Just when the point guard spot was starting to look shakey for the Spurs after George Hill suffered an ankle injury against the Lakers, comes this good news:
Spurs guard Tony Parker has been cleared to resume full basketball activities and will be in uniform tonight when the Spurs take on the Sacramento Kings.
With six games remaining in the regular season, including tonight's game against the Kings, hopefully Parker can get back into game shape heading into the playoffs and duplicate his stellar playoff performance last season against the Dallas Mavericks.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS (47-29) vs. SACRAMENTO KINGS (24-53)
Tim Duncan 18.1
Tim Duncan 10.2
Manu Ginobili 4.9
Tyreke Evans 20.0
Jason Thompson 8.3
Tyreke Evans 5.8
The San Antonio Spurs clinched their 13th consecutive playoff berth with a 100-81 victory over the NBA defending champions Los Angeles Lakers but lost George Hill to an ankle injury in the second quarter.
Hill is averaging 15.8 points in 41 games as a starter. He moved to the starting point guard role when Parker broke his right ring finger in early March and has done a remarkable job. Hill is expected miss at least two games leaving the Spurs without either of their point guards when they play the Sacramento Kings tonight in Sacramento.
This is a tough time for the Spurs to be short-handed. They are currently in seventh place in the West and are tying their best to move up to standings and gain higher seed when the post season rolls around. And not to mention avoiding the Lakers in the opening round.
The Spurs are playing very well lately and have won three straight games beating the Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers. However, they must keep their focus and give their opponents the respect they deserve.
Let's not forget, last week the Spurs lost to the New Jersey Nets after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers and routing the Boston Celtics. If the Spurs want to win this one, they have to take the Kings seriously to avoid another embarrassing loss on the road.
The Kings will enter the game on a seven-game losing streak and have nothing to loose. They will try to get the upset win over the Spurs especially with rookie Tyreke Evans back in the lineup.
Also, during the NBA trade deadline, the Kings traded Kevin Martin to the Houston Rockets for Carl Landry. Landry is an up and coming young big man in the NBA who is averaging 17.9 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Kings in 23 games.
Evans has averaged 14.3 points, 9.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds in the team's last three games andhad 32 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds in the last game against San Antonio. A game the Spurs won 115-113.
The Spurs hold a 6-0 lead over the Kings in their head-to-head regular season series since the 2008-2009 season.
KEYS TO THE GAME
On Offense: Tim Duncan has to get going early in the against the Kings' young bigs. Manu will probably have more time the point with Parker and Hill out. He has to pace himself and try to get other players involved on offense.
On Defense: Protect the paint, close out the passing lanes, cover the perimeter shooters and play tough defense on Kings' rookie Evans. I'm looking at you Keith Bogans!
On Offense: The Kings have to put the ball in Evans' hands early. Let him start the offense and create some scoring opportunities for his teammates.
On Defense: Put pressure on Ginobili when he's playing the point. Control Tim Duncan in the post. Kings' Landry will have his hands full with Duncan.
Tony Parker - fractured fourth metacarpal, right hand. Expected to play tonight.
George Hill - sprained right ankle (might miss two games)
The Spurs can't afford to make the same mistakes they did against the Nets and play down to their opponent. Expect them to try to build a good lead early and limit the minutes of their starters knowing that they will face the Phoenix Suns on the second night of back-to-backs.
The Kings will try to make a game out of it while the Spurs will do their best to put the game away early on. With the way things are going lately, it's hard to argue against the Spurs. Add the fact that most teams are avoiding the Lakers in the first round of playoffs, the Spurs will do their best to win this game. With that being said, the Spurs will win this one 100-91.
With most of the attention on Manu Ginobili's impending free agency, another player who will be a free agent at the end of the season is Matt Bonner. He may not be a star like Ginobili, but he is an important cog for the Spurs machine and fully understands his role.
Bonner's ability to knock down shots and space the floor for the Spurs is a huge part of the team's offensive schemes. He is a good three-point shooter, and this season he added a drive and jump hook to his arsenal. He also occasionally drives down the lane for the most awesome dunks in NBA history. Ask the Toronto Raptors.
In short, he has been a reliable role player for the Spurs especially on the offensive side of the floor. Case in point, in their latest victory over the Orlando Magic, Bonner's shooting touch was key for the Spurs.
