The San Antonio Spurs will be taking on Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets tonight without two of their rookies.
Tiago Splitter, who is out with a strained left hamstring, and Gary Neal, who has mild concussive symptoms will not play tonight.
With Neal out, George Hill will get some added playing time and I wouldn't be too surprised to see James Anderson play at least 10 minutes, which will be a good test of his conditioning against NBA competition.
The game tips at 7:30 p.m. CST tonight.
The San Antonio Spurs will be taking on Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets tonight without two of their rookies.
The San Antonio Spurs (47-10) will host the new look New Jersey Nets (17-40) at the AT&T Center tonight. The last time these two teams faced each other, the Spurs won 102-85 in New Jersey. In that game, Manu Ginobili paced the Spurs with 22 points.
For the Spurs, they will be looking to maintain their league-leading record and continue their dominance over the Nets in San Antonio as the Spurs have won eight straight over the Nets in San Antonio. The game will give the Spurs their first look at new Nets player Deron Williams who will be making his debut.
For the Nets, it's also their chance to see Williams in action and hope to get some revenge on the Spurs. It will also mark the return of former Spur, now Nets head coach, Avery Johnson to San Antonio.
To talk about tonight's contest, I turn to fellow Bloguin blogger Victor Nash of Whoop De Damn Do. A great place for all things Nets and not to mention a great site name. Also, click HERE to read the Q&A I did for Victor.
In this Q&A, Victor talks about the recent Nets trade for Williams, Avery Johnson, how the Nets can beat the Spurs and much more.
Jeff: First of all I got to ask you about the recent trade to bring in Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz for Derrick Favors and Devin Harris. Your reaction.
Victor: As of right now, I'm ecstatic about the deal. The Nets, after much heartache over the pursuit of Carmelo Anthony, were rewarded with a better player for basically the same deal, sans two first round draft picks. Williams is an obvious upgrade over Devin Harris and his youth as well as current superstar-dom puts him over Derrick Favors' potential. The Nets have a serious shot at contending if they acquire another All-Star caliber player (David West, anybody?) and are in a better position than they were before by all accounts. The only thing that worries me about the trades are the reports that claim that D-Will is unhappy. Williams is only signed through this season and the next, which indicates that this deal was a huge gamble for NJ. If Williams is clearly not content about being on the wrong side of the Hudson, the Nets could be on the wrong end off something similar to the previous Melodrama. However, let's stop with the pessimism for now. The Nets acquired a superstar in what is known as a superstars' league and are taking their first steps out of the rebuilding dome.
How has former San Antonio Spurs player now Nets head coach Avery Johnson been for New Jersey? Likes? Dislikes?
The San Antonio Spurs are currently first in the NBA with a record of 47-10 and are playing like an elite team. The obvious reason for that is due in large part to a healthy "Big Three." However, another reason why the Spurs are playing their best basketball in years is their reserves.
This year, the Spurs have arguably the deepest bench in the league and has made a huge difference for the Spurs this season.
But with the stretch run underway, two young players could play vital roles in the Spurs' playoff success this season -- George Hill and rookie Gary Neal.
After a phenomenal sophomore year, the third year guard knows exactly what his role is and does it well, he is a reliable scorer off the bench and a capable defender. This season Hill has solid averages of 11 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 27.5 minutes of play.
One area of his game that has improved a lot is free throw shooting. This year Hill is making 87.3% of his foul shots compared to just 77.2% last season. With his ability to attack the lane and his long wingspan, he has the ability to draw fouls from opposing players that guard him.
Another good thing about Hill is his versatility, he can play both guard positions and is the closest thing to a lock-down perimeter defender for the Spurs. This means he can fill the backup point guard spot or play along side Tony Parker. His consistent play on both ends of the floor have certainly helped the team win some games.
Even his appearance in the starting lineup against the Washington Wizards did not seem to bother him as he scored 18 points and three assists in his only start of the season and gave Ginobili's aching body some rest.
If Hill can give Parker much needed rest in some games, and at the same time provide additional firepower and defensive tenacity off the bench, that will be huge for the Spurs.
What about Gary Neal?
• Did the Boston Celtics make their trades today to matchup with the San Antonio Spurs should they meet in the NBA Finals?
They'll never say so in so many words, but actions speak much louder. And today's actions said that when playoff time rolls around, Boston thinks it will need perimeter depth, floor spacing and the ability to play smaller a lot more than it'll need quality low-post defenders.
