The season started off great for the San Antonio Spurs, as they won both of their first two games at home by a combined 38 points. Then came the reality of a 66-games season. Every team is going to be challenged or even get the crap kicked out of them by lesser teams on any given night. Especially if that game is on the last of a back-to-back-to-back or third game in fourth night.
We saw it Wednesday night when the Heat barely beat the Bobcats in Charlotte and last night when the Spurs got killed in Houston. But overall it’s been a good first week for the silver and black. Let’s run down what went well and what didn’t.
The Defense: Overall, it’s been great. In those first two games, the Spurs held a Grizzlies team with a lot of weapons to 82 points and a Clipper team is expected to be incredibly explosive to 90 points. Houston was a different story but we’ll get to that. One of the differences early on this season comes down to personnel. Last season the Spurs’ best wing defender, George Hill, was still only 6’3″ despite his ability to guard three positions. This season their best defender is either Kawhi Leonard, James Anderson or an out of shape Manu Ginobili. By the way, if we’ve seen out of shape Manu through three games, I want to know what in shape Manu is going to look like. I though the Spurs looked like a college team last year because of how often they used three guards in the same line up. This year they look like a professional basketball team size wise. I can’t remember who tweeted it, but good luck scoring on a line up that has Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan in the front court. Speaking of Splitter.
Tiago Spitter: I think this is what we had in mind when the Spurs signed Tiago in the summer of 2010. The 6.3 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game don’t blow you away, but his defense, especially in the Memphis game, is what the Spurs have been missing for a couple of years now. His average plus/minus for the first three games is 8.3. Compare that to DeJuan Blair’s 1.0 average despite better stats and you can see Splitter’s contributions a little better.
Kawhi Leonard and James Anderson: I truly believe their contributions are going to be the difference between this year’s Spurs team and last year’s. Anderson is known for his scoring ability. So far he’s struggled from three, making only one of eight he took. That also means he made 8-of-12 two point attempts. You have to think his three point percentage will climb up to the mid 30’s before too long, which is going to make him a very potent weapon off the bench. Kawhi is instant energy and his defensive instincts are already so good. His offense is definitely a work in progress, but like Tiago, I don’t care too much about what Kawhi brings to the table offensively just yet. I want him to lock some guys down.
Tim Duncan: Yes, I said it. Duncan has not been very good. I don’t think this will hold up. He’s too skilled, but he just looks rusty. And three games in four nights did not agree with him at all. One thing I’d like to see is Duncan become more of a jump shooter and Tiago play on the block a little more. Don’t take this as me saying Duncan is done, he just hasn’t looked good yet. But he will.
Manu Ginobili: Just kidding, he’s been great.
Adjusting To The Schedule: I don’t expect guys like Duncan and Ginobili to look great when they’re playing their third game in three or four nights, but everyone but Splitter and Blair looked really tired against Houston. I’d expect guys like Anderson and Leonard to have more energy in these games, but perhaps everyone is still getting themselves into optimal shape.
The Spurs return home for Utah on Saturday. I expect a win here, but Utah is really deep and the 4 and 5 spots, which could give the Spurs some problems. After that, the schedule doesn’t get a ton better. The Spurs play four games in six nights next week including match ups against Dallas at home and Oklahoma City in the Thunderdome. If they don’t call their arena that they should.