However, he remains a defensive liability. He's too slow to be an effective defender in the paint. Also, his lack of quick lateral movement is of concern when opposing athletic big men play the Spurs. See Lamar Odom, Amar'e Stoudamire, or Pau Gasol.
Also, Bonner's numbers are down from last year. In 59 games this season, he is averaging 6.9 points and 3.3 rebounds on 45.7% shooting from the field and 39.6% from the 3-point line compared to 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds on 49.6% field goal shooting and 44% from the 3-point area in 81 games last season. This decrease in stats could be partly because of an early season hand injury. But his play has picked up lately, in the past four games, Bonner has averaged 9.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 assist per game.
Nonetheless, we should be reminded he has yet to prove he can play as good or as consistent during the post season. His performance in this year's playoffs could be an important factor for the Spurs to decide whether to resign him or not. In last season's playoffs he was a non-factor against the Dallas Mavericks despite his good regular season performance.
Overall, Bonner is a great complimentary player despite his shortcomings on defense. Which leaves the question -- is Bonner the type of player the Spurs can feel comfortable going deeper into the luxury tax by re-signing?
With the Spurs are already in luxury tax territory at $79,158, 564 and next year they are at $54,135,160 in guaranteed contracts. Currently, Bonner is making $3,240,380 in his final contract year with the Spurs.
The front office will make re-signing Manu Ginobili their number one priority. If they do re-sign Ginobili, he will certainly receive a handsome contract. This will push the franchise deeper into the luxury tax which is speculated to drop between 50.4 to 53.6 million for the 2010-2011 NBA season.
Why not address the glaring need for a legit big man and target Miami Heat free agent Udonis Haslem or Portland Trailblazer free agent Marcus Camby if the Spurs are going to spend money and go further into the luxury tax? If you feel the loss of Bonner's three-point shooting is too much to lose, there is Indiana Pacer's free agent Luther Head.
What are your thoughts? Should the Spurs re-sign Bonner or should they use some of their money on younger talents to provide more youth and athleticism on their roster or spend it on a legit big man? Send us your opinions and comments on this matter.
"You never know with a referee," Jackson said. "You go over and talk to him, he may not have wanted anybody to talk to him at that point. It didn't look like Kobe berated him at all, but you guys probably had a better television view than I had at that end of the court."
Jackson added: "It didn't look like he was berating him or anything," Jackson said. "But, with Bennett you don't know what you're going to get."
Well the NBA has fined Jackson $35, 000.00 for criticizing the refs.
Knowing Phil, he will gladly pay this fine if it means getting into the minds of the refs and the Spurs should these two teams meet up in the NBA post-season.
With the Lakers and Spurs finishing the season 2-2 in head-to-head matchups, once again I venture into enemy territory and speak with Lakers blogger and friend of Project Spurs, Rey Moralde, of The No Look Pass.
Here we talk about the Spurs recent win over the Lakers, Phil Jackson's antics, are the Lakers worried about the Spurs if they meet in the first round and much more including a discussion on Katharine McPhee versus Olivia Munn. ______________________________________________________________________________ Jeff: Suck on that LA!
Rey: It's a big win by San Antonio. It's just... hard for me to be concerned about the Lakers. I don't know what to think of them.
Jeff: Sure you guys didn't have Bynum but we didn't have Tony Parker and lost George Hill and still got the W. Rey: As I always say... the Spurs will never die.
Jeff: Speaking of never dieing, Manu torched the Lakers. Dropped 32. Uh I thought RonArtest was a perimeter defender? Rey: He let the technical get into his head. Really threw him off. He should know better.
Jeff: Oh I see you are now sounding like PhilJackson. Nice job Rey! Rey: Oh, give me a break. Do you see me blaming the referees?
Jeff: Yea WTF? Phillip not see the box score? Rey: It's hard to blame the refs when you get blown out of the building. And the game was still close at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Jeff: Speaking of box score, are the Lakers just a 5 man team? Spurs bench outscored the Lakers bench 20-4. 4 points! Really? Rey: The bench can do better. If AND when Bynum comes back, LamarOdom should shore up that bench. Plus I'm not as concerned about the bench, really, as they have been pretty good as of late.
Jeff: Recently Spurs coach Pop and Lakers coach "crybaby" errrrrrr I mean Phil been "complimenting" each others squads. Philsaid he is worried about the Spurs and Pop said he is trying to avoid the Lakers. If they do meet in the opening round, I still feel Lakers will come out on top. Rey: I do, too... but dammit, it's hard to gauge their performance. They won't be playing for much more in the next few games. I'm just waiting for the playoffs to start. At L.A.'s best, they're still the favorites in the West.