Translation: Miami is the threat here, not Orlando. And if the Celtics survive, it's San Antonio, not the Lakers, whom they now match up better against. (Project Spurs' Mike De Leon's espn.com Insider subscription)
• With Dallas Mavericks' Jason Terry having the Spurs on his mind, Mavericks' Tyson Chandler took the high road and said this about chasing the Spurs:
"I think rather than worry about chasing them, we’re focused on ourselves game by game,'' center Tyson Chandler said. "And then the last couple of games, see where we’re at.'' (sportsblogs.star-telegram.com)
• Chandler also had this to say about losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs when he was with the New Orleans Hornets:
"It's not the same as the opportunity to win. Sometimes you get your heart broken. It's just the fact you had the opportunity. I loved the Game 7 loss I had to San Antonio a few years back when I was with New Orleans. It was one of the special moments of my career. Just because I was there and felt what it was like. It mattered." (star-telegram.com)
• In last night's win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Spurs' Tony Parker took a hard foul from Thunder's Nick Collison. Here is what he had to say about the physicality in last night's game:
• Speaking of the Parker-Collison incident, it is me or do you like seeing Antonio McDyess come in and defend Parker? Check out the video:
• Spurs' Gary Neal and head coach Gregg Popovich talk about Neal's shot selection against the Thunder:
Hit the jump to read how the Spurs win the right way, shift of power in the NBA, Tim Duncan shows off his football knowledge, Neal on the Rookie Ladder, and more.
The trade deadline has come and gone and while we saw Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams head East, and the Oklahoma City Thunder get stronger with the acquisition of Kendrick Perkins, the San Antonio Spurs decided to keep their team intact, which is exactly what you would expect out of the team with the league-leading record.
Several teams in the West improved, like the aforementioned Thunder and the Blazers, who added Gerald Wallace. But several teams' GMs didn't do their franchises any favors. Houston traded away Aaron Brooks and Shane Battier and got only Hasheem Thabeet and Goran Dragic in return. While the Rockets were not much of a contender or a division rival anyway, with today's trades, they aren't more than an afterthought in the West.
The Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz, who traded away Anthony and Williams, are currently sixth and ninth in the West. With Williams in New Jersey, I don't see Utah moving into a playoff spot at all. The Nuggets did well for themselves in getting as much back as they did, considering they were practically held at gunpoint to trade Anthony. However, with so many new pieces, chemistry will be an issue and the Nuggets lack a true franchise player. I can see the Nuggets dropping a bit.
What does this mean to the Spurs? Probably not much, considering they seem to be out of reach and will likely enter the playoffs with the number one seed. I can't see the playoffs getting too interesting out West until the second round.
As for player movement, the Spurs will be watching closely to see which players agree to buyouts with their teams. Joel Przybilla and Troy Murphy are among the names mentioned, and if the Spurs think a player can help them, they'll likely look at a few options. They can also still pick up players off of the waiver wire and call up D-League players, but I doubt that anyone of much significance that will play a major role for the Spurs will be putting on the silver and black any time soon.
Just the other day Dallas Mavericks' Jason Terry said the Mavericks can catch the league-leading San Antonio Spurs. He even went as far to say he wants see the Spurs in the playoffs.
Well here we go again.
Terry amped up the Spurs-Mavericks rivalry today saying he wants the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals only to beat San Antonio and move on to the NBA Finals:
"For me, it wasn't necessarily catching them now. We'd much rather catch them in the Western Conference finals and then go onto the championship. Like I said, we're going to catch them sooner or later. It's definitely got to come to that. How we finished last year, us and them, they knocked us out. The year before we knocked them out, so this is it. This is like Thrilla in Manila Part III. The Trilogy, so to speak." (espn.com)
You know I'm sure Spurs fans across the globe want to put a muzzle on Terry but for as much as Spurs fans can fire back by saying the Spurs have four NBA titles while the Mavericks have none, Terry himself summed it up best:
"But, they got the rings, we don't. We're still little brother to them, so it's definitely a rivalry. We're watching their score and I know they're watching ours."
That's right Terry. San Antonio does have the rings and Dallas doesn't. Also, I doubt the Spurs care about what Dallas is doing or even playoff positioning. Dallas had the better record last season and what happened in the playoffs when they matched up against the Spurs?
Oh and one more thing Terry, when the Spurs have gone to the NBA Finals, they are 4-0 and don't choke like Dallas did against the Miami Heat.
Isn't it great Spurs fans to know San Antonio is in the head of Terry and the Mavericks?
With 25 games remaining on their schedule, the San Antonio Spurs are gearing up for the stretch run before the playoffs begin. The team is currently number one in the NBA at 47-10, but are still not at the level they need to be at come April.
The Spurs will be looking to figure out the best way to lock-up home court, stay healthy and improve their defense.
So in no particular order, I’ve compiled a list of the top five objectives to watch for in these final 25 games before the playoffs begin. Please note these numbers were based off games played prior to last night's Spurs win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
1. Get some rest and avoid the doctor
It is vital that the Spurs have a fresh unit by the time the playoffs come around. As I wrote in Views From The Couch on Tuesday, Manu is already the first player that is beginning to be affected by fatigue. After carrying the team for the first three months of the season, his production has begun to decline.
