On Friday night the San Antonio Spurs did something they hadn’t done since March 29 against the Los Angeles Clippers, score over 100 points in a basketball game.
On that Friday evening in their 108-101 victory over the Sacramento Kings, Tony Parker returned from injury and led his team with 22 points and 10 assists. He looked like had regained his speed burst that he had been lacking due to various injuries.
On Sunday in Los Angeles against the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers, Parker again looked like he was missing that extra gear. Parker seemed like he couldn’t quite attack the defense consistently and deferred to passing to teammates in the open court instead of attacking his defender.
The Spurs fell 91-86 Sunday, but Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich didn’t attribute Parker’s 1-of-10 shooting game where he scored four points and handed out eight assists to the injury. Coach Popovich just said Parker just wasn’t playing well.
"It wasn't because he was resting,” said Popovich. “He was playing awful."
Awful was what the entire Spurs team looked the entire night as they shot 37% from the field. Aside from Tim Duncan, Popovich didn’t feel as if any of his players were focused.
"He's really the only guy on the team that played like somebody who wants to win a championship," said Popovich of Duncan, after Duncan led the team with 23 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.
"I thought other than (Duncan),” continued Popovich, “the group was in float mode most of the night."
From the get-go the Spurs and Lakers were an abysmal display of basketball to watch as both teams could score no more than 23 points after the first quarter. By halftime, both teams still had not reached 50 points and both were shooting below 36% from the field.
When quarter three ended, the Spurs and Lakers were tied at 61 apiece, the lack of offense from both teams continued as both squads could only muster 18 points in the quarter while the shooting continued to dip for both to less than 34%. Popovich used the Hack-A-Howard technique in the third to foul Lakers center Dwight Howard (26 points, 17 rebounds, and 3 blocks).
In the fourth quarter however, the Lakers found a spark in their offense provided by Antawn Jamison (15 points) who knocked down three 3-pointers early on in the quarter to help the Lakers stretch their lead to 11 points, but Duncan would continue to fight for his team all the way down to the final two minutes, where he got the lead down to five.
Parker would be benched down the stretch as he said postgame that Popovich felt he just didn’t have the energy. Another notable player who wasn’t given any minutes down the stretch in a close game was Kawhi Leonard who also watched the ending of the game from the bench where he finished with eight points and seven rebounds on 1-of-5 shooting in 33 minutes of play.
Overall, you can’t say that any of the Spurs had a good game as they were all out of flux, especially in their shooting throughout the night. Yes, Duncan scored 23 points, but it took him 22 shots to score those points. Tiago Splitter finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds, but even he needed 13 shots for those points. Danny Green scored 16 points, but he too needed 11 shots for those baskets. The man in charge of the bench for now, Gary Neal, finished with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
The Spurs just seemed like a mess on offense throughout the night. Their shot selection was quite questionable and Popovich was even using some new looking lineups like the one time in the second quarter when he had Duncan, DeJuan Blair, and Matt Bonner on the floor and the team was running a 1-3-1 defense.
With releasing Stephen Jackson and the team still waiting on Boris Diaw and Manu Ginobili to return from injury, the entire bench looks like a mess. Bonner had to play small forward for several minutes. Nando De Colo, who had supposedly earned the backup position, saw his minutes given to Cory Joseph in the second half and once again the team could not click on offense and never scored more than 25 points in a quarter.
With the loss, the Spurs fell to 58-22 on the season and 0-6 in their last six road games. The team hasn’t won on the road since February 24th in Phoenix. The team will play a back-to-back on Monday against the Golden State Warriors and it’s unknown who Popovich might possibly rest.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have two games remaining, but just need one game to clinch the number one seed in the Western Conference. That means the Spurs will finish no worse than the number two seed regardless if they win or lose their last two regular season games.
One thing is certain, whether it means resting Parker and Manu Ginobili the final two games or trying to bring them back in either of the games, come the weekend when the Spurs play in their first playoff game, they are going to need both as healthy as possible if they even want to get out of the first round.