The San Antonio Spurs faced a new test recently. They played two teams with excellent front courts in back-to-back days. First was the Los Angeles Lakers. You guys probably remember how that went.
To quote me, “30 rebounds is a problem.” Bynum pulled down 30 rebounds against San Antonio, Wednesday night. The Spurs had 33 rebounds total. The next night a lot of us were probably really worried when the Spurs welcomed in last season’s bugaboo, the Memphis Grizzlies.
After getting smacked around by the Lakers’ big duo (Pau Gasol’s 11 rebounds didn’t help matters), were the Spurs going to get man handled by Marc Gasol/Zach Randolph combo that shredded them last year?
Luckily, the Spurs did a great job on Z-Bo, Gasol and Co. Duncan jumped in the hot tub time machine and took over, making every Memphis defender look silly.
So overall let’s just say the Spurs’ big man challenge was hit and miss. In fact, looking at the box score, the Spurs’ four & fives didn’t do a great job on the boards. Manu Ginobili was San Antonio’s second best rebounder Thursday night. The Spurs’ front line still isn’t as good as we all hoped it would be, but it doesn’t need to be.
In addition to Manu’s six rebounds, Kawhi Leonard also had five rebounds and Danny Green had four rebounds. Essentially, a night after they got destroyed on the glass, the Spurs made a concerted team effort to crash the glass. That sort of intensity is going to be crucial in a playoff series against Memphis, either Los Angeles team and Oklahoma City.
A player like Leonard will be crucial come playoff time, especially when the Spurs go small or put Matt Bonner in. Tiago Splitter is also going to have to play more. Over the next nine games I hope we see a little more Duncan & Splitter together to get a better idea of how those two can work together both on offense and defense. With two games left against the Lakers, I don’t see why we wouldn’t see that combo a little more.
Overall I still feed good about the Spurs moving forward. Their front line isn’t ideal, but Duncan’s playing great and overall the Spurs are a slightly better rebounding and defensive team compared to last season.
OKC, the Lakers and Memphis will all give the Spurs problems for different reasons, but there isn’t a team in the West that fans should fear. The Spurs could be this year’s version of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks. They just need to hope the offense stays as amazingly efficient as it has been all season. The defense is what it is at this point.