Jeff: I called Phillip a "crybaby" and you do know why right? Rey: You mentioned the refs. Any other reason?
Jeff: Blaming the refs AGAIN? Seriously Phil. Will he give some cred to the Spurs? Rey: PhilJackson is concerned. We all know he throws out that psychological warfare.
Jeff: As much as I say the Lakers will win a series vs the Spurs, I still have the Spurs making it interesting because of the stronger bench and better backcourt. If the Spurs were to upset the Lakers would you be surprised? Rey: No. It's the Spurs. I know what they're capable of. Maybe if it was... say... the Thunder upsetting the Lakers, then I'd be surprised. But come on, look at those string of victories the Spurs have: Cleveland, Boston, Orlando, Lakers...
Jeff: You forget the fail loss to the Nets. It's shit like that which makes me worried about the Spurs team. Rey: Eh, every team has a bad day. The Lakers lost to the Clippers earlier this year, too.
Jeff: Spurs and Lakers went 2-2 this season. If its them both in the first round, will it be a war or a cake walk for either team? Rey: It's a war. I can see it going seven.
Jeff: Know what else is a war? KatharineMcPhee vs. OliviaMunn. McPhee is so the chick you can take home. Munn is down and can hang with you and the fellas. Rey: I'll take OliviaMunn.
Jeff: Man I will take McPhee. Brunette version though. I think you are underestimating her hotness. Rey: I probably am but I always wanted to play Street Fighter with OliviaMunn. Jeff: It's win-win.
Rey: The Spurs, though... Ginobili is hot. Parker will be back. One-and-done? Or title contender? Jeff: McPhee is so underrated. You guys are fools. But I might be one and done if I got her alone. Rey: I'm guessing you're still not taking the Spurs seriously.
Jeff: DammittRey! McPhee. She is clouding my train of thought Rey: Hey, look here. I'm trying to do my part in this conversation. (OliviaMunn... OliviaMunn... OliviaMunn...)
Jeff: OK. Focus is back. Spurs are not a title contender. Even if by some miracle they get past LA, the Nuggs, Jazz and Mavs will be a problem. Rey: And you don't think they can run through the West if they get past L.A. Beating L.A. would be a HUGE confidence-booster. Jeff: Hell no. It would be a boost but the Spurs lack the front-court of the Nuggs, against the Jazz they got swept, and the Mavs additions of Caron Butler, and Bendan Haywood will be headaches for the Spurs.
Jeff: Rey. Take a look at this! BAM!
Rey: Okay... bottom line... you don't think Spurs are a title contender... I still do. And we both think the Lakers are still the faves... but I can't gauge them very well until the postseason starts. All right. Awesome. Here.
Jeff: (heading to men's room) Rey: I don't think he's going there to flush the Spurs' chances of winning a title...
First Lakers' coach Phil Jackson admitted he is worried about the Spurs and now Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich reciprocates the feeling.
In the ESPN - Daily Dime, Pop openly admits he is trying to avoid the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
"The ones that say 'We don't care who we play,' they're full of baloney too, because we're all trying to hide from the Lakers," Popovich said. "I mean, really. 'Who do you want to play in the first round?' 'Oh, the Lakers'. What an idiot."
As I stated earlier today, I have to agree with Pop. Lakers pose a huge challenge for the Spurs mainly becuase of the Lakers' bigger front court and since the Spurs do not have a reliable perimeter defender to guard Kobe Bryant as in seasons past with Bruce Bowen.
Should the Spurs and Lakers meet in the first-round, the Spurs bench and the back-court of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and George Hill, will have to play at a high level in a 7-game series to have a shot at upsetting the Lakers.
Speaking of Parker, Pop also mentioned he should be returning to the Spurs for the last two games of the regular season and gave a status on the recently injured George Hill.
Popovich says the broken bone in Parker's right hand should be healed enough for him to return between the final two games of the regular season and the first two games of the playoffs, with the April 12 game against Minnesota as the target. He said Hill, who will have further tests on the ankle Monday, "is probably going to be out a while."
