
The Timberwolves (9-28) are seeking to avoid a fourth consecutive loss. After blowing an eight-point lead with less than three minutes remaining in a 108-105 overtime loss to undermanned Charlotte last Wednesday, the Timberwolves trailed by as many as 24 before losing 108-98 to Portland last Friday night.
While the Timberwolves continue to falter, Kevin Love hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. He had 30 points and 19 rebounds versus the Trail Blazers for his 23rd consecutive double-double.
Love is averaging 28.5 points and 20.0 boards in the season series with the Spurs this year. Defensive specialist Corey Brewer is likely to make his fourth start for the Wolves. He leads the team with 1.6 steals per game.
The Timberwolves haven't won in San Antonio since Jan. 14, 2004, a 100-93 victory in which Duncan had 36 points and 20 rebounds in a losing effort. Another thing going for the Spurs is they are a veteran team that has confidence and knows what is takes to win ball games.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Defense -- The Spurs must contain the Wolves' inside game, limiting Beasley and Kevin Love on offensive end and controlling the rebounds will be the key.
Offense -- Their offense starts with Beasley and Love but It will be important for them to get their inside game going, otherwise it will be a long night for the struggling Wolves.
Defense -- Defend the Spurs' dribble penetrations and kick outs, cover the Spurs' outside shooters and pound the ball on the inside. Entering this game the Wolves leads the league in the rebounding department.
Spurs -- James Anderson - stress fracture (out)
Wolves -- Martell Webster - back (day-to-day), Anthony Tolliver - knee (day-to-day)
However, the Spurs are a veteran team and are coming off a tough game against the Indiana Pacers and Gregg Popovich is one of the best in keeping his players focused for every game. This should be another close one with the Spurs winning it 98-95.
Follow Robby Lim on Twitter @RobbyLim21
The San Antonio Spurs held the Indiana Pacers to 1 of 15 shooting in the fourth quarter to win 90-87 and snap a two-game skid.
Roy Hibbert had a chance to give the Pacers the lead in the closing seconds, but his hook shot against Tim Duncan fell short.
Tony Parker sealed the victory by making two free throws with 0.8 seconds left in the game.
What are the numbers that stood out in this Spurs' recent victory? Let's find out!
45 - The Pacers edged the Spurs in the rebounding department, 45-43.
37.5 - After allowing the Boston Celtics to shoot a blistering 61.3% from the field in their previous game, the Spurs played better defense against the Pacers and held their opponents to just 33-88 (37.5%) shooting from the field.
25 - Manu Ginobili had a game-high 25 points, and had four rebounds and four assists for San Antonio.
23-12 - Tyler Hansbrough had a tremendous game, he had career highs of 23 points and 12 rebounds in his first start of the season for the Pacers.
16 - George Hill provided the needed boost from the Spurs bench, scoring 16 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out four assists in his return home to Indiana.
15 - Duncan had a solid all-around game for San Antonio, he scored 15 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and added five block shots. Danny Granger scored 15 points for the Pacers. The Spurs held the Pacers to just 1-15 shooting from the field in the final period to overcome a 15-point deficit.
8 - The Spurs had eight blocks and eight steals, three coming from Ginobili. The Pacers also had eight blocks for the game.
0 - Antonio McDyess did not commit a single turnover for the entire game and had the highest +/- rating with +12.
Rookie Watch: Gary Neal had 11 points, two rebounds, one assists, and a steal in 24 minutes of playing time. Tiago Splitter did not play for the second straight game.
What's Next? The Spurs will host the Minnesota Timberwolves at the AT&T Center in San Antonio on Sunday.
Follow Robby Lim on Twitter @RobbyLim21
• The San Antonio Spurs took on the Indiana Pacers tonight which meant a return home for George Hill who attended IUPUI. This season he's taken on the sixth-man role for the team and had this to say:
"I really didn't know until the start of the season," said Hill, a guard who started 43 games last year. "I'm still part of the main rotation, and it's not about how you start the game, it's about how you finish."I just continue to play the same way I've been playing, and I've been a good second-half player." (source indystar.com)
• After losing two games in a row, mvptexas.com asks if the Spurs should be worried:
For some two losses in a row might not be the cause for worry, but having a defense that let 233 points get scored on them is. In San Antonio it just means it is time to get back on track in the next game.
• Express News' Tim Griffin talks about Manu Ginobili's passion:
Ginobili mirrored that attitude Tuesday night in New York when he angrily slammed a towel on the bench when Gregg Popovich pulled his starters near the end of San Antonio’s loss to the Knicks. His coach was conceding the game a little early for Ginobili’s taste and he didn’t like experiencing it.
• The 2011 NBA All-Star Game is coming up next month and at the rate the votes are coming in, it would seem Tim Duncan might not be there in Los Angeles. NBA.com discussed whether Duncan deserves an All-Star nod:
Career and future Hall of Famedom notwithstanding, does Tim Duncan deserve an All-Star nod given his stats this season?
