Player Grades: San Antonio Spurs 100, New York Knicks 99

Grades
New York Knicks 99 Final
Recap | Box Score
100 San Antonio Spurs
LaMarcus Aldridge, PF 34 MIN | 8-17 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | -6 +/-Started slow and let Kristaps Porzingis get the better of him, but then realized he’s much stronger than the rookie, and buried him under the basket. Did a good job recognizing different match-ups and attacking accordingly, taking Porzingis into the post and Robin Lopez out for his face-up game.

Kawhi Leonard, SF 37 MIN | 8-19 FG | 0-2 3FG | 3-4 FT | 12 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | -4 +/-This season Kawhi has unveiled some Jordanesque moments, like when the drove into Porzingis’ body, took the contact, and flipped the ball over his shoulder with perfect body control for the finish. But, perhaps, more than the highlights is the Jordanesque ability to destroy someone’s will, harassing Carmelo Anthony to the point where, on several possessions (including the last), he simply refused to shoot.

Tim Duncan, C 21 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 3FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | +6 +/-Continues to fill the gaps as needed in limited minutes, doing all the dirty work.

Tony Parker, PG 32 MIN | 7-16 FG | 0-2 3FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 8 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +2 +/-Tony Parker continues to do a fantastic job of picking his spots, taking full advantage of his match-up with Jose Calderon. The Parker-Aldridge high pick and roll works as a reliable end of shot clock weapon, freeing one of the two for an open midrange jumper, which helped to hold off the Knicks.

Danny Green, SG 35 MIN | 3-9 FG | 2-3 3FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +8 +/-The focus on Green this season has been on his shooting woes, and though he shots just 3-for-9, he hit 2-for-3 from deep. But his defense has been invaluable to this dominant Spurs’ team. How frustrating must it be, if you’re Carmelo Anthony, to be hounded by Kawhi Leonard all game, and finally break free, only to get blocked by Green?

David West, PF 16 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 3FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +8 +/-Reliable source of physical defense, some floor spacing and ball movement, and a far more intimidating “I didn’t foul” face than Duncan making his eyes bigger.

Boris Diaw, C 18 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 3FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +3 +/-His post game has become the point of attack for the second unit, taking advantage of a smaller NBA more than guys like Lance Thomas can return the favor.

Patty Mills, PG 16 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-1 3FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -1 +/-Didn’t get many attempts, but moved the ball and pressured on defense.

Jonathon Simmons, SG 9 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-1 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -8 +/-Appeared to be part of some lineups that struggled to move the ball and score, and while that’s not all directly attributed to him, he did little to impact the game in his time on the floor.

Manu Ginobili, SG 22 MIN | 6-12 FG | 2-5 3FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | -3 +/-Might we see Manu Ginobili collect one more Sixth Man of the Year award for the road? Whether via scoring, pace, or playmaking, Ginobili continues to come in and change the dynamics of a game to the Spurs’ advantage in a way that his box score statistics don’t always give him credit for. Had a beautiful, vintage knifing drive he took directly at Porzingis for the lefty lay-in.

Gregg Popovich
Showed adequate disdain for defensive lapses, and absent any glaring errors, this defaults to A.

Three Things We Saw

  1. Kristaps Porzingis is a special player. Early on he gave LaMarcus Aldridge fits, pulling him away from the basket for three-pointers and disorienting the Spurs’ defense. The combination of small forward skills in a large, long frame is almost unprecedented. Only a lack of experience and strength are currently holding him back.
  2. If everyone attacked life with half the ambition of a Robin Lopez post-up attempt, the world would be a better place.
  3. There was some debate last night on whether the Knicks should have called a timeout to setup a final shot. The argument here is that it was the right move against the NBA’s best defense, and that an (by NBA standards) open corner three-pointer from a quality shooter is the best one might hope for. The Spurs were fortunate it didn’t fall after Ginobili helped from one pass away on a drive that Leonard had already all but swallowed up.

San Antonio Spurs 123, Utah Jazz 98

Grades
Utah Jazz 98 Final
Recap | Box Score
123 San Antonio Spurs
David West, PF 25 MIN | 7-8 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-0 FT | 13 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | +20 +/-David West is starting to find his comfort zone with his new team. Or, perhaps, they are starting to find their comfort zone with his, having changed to a style more suited to West’s physical play. Absolutely buried Trey Lyles under the basket on a high-low combination with Tim Duncan. West hit a few jumpers and bullied and spun his way for a basket or two while providing physical defense and cleaning the glass.

Kawhi Leonard, SF 23 MIN | 6-11 FG | 2-4 3FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | +14 +/-Kawhi Leonard is officially the perimeter version of Tim Duncan–so reliable that it’s easy to take performances like these for granted.

Tim Duncan, C 26 MIN | 8-13 FG | 0-0 3FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 18 PTS | +27 +/-This was the game that coach’s dreams are made of. The most important post work is done before a big man even touches the ball. Duncan ran the floor hard, beating younger, more athletic players down the court to establish great position, sealing defenders as he accepted quick entry passes for easy baskets. He tipped rebounds to areas where only he could get them. And he made exquisite reads and passes from the high post.