Lakers' coach Phil Jackson on the refs and Ginobili in the loss to the Spurs
In yesterday's game against the Lakers, Spurs' Manu Ginobili and Lakers' Ron Artest got tangled up a bit which led to both of them receiving technicals. Of course, this didn't sit well with Phil and he had the following to say on the refs, and Ginobili:
"Tonight they wouldn't let Ron play the way he played prior to [the technical-foul call]," Jackson said. "[Ginobili] could hook Ron; [Artest] didn't get what was going on and ended up getting too many fouls on him."
"The way we ended up the half I think turned the referees against us, and when you do that, that's an unfortunate thing," Jackson said. "Ron didn't back off and didn't read that official well enough to know you got to back off, you got to lighten the load, he's not going to take any more of that. Ginobili forced the issue and got the calls."
"On both the replays that we looked at, Ginobili hooks him," Jackson said. "He does the up-and-under move with the hook. Obviously the referees just didn't want the contact at that time. I told Ron at halftime, 'You got to back off when it's time to back off.' You just can't keep being persistent about that because they sent you a warning signal, and that signal was, 'Back off.' We ended up giving them some momentum at the half and probably got the referees on the back end of our game."
Nice job Phil! No it wasn't anything the Spurs did. It wasn't the fact the Spurs bench outscored your bench 20-4. I am sure the Lakers' loss to the Spurs had nothing to do with getting out rebounded by the Spurs 41-34, Ginobili scoring 32 points, or the Spurs outscoring the Lakers in the paint, 48-40. It was all because of the refs!
In a recent interview with Dan Patrick of Sports Illustrated, Phil Jackson, coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, was asked about the Spurs heading into the playoffs.
DP:It seems like [San Antonio coach Gregg] Popovich is at his best this time of the year, when we're getting near the postseason. Is that the team you see in your rearview mirror and worry about?
PJ: Without a doubt.
First. I am caught off guard by this "respectful" comment from Phillip. Especially since Phil does not have such a glowing track record when it comes to shutting his mouth on his views on the Spurs. Spurs fans still hate the whole "asterisk" comment back in 1999.
Second. Is this more "mind games" with the Spurs? Spurs went 2-2 against the Lakers this season. In one game the Spurs lost a game despite Andrew Bynum not playing and a hurt Kobe Bryant. Blew a lead in the March 25th matchup in San Antonio where the Spurs couldn't buy a basket in the second half.
However, in the most recent win over the Lakers, the Spurs beat the Lakers 100-81. In that game the Spurs lost George Hill to an ankle injury in the second quarter and were still not playing without Tony Parker and still got the win.
In the end, should the Spurs face the Lakers in the first round, I am more than sure Phil is comfortable playing the Spurs in the first round. With Bynum in the lineup, and not to mention Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, the Lakers are too big in the front court for the Spurs. This could be the undoing for the Spurs in the end.
After defeating the Orlando Magic, the Spurs next faced the Western Conference leading Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles.
With the Spurs regular season history of losing to the elite Western Conference teams, coming into this game against, it would have seemed the Spurs were in for a loss.
To recap the the game, I turned to three huge Spurs fans and fans of Project Spurs to help recap today's game against the Lakers via Twitter. So without further adieu, here is Conner, Carlos and Rita to breakdown the Spurs game Twitter style!
After three quarters, the Spurs were leading the Lakers 67-59.
Fourth Quarter recap by Rita aka rita202109
Spurs win and seal a playoff birth for the 13th consecutive time! Final from Los Angeles, 100-81.
Bad news for the Spurs as George Hill injured his ankle in the second quarter after stepping on the foot of Lakers' Derek Fisher. He did not play the rest of the game. X-Rays were negative but he did suffer a sprained ankle.
Manu Ginobili scored 32 points in the victory against the Lakers. He also picked up a technical foul when he and Ron Artest got tangled up on an in bound play.
Tim Duncan scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Richard Jefferson scored 14 points.
Spurs opened the second half of the game on an 11-4 run.
Spurs shot 48.7% from the field, 38.9% from the three-point line, 79.2% from the free-throw line.
Spurs committed 13 turnovers, outscored the Lakers 48-40 in the paint, and their largest lead was 19 points.
Spurs bench outperformed the Lakers bench scoring 20 points while the Lakers bench scored four points.
Spurs grabbed 41 rebounds while the Lakers grabbed 34.
With the win, the Spurs record is now 47-29 and remain in the seventh spot in the Western Conference playoff standings.
The Spurs have beaten the Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, and Oklahoma City Thunder. All playoff bound teams.
The Spurs will next face the Sacramento Kings Tuesday in Sacramento.