Steve Aschburner: This sort of debate doesn’t happen in baseball. For one, the All-Star rosters are bigger than the NBA’s 12. More important, baseball appreciates and plays to its history more than other sports. A legendary player such as Duncan, if he were a left fielder, would be embraced even in a down season for his star power and career achievements. The NBA is much more about now. (The one flaw I’ll acknowledge is that Duncan always has been a thinking man’s Hall of Famer – even in his prime, it would have been tedious to sit through a highlight reel of his greatest moments, given how un-flashy and fundamentally focused he’s been.)
Fran Blinebury: The idea that players have to earn their way onto the All-Star team with their performance in the first half of the season went out the window with canvas Chuck Taylors and the steam engine. When the NBA turned the event into a “Dancing With the Stars” for dunkers, it is simply a popularity contest. Yao Ming gets the China vote, even though he’s likely finish. Allen Iverson was a favorite last year. Magic Johnson was retired in 1992 when he was named MVP. Just relax and enjoy the show.
• Ene-B-A caught up with Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter recently. Check out the video HERE.
• Two former Spurs' players Garrett Temple and Blake Ahearn are getting a look from the Phoenix Suns:
BayHawks lead local investor Owen McCormick confirmed the site of the workout.
"I'm happy Blake and Garrett are getting this opportunity," McCormick said. "It's great for the organization in that it's showing the NBA thinks two of our guys are NBA players and it sends the right message to our players that at any time you can get the call." (source goerie.com)
• And if you missed the San Antonio Spurs-New York Knicks matchup this past week, then you probably missed this exchange between DeJuan Blair and Ronny Turiaf.
• Want to win a pair of free tickets to a San Antonio Spurs home game this month? Of course you do! All you have to do it follow @projectspurstiq on Twitter to enter. Easy huh?
The San Antonio Spurs look to snap their two-game losing streak tonight as they face the Indiana Pacers in Indiana. This will be the last game of their mini road-trip which has not been kind. So far they are 0-2 with losses to the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics.
To talk about tonight's matchup, I turn to friend of Project Spurs, Jared Wade of Eight Points Nine Seconds which is a fantastic website you have to visit for all things Pacers. He also writes for Both Teams Played Hard and Hardwood Paroxysm.
In this Q&A Jared talks about the Pacers' additions of Darren Collison and James Posey, rookie Paul George, the Pacers' strategy heading into tonight's contest and more.
Jeff: Over the off season the Pacers picked up Darren Collison and James Posey. How have they been for Indiana so far this season?
Jared: I have been trying to see the brighter side for a while, but we're well into January now so I think calling Collison anything other than disappointing would be an overly rosy assessment. He has only two 20-point games (with the second finally coming earlier this week) and zero games of even 8 assists. He is still struggling to learn the offense, which is understandable to a degree, but you would think that would spur him to at least occasionally freelance somewhat and be productive by just playing basketball. He is indeed aggressive at times and has stretches of high-level play. But there has been more mediocre play — and rather bad defense — than anything else.
Posey has been slightly better than expected. I thought he was just a bloated contract that would contribute nothing. But he has hit some big threes during crucial times, giving the Pacers momentum and the confidence that can come when a two-time champion shows the young guys what stepping up is about. He has played decent defense as well. Still, he is probably getting too many minutes. Most fans believe so at least.
Aside from dunking the ball over 7-2 teammate Roy Hibbert in practice, how would you assess rookie Paul George. Likes? Dislikes?
He hasn't played much. His athleticism is always on display and he seems to have good instincts about where to be and what to do on the floor. Like most raw rookies, however, he just thinks too much and is a little lost, trying too hard to remember what he is supposed to be doing assignment-wise vs. just doing what he knows how to do as a basketball player. He's shown enough that I am still eager about his future though. Can shoot. Can play D. Can finish in transition. Can break a guy off the dribble. Could be like Trevor Ariza with more refined fundamental skills.
After tonight's game against the Spurs, the Pacers have a rough stretch of games. Games against the Nuggets, Bulls, Orlando, and Dallas. Do you expect the Pacers to pull of some upsets and is this stretch of games which determines the Pacers' season?
No. And probably.
The Spurs are coming off two tough losses to the Knicks and Celtics. Feel the Pacers might be catching San Antonio at the right time to get a win?
This Spurs team can run or play a half-court game. What should be the strategy for the Pacers heading into tonight's contest?
They need to execute offensively. It's a rare sight, and this may sound obvious, but when they do that, they are actually a pretty good team. The defense has held up in almost every game. They really are playing well on that side. So when they can establish Roy Hibbert in the post, get cutters making the defense react and move the ball around to get open shots, they can beat anyone. Thing is, they haven't done that very many times since November ended.
Which is the better matchup to watch: Collison-Parker or Hibbert-Duncan?
At this point, the "better" matchup will probably be Collison/Parker. Hibbert has just been so bad for so long that I wouldn't expect much other than Timmy stealing his lunch money and kicking his puppy all night long. In Roy's defense, he did play fine against the Knicks last Sunday (which was somehow the Pacers last game). But Coach Jim O'Brien, as he does constantly, inserted some really weird lineups in the second half and Roy barely played. Hopefully for Pacers fans, Hibbert will be able to build on his better offense from that game even if it was in limited minutes. Because as we saw earlier this year, Hibbert vs. Duncan can be pretty fun to watch.