Patty Mills, PG 23 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-2 3FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +13 +/-The night belonged to others.

Danny Green, SG 11 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-2 3FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +7 +/-Hit two corner three-pointers and was solid enough on defense, which is enough to merit a B in just 11 minutes.

Kyle Anderson, SF 19 MIN | 6-9 FG | 0-0 3FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +7 +/-Does a great job of using his body to create space, had a nice dump-off pass to Tim Duncan.

Rasual Butler, SF 6 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-1 3FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +6 +/-Lost his spot in the rotation, but remains a reliable insurance option at the end of the rotation.

Boban Marjanovic, C 19 MIN | 5-7 FG | 0-0 3FG | 3-6 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | -3 +/-Stephen Curry is often considered the most marketable player due to how relatable he is to the everyman. But what’s more relatable than destroying a smaller, younger sibling under a Nerf hoop? Which is what Boban does every night.

Matt Bonner, C 7 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 3FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +4 +/-#LetBonnerShoot – When a teammate delivers the type of pass that Jonathon Simmons fired off in traffic from under the rim, you have to connect on it. Matt Bonner did. Winners all around.

Boris Diaw, C 16 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-1 3FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | +1 +/-Diaw probably enjoyed this game, with six assists to just two shots, to any of the higher scoring outputs he’s had recently.

Ray McCallum, PG 25 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-1 3FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +12 +/-Pushed the ball up the floor, stepped confidently into jumpers, and had a nice zipper cut. McCallum wasn’t spectacular, but he was a credit to the Spurs’ development system in Austin.

Jonathon Simmons, SG 17 MIN | 5-7 FG | 2-4 3FG | 1-1 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 13 PTS | +9 +/-Simmons’ confidence is starting to snowball, and he finally let a few three-pointers fly freely; including one off the bounce. For a second consecutive game, the rookie has an amazing block negated by a dubious call. Something to watch–he appears to becoming more accustomed to the length and physicality of the league, finishing through contact.

Manu Ginobili, SG 23 MIN | 6-10 FG | 2-4 3FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 14 PTS | +8 +/-It’s amazing that this is still a typical Manu night.

Gregg Popovich
Got his starters some valuable rest and the Spurs’ younger players important development time on the court.

Three Things We Saw

  1. After a slow start, the offense is starting to dial up to ridiculous levels, scoring 123 in back-to-back games. While they’re no longer the same three-happy spread pick and roll attack, the same principles of movement and execution apply, creating wide open shots from their players’ favorite spots.
  2. Concerns that the Spurs sacrificed too much depth have proven to be unfounded. Jonathon Simmons is a legitimate rotation player, Boban Marjanovic can be terrifyingly productive against certain match-ups, Kyle Anderson fits, and even Ray McCallum is coming along.
  3. Jonathon Simmons would be the best backcourt player on the Philadelphia 76ers. He’d be a rotation player for almost any team in the league. The Spurs picked him up out of nowhere. It’s just not fair.

The Secret Origins Of Jonathon Simmons

Game Recaps

It has been some time since the San Antonio Spurs needed any introductions. The core of the team has been together for several years, the Big Three since the dawn of time, and the biggest offseason acquisitions (LaMarcus Aldridge and David West) are tried-and-true veterans. 

Jonathon Simmons, however, is a relative mystery. When the undrafted rookie out of the University of Houston—having toiled away at a now defunct professional league, and for the Austin Toros—stepped to the free throw line for his first points in Milwaukee

during the second quarter, he was a curiosity greeted with good-natured heckling. 

After Simmons helped break open a close game with 12 points in the second quarter (4-for-5 shooting from the field, 4-for-5 from the free throw line), including a series of vicious dunks, Simmons was the first name off everyone’s lips. 

Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs

Danny Green Awakens

Game Recaps

Danny Green and the San Antonio Spurs have always had a symbiotic relationship. The shooting guard provides room for his teammates to operate, and in return, they supply him with the shots he struggles to create for himself.

For years, Green has functioned as something of a barometer for the Spurs’ motion-heavy offense. When the ball is freely flowing, and the system right, Green is a devastating off-ball threat.

When the ball sticks, and the offense sputters, Green’s statistical output plummets.

This season, the Spurs have a new team with a different offensive hierarchy–which can be trouble for a player so reliant and in-tune with the old one. Shooters are creatures of habit, and in the Spurs’ new post and isolation-prominent attack, Green has had to adjust to an entirely different way of getting his shots. The lanes through which he navigated his off-ball choreography have fundamentally changed, warped to accommodate the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kawhi Leonard’s (22 points, six rebounds, two assists) new status.

Sacramento Kings 95, San Antonio Spurs 92 – Aldridge Struggles in Debut

Game Recaps
LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs

Oct 8, 2015; Sacramento, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) dribbles the ball as Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) defends during the first quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Crafting a post-centric offense requires a highly coordinated attack, which is something these San Antonio Spurs haven’t had time to build this early in the process—especially with key players missing. In LaMarcus Aldridge’s first game, the prize free agent acquisition struggled, scoring just eight points and three rebounds on 3-10 shooting.

