Before Monday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans, the San Antonio Spurs announced one of their guards would be joining Tiago Splitter on the injured list while the other injured one wouldn’t just return to action, but start as well.
With Danny Green being injured for approximately four weeks, it was Manu Ginobili who returned to the team and got the initial start at shooting guard, as Tony Parker’s 27 points and 7 assists helped San Antonio fight against the pesky-injury ravaged Pelicans in a 101-95 victory that came within the last five minutes of the fourth quarter.
In the first quarter, the Spurs looked like a team that was coming off a back-to-back in another city as New Orleans jumped on them with a quick 28-24 first quarter lead. Outside of Parker’s 11 points in the first, the Spurs couldn’t find much help on the scoring side of the ball. In the second quarter, Anthony Davis’ eight points in the quarter helped the Pelicans push their lead to 11 points, but it was Kawhi Leonard (10 of 13 points in second quarter) and Ginobili (6 second quarter points) who kept the Spurs within striking distance as they went into the half down one point.
At the start of the second half, the Spurs once more looked like they were running through mud and as if the back-to-back was having an effect on them as they quickly fell behind by 10 points behind Davis and Brian Roberts (7 third quarter points). Tim Duncan (11 points in third quarter) and Parker kept San Antonio close and then as the quarter was near its end, the Spurs exploded with an 8-0 run to end the quarter and San Antonio found themselves down just three points going into the final 12 minutes. The Spurs started the fourth off quickly as they reclaimed the lead and stretched it to nine points. Davis and the Pelicans continued to attack the rim as Duncan was called for three fouls in the fourth quarter and fouled out midway through the quarter. In the final five minutes, it was Marco Belinelli and Parker who provided the much needed closing offense as Belinelli knocked down a 3-pointer on one play and Parker continued to find ways to score and keep the Spurs from losing their lead. San Antonio outscored New Orleans 12-7 in the final five minutes for the Spurs’ 30th win of the season.
Tony Parker – A day after posting his first double-double of the season in three quarters, the Spurs needed Parker’s scoring ability against the Pelicans as he was consistently dominant throughout the night with only Roberts available to defend him for New Orleans. Parker scored 11 points in the first quarter, 6 in the third, and 6 in the fourth. He was able to also draw fouls throughout the night as he visited the line and made 9-of-10 free throws in 36 minutes. As you can see by his shot chart, Parker was making a living in the paint against the Pelicans’ defense.
Tim Duncan – Aside from his six fouls in 26 minutes, Duncan was a huge part of the Spurs’ third quarter scoring 11 of his 18 points. He grabbed nine rebounds on the night and shot 50%, plus he had the duty of having to defend one of the league’s most athletic big men in Davis a majority of the night.
Manu Ginobili – In his return, Ginobili played nearly 25 minutes and finished with 14 points. He continued to provide spurts of offense when it was needed mainly by driving to the rim as evident by 6-of-6 free throws at the foul line.
Kawhi Leonard – Leonard had what’s becoming a “Kawhi quarter” in which he explodes for 8-10 points. That moment happened in the second quarter where he scored 10 of his 13 points in a variety of ways. Leonard also knocked down a clutch 3-pointer from the corner in the final minutes of the game. Leonard finished with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block while still having to defend the Pelicans’ best guard, Eric Gordon. Leonard held Gordon to 4-of-14 shooting from the floor for 12 points. Here’s Gordon’s shot chart, Leonard’s defensive presence is evident in the display.
Marco Belinelli – Coming off the bench, Belinelli continued to show his leadership and ability to thrive in the crucial moments as he scored 8 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter. Even though he didn’t have his best shooting night overall (5-of-11), Belinelli made the key shots in the fourth going 3-of-5 from the floor with a crucial 3-pointer late in the game and a 31-foot three pointer earlier in the fourth (GIF via SB Nation).
Anthony Davis – As the Spurs will continue to get older as the seasons go along, the young Davis is only going to continue to develop. He finished the night shooting 50% with 22 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. He was also a key reason Duncan fouled out for the first time in four years.
Brian Roberts – Before tip-off, I’ll admit I had no idea who Roberts was, however, he made an impression after having to defend Parker – he himself scored 19 points, shot 7-of-12 from the field, had 4 rebounds, and 4 assists and scored 5 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Pelicans near the Spurs.
· Light bench – With Green and Splitter both out, the Spurs’ bench has been trimmed and it was evident on Monday as the bench was outscored 28-26 by the Pelicans’ bench. Aside from Nando De Colo, every Spurs player on the roster received 8 or more minutes in the game.
· January defense emerging – With the change of the calendar year, the Spurs’ defense is beginning to emerge as a major part of their wins. Outside of the first quarter, the Spurs held the Pelicans to 24, 21, and 22 points in the remaining three quarters. The Spurs also held the Pelicans to 44% shooting, but the Pelicans did win the battle on the 3-point line by shooting 64% and in second chance points where they outscored San Antonio 12-4.
The Spurs will have Tuesday off and then they will resume play on Wednesday at home against the Utah Jazz.
Where they stand
Regular Season: 30-8 (Number 1 in the Western Conference) – The Spurs are the first team to reach 30 wins in the 2013-2014 season.
Vs. teams below .500: 19-1
Vs. the West: 19-6
Vs. the Southwest Division: 7-2