Monday, December 22, 2008

The Notebook: Spurs-Kings, 12/22/08

In honor of my first trip to the AT&T Center this season, the Spurs delivered a convincing win over the floundering Sacramento Kings. At points, particularly the dreaded 290/I-35 intersection, I thought traffic was going to get the best of your humble author. But I kept my composure, made the smart call by going to the drive-thru at Whataburger instead of heading inside and made it to SA in time for tip-off.

Although the Kings would claim a 4 point lead in the early to mid-first, the Spurs took control by the end of the quarter and road to a comfortable victory for the remaining 36 minutes. Tony Parker came out a little unfocused, offering up three quick turnovers to the visiting royalty. The Kings also did a solid job negating Duncan's presence on the offensive end. The big fundamental would not score until three minutes into the second quarter. Despite Parker's protection issues (he would finish with 6 turnovers) and Duncan's early irrelevancy, the reliable shooting of Roger Mason kept the game close in the opening minutes.

By the time the second quarter began the Spurs had opened up an 11 point lead and were getting to the rim consistently. Even the handles-less Bruce Bowen had a confident dribble drive that ended in a smoothly-delivered layup in traffic. Seeing Bowen successfully penetrate the defense easily elicited the night's loudest cheers from a crowd that was pretty relaxed.

Expertly utilizing a second quarter lead that ballooned to 17 by half, Popovich made sure the minutes got spread around pretty evenly on the first leg of a back-to-back. A pleasant surprise this evening was the return of Anthony Tolliver, who clearly showed he was interested in hanging around San Antonio permanently. He shot a respectable 2-5 from the field (2-4 from 3-point range), but made more of a mark by showing unwavering effort during his 18 minutes of play. Tolliver never once allowed Sacramento to haul down a rebound unchallenged and successfully reigned in 6, a fact that may make an impact on Pop as he looks to shore up our frontcourt as the season continues.

The third quarter got a bit chippy as both Brad Miller and Tony Parker received technical fouls a few minutes a part. I didn't see why Miller got T-ed up, but I will say that Parker's technical seemed a tad unjustified. At the time we held a sizeable 21 point lead, so complaining about the refs is useless, but I was surprised with how quickly the referee dealt Parker the foul. That being said, Parker played very aggressively during the minutes immediately following the technical, a fact that may have made the whole affair worthwhile.

By the end of the fourth Popovich had deployed George Hill, Jacques Vaughn, Ime Udoka, Anthony Tolliver and Kurt Thomas to close out the night. Udoka, altough he played primarily garbage minutes, did not take his time on the court lightly. He was aggressive with the ball, going 2-2 from the field and 4-4 from the line. For the most part the Spurs as a whole shot well, ending the night with a collective 52.1 FG%.

Because the Spurs held such a decent lead for most of the game, Popovich was able to give our marquis players the rest they need to successfully complete the second leg of our back-to-back tomorrow night (the only Spur who saw 30 minutes of court time was Matt Bonner). I'll be headed back to SA again for tomorrow's Wolves game. I don't want to sound arrogant but there is no reason to expect a decidedly different outcome: The Kings and T-wolves have been going through the same growing pains that any mid-season coaching change brings. The game starts at 8:30 Eastern/7:30 Central.

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