Turning a back to the basket also means turning a back to defenses, so it’s imperative to have a read on the floor to know what angles are available to attack, and what room there is to counter. Likewise, passing to a stationary player involves some nuance, and giving defenses a target to hone in on can create turnovers and start such possessions on bad footing.

Without Tim Duncan or Tony Parker in the lineup to help move the pieces and organize such actions, Aldridge looked uncomfortable in his new surroundings—hoisting early shots, spinning into traffic, and missing on a few of his patented turnaround jumpers. Though there were some individual positive tidbits to glean from the starting lineup, as a unit they seemed discombobulated in the Spurs 92-95 loss to the Sacramento Kings.

Kyle Anderson, Spurs

It Begins – What to Keep Track of in the Spurs Preseason Opener

Preview

Any concerns that the San Antonio Spurs might not resemble themselves after an offseason of considerable roster turnover were quickly dispelled when the team announced that Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, Manu Ginobili, Gregg Popovich and Tony Parker would not make the trip to Sacramento for their preseason opener against the Kings.

After all, there are few things more familiar to San Antonio than a bunch of strangers on the court whilst the elder statesmen get some rest before the first game action of the season.

Disappointing as it might be to delay the public unveiling of the Big Three and LaMarcus Aldridge, there are plenty of questions that need addressing before we can see how it all fits—that in itself is going to take a long, sometimes arduous  process that won’t play out until the team has faced adversity well into the season.

So ahead of tonight’s game against the Sacramento Kings, here are some things to keep track of in the first look at the Spurs this season:

Western Conference Arms Race: The Dallas Mavericks and Rajon Rondo

The Front Office

rondo

The San Antonio Spurs are vulnerable, facing the prospect of expending tightly budgeted energy to dig themselves out of their winter doldrums. The Oklahoma City Thunder are, if only for a little while longer, outside of the playoff picture.

Never before has the Western Conference been so wide open, with legitimate championship aspirations running from playoff seeds one through eight. Golden State, nigh unstoppable under rookie head coach Steve Kerr, has dominated the entire year; yet as ESPN’s Ethan Strauss pointed out, a recent six-game winning streak netted the Warriors only a one-game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers.

With so many powers vying for supremacy, teams have gotten an early start on pushing for roster upgrades. The Western Conference has seen a proliferation of arms in recent weeks, which could continue to reverberate past the trade deadline.

It’s difficult to say how each move will ultimately shape the Western Conference playoff picture, but we can take a look at some of the early returns, speculation, and where it all leaves the Spurs in an ever-changing landscape.

Cory Joseph and the San Antonio Spurs Art of Player Development

Features

Cory Joseph and Andrew Wiggins

The San Antonio Spurs notably returned the entirety of their 2014 NBA Championship roster, adding only rookie Kyle Anderson to shore up lagging doughnut responsibilities. However, that the same cast and crew are back does not mean larger roles aren’t up for grabs.

Last year Cory Joseph was more stunt double than backup, on the court only to spare Tony Parker the most dangerous rigors of an NBA season. But if each season writes a new story, Joseph is the background character the author found a little more time to flesh out in the second book.

Do you see what Manu sees? The Charlotte Euro Step.

Better Basketball

Few things have come easy for the San Antonio Spurs this season, and that held true in their 98-93 victory over the Charlotte Hornets. Clinging to a two-point lead halfway through the fourth quarter, Manu Ginobili found enough lift in his legs to give renewed life to the Spurs, driving baseline and, with two long strides, slithering around the defense with his patented exaggerated Euro Step.

Yes, the physical skills are eroding some, but Ginobili’s athleticism was never elite. The key to Ginobili’s game has always been the ability to see the court two or three plays ahead of everybody else. So how did he find the gaps in the defense to stave off the Hornets?

Manu Ginobili Fuels Spurs’ Engine in Victory over Hornets

Game Recaps

manu ginobiliIn hostile territory with momentum turned and yet another large first half lead having dwindled to a single point in the fourth quarter, the San Antonio Spurs abandoned execution and rode the individual brilliance of Manu Ginobili to a 98-93 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.

Clinging to an 86-85 lead with four minutes remaining, a series of dribble hand-offs failed to gain the Spurs any traction against an active Hornets’ defense. With less than 10 seconds remaining on the shot clock, Matt Bonner flipped the ball back to Ginboili, curling from the top of the key to his right towards the rim.

With Cody Zeller in his path and the ever looming Bismack Biyombo forming a wall behind him, Ginobili lofted a hanging, twisting prayer with his left hand and all momentum fading to his right, salvation found as the ball settled to the bottom of the net.

And so it was that every Hornets run was answered by one of Ginobili’s patented exaggerated Euro steps, knifing drives, or back-breaking three-pointers. In nearly 24 minutes Ginobili provided 27 points on 14 shots, yet it almost wasn’t enough.