Manu is currently averaging 31.1 minutes per game. If the team can get him averaging anywhere from 28-30 minutes per night, and on occasion rest him on back-to-back nights. This could be the best method to preserve his body and keep him fresh for the playoffs.
Tim Duncan is averaging 28.8 minutes per game. Tim still looks fresh, and keeping him under 30 minutes this season has worked well. If he can stay along this pace, all signs are pointing to a Duncan with a full tank, ready to dominate in April.
Tony Parker is averaging 32.7 minutes per game and I expect him to either increase his minutes or slightly decrease to 31 minutes. Recently, Parker has taken the drivers seat in the Spurs racing machine (team) and has done so at a very efficient rate. Expect him to continue to lead the team offensively for the final two months.
The Dallas Mavericks didn’t know Caron Butler would be out with a season ending injury. The Portland Trailblazers didn’t know they’d lose Brandon Roy again. Why am I mentioning these players? Because in basketball, you never know when an injury is coming. As Spurs fans, for a moment against the Warriors earlier in the season, we thought we might have lost Duncan. The point is you can’t help it if a player gets injured. If it happens, it just happens. There’s no way to tell? You just have to hope for the best every single night and that the players stay injury-free. Let’s hope the Spurs can “avoid the doctor” at all cost.
2. Improve D-E-F-E-N-S-E and keep gunslinging
As first reported earlier this month here at Project Spurs, we been keeping an eye on San Antonio Spurs' head coach Gregg Popovich and forward Tim Duncan reaching personal milestones in their NBA careers. Here are a couple of past updates which you can read here and here.
With the win against the Oklahoma City Thunder Popovich is now sitting at 783 wins. He is currently third in the all-time list of most coaching wins with one team. In first place is former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan with 1,127 wins and in second place is Boston Celtics' former coach Red Auerbach who has 795 wins. Popovich still needs 13 more wins to move into second place.
As for Duncan, he picked up three blocks versus the Thunder and with eight more blocks, he will move into the top ten surpassing former NBA player Alonzo Mourning who registered 2,356 blocks. Duncan is currently 11th on the all-time NBA career blocked shots list with 2,349 blocks.
"We're just going to try and stop them I guess. They're a tough team, but these are the kinds of challenges we like," said Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant prior to last night's game.
While it was apparent Durant and the rest of the Thunder gave it their all in an attempt to stop the San Antonio Spurs and give them their third home loss, they came up short and the Spurs won their 47th game of the season 109-105.
The Spurs made their return home to the friendly confines of the AT&T Center after spending most of February on the road, but it didn't remain friendly for long.
Tony Parker was fouled hard on a drive to the basket by Nick Collison and Gary Neal got an elbow to his head defending James Harden and then was hit again by Harden on a layup attempt. Neal needed five stitches but returned and played a big part in the Spurs' victory.
Russell Westbrook and Durant got the Thunder going early and had the Spurs playing catchup for most of the first quarter. The Spurs tried to bounce back with some perimeter shooting. Richard Jefferson shot three-for-three from long range and had already tallied nine points midway through the quarter. Manu Ginobili added a three of his own and Tony Parker got to the rim with ease, scoring eight first quarter points. However the Spurs found themselves in a hole, trailing by six at the end of the quarter.
The Spurs went on 10-0 run in the second quarter behind yet another three by Richard Jefferson and 10 second quarter points by Gary Neal. Tim Duncan also had two consecutive blocked shots and the Thunder found themsleves down 64-53 going into the half.
Tony Parker hit a 16-footer with 26.1 seconds left, as the San Antonio Spurs beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 109-105.
The game had a playoff type of atmosphere and it was physical all throughout. Parker got into a bit of a scuffle off a hard foul from Thunder's Nick Collison, and Gary Neal needed five stitches above his right cheek but was able to comeback. Nonetheless, with the win, the Spurs (47-10) moved within three wins of matching their win total from last season.
Now it's time to check out some of the numbers that stood out in this Spurs' latest victory.
88.9 - The Thunder made their free throws, hitting 24-of-27 (88.9%) shots from the foul line. The Spurs were not as good, making just 22-of-28 (78.6%) of their free throw attempts.
54 - The Thunder had a huge advantage on the boards, out-rebounding the Spurs 54-37.
44.6 - San Antonio shot 37-of-83 (44.6%) from the floor while holding the Thunder to 37-of-91 (40.7%) from the field.
38 - The Spurs won the inside battle, outscoring the Thunder 38-32 on inside points.
33 - The Spurs outscored the Thunder 33-16 in the second quarter to build an 11 point lead at halftime.
30 - Kevin Durant had a game-high 30 point, nine rebounds, three steals, one steal and one block for the Thunder.