Around this time a year ago the Spurs were swallowing an embarrasing first round exit at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. Getting beat in the first round is definitely demoralizing when you factor having the best record in the Western Conference and obvious championship aspirations to go with it. Many were wondering if this was the last run for the Big 3. Would Parker be traded? Was Duncan too old? Was Ginobili too fragile? Would the Spurs as a whole survive a fast-paced 66 game season?
Those questions were quickly answered, especially after the All Star break. Tony Parker was not traded and he masterfully ran the show for the Spurs en route to a league leading offense (2nd in points and among top 5 in offensive effeciency). Tim Duncan took a few sips from the fountain of youth and played solid in the second half of the season. Manu Ginobili, although hurt during the regular season, went into the playoffs rested and got through the first round healthy for the first time since the Spurs’ 2007 playoff run. And the team as whole. with key additions and youth, once again obtained the best record in the West.
Tim Duncan – 14.3 pts 8.8 rbs 1.7 blks in 30 mins a game
Remember that song by Cher, “If I could turn back time”? It seems Tim Duncan looked in the closet and pulled out the 2005 version of himself. The jumper, the drive and the moves on the block have been pretty consistent. But the defense is what’s been outstanding; holding Al Jefferson (in some ways a younger version of himself) has been impressive. Contesting shots, bodying him up on the block and not biting on fakes has made Tim Duncan a monster on defense.
Kawhi Leonard 7 pts 3.3 rbs 40% from 3 pt range in 20 mins a game
I expected Leonard to get a few starts in the regular season but getting minutes in the playoffs would be hard to come by. I was wrong and Kawhi started the second half of the season on into the playoffs. Offensively, game two was his best outing when he scored 17 points. Defensively he has been matched up against Josh Howard most of the time. How did he fair? He held the one time All Star to under 4 points and 29% shooting from the field for the series.
Boris Diaw 5.5 pts 4.8 rbs 60% fg in 24 mins a game
Diaw was definitely a “forgotten man” as the great Marv Albert would say. Cast away in Charlotte and not getting along with the coach, his contract was bought out. With a little coaxing from his best bud Tony Parker he signed with the Spurs and worked his way into the starting lineup. Diaw although not very tall has the “girth” to defend post players and has Lamar Odom like skills on offense. He layed low in this series by simply playing solid and effecient. He shot well, defended well, and currently for the playoffs is the Spurs 2nd best rebounder after 4 games.
Tony Parker 21.3 pts 6.5 ast 50% fg in 33 mins a game
Parker was by far the driving force in the first two games. After being outplayed by Mike Conley last season, Parker took on a bigger challenge in Devin harris. Harris, although having trouble adjusting to the flex offense in Utah, is still as quick (maybe slightly quicker) than Parker and has at times gotten the best of parker on the court. Parker torched Harris and also held him to 13 pts and under 4 ast a game. Harris also shot a poor 40% from the field. Stopping Parker’s penetration was impossible in the first two games and as for the games in Utah, Parker made jumpshots and key plays when needed.
Danny Green 8.5 pts 4 rbs 1 blk in 25 mins a game
Danny Green was another surprise starter going into the playoffs. Offensively, Green did a decent job of scoring by hitting a few open 3s and making plays off the dribble. Defensively, Green did his best Bowen impression and was a pest to Utah’s 3rd leading scorer Gordon Hayward. He held Hayward to 7 points shooting only 18% from the field. The Bowen effect was definitely in play; Hayward is probably still having nightmares about being defended by Green.
Stephen Jackson 10 pts 3.8 rbs 53% from 3 pt range in 25 mins a game
The Prodigal son returned. Whenever you trade a guy who goes into hiding during crunchtime (Jefferson) for a guy who says “I still make love to pressure” and is familiar with Spurs basketball, your in pretty good shape. During the playoffs Jackson stepped up his game defensively by defending Paul Millsap when the Jazz went with their big frontline, and offensively by going 31% from the 3 pt range in the regular season to 53% in the playoffs.
Tiago Splitter 8 pts 3.7 rbs in 15 mins game
The injury bug bit Tiago Splitter a bit and he had to miss game two because of a bruised hand. However, Splitter came back strong in games 3 & 4 scoring ten points in each game. Splitter’s length gives Coach Popovich a reliable back up to Duncan and the option of running the twin tower lineup that fans have been begging for.
Manu Ginobili 8.5 pts 3.5 rbs 4.5 ast in 25 mins a game
Ginobili for a while couldnt throw a beach ball in the ocean, but it really didn’t matter because games 1 & 2 were blowouts. In game 4 Ginobili got on track by pouring in a series high 17 points and hitting a couple of 3s in the process. But game 3 was really where Ginobili showed his value. His shot still wasn’t falling but Ginobili stayed relevant and active by handing out ten assists with only one turnover off the bench.
Gary Neal / Matt Bonner / Dejuan Blair
All three helped the cause, Neal and Bonner by shooting over 50% from 3 pt range and Blair by filling in for the injured Tiago Splitter in game 2 where he recorded 10 pts & 7 rbs. Bonner really battled defending the physical frontline of the Jazz while still hitting a solid percent (50%) from 3. Neal being thrust into the backup point guard role has done a decent job of running the team and has contributed offensively like expected (8.3 pts 56% 3 pt fg). Blair is the surprise, after lossing his starting job and place in the rotation Blair came in with a mature, professional attitude and took care of business whenever his number was called. The Spurs bench as a whole dominated the Jazz. Lets hope the that continues on to the next round.
Date: May